Find Your Way is a guidebook series created from the findings of the Parenting Students on Campus Research Initiative — the first nationally comprehensive study of U.S. parenting student programs and support services on college and university campuses. Find Your Way is a sister project of the Campus Family Housing Database, a complete national database of colleges and universities that allow students to live with their children in campus housing. Find Your Way expands this database to include campuses that offer other parenting student support services or programs, but do not offer family housing.
Led by Autumn Green, Ph.D., of WCW’s Higher Education Access for Parenting Students Research Initiative, the research team has learned how few institutions of higher education offer these types of programs, despite the fact that one in five U.S. college students is a parent. Their research has also revealed national and regional patterns of systemic exclusion and disadvantage for parenting students seeking to advance their education, credentials, and career prospects through higher education. Importantly, parenting students are disproportionately female, students of color, first-generation, and low-income students — making their inclusion in higher education a matter not only of educational equity based on parenting status, but also of racial and economic justice and gender equity.
The research team has been working its way across the six regions of the United States as defined by the jurisdictions of the corresponding regional higher education commissions and associations. Data has been collected in New England (2014-2015), the Mid-Atlantic region (2015-2016), Texas (2016-2017), and Florida (2017-2018). In 2020, a study of the Western and Pacific Northwest regions got underway in partnership with University of Hawaii's Bridge to Hope program, and a team of parenting student researchers attending two- and four-year institutions across the University of Hawaii system. In 2021, the research team is initiating new partnerships to support data collection in the remaining regions, in order to finalize a complete national dataset.
When it is released, the database and analysis findings will be publicly shared and disseminated, and made available for secondary analysis by other researchers. New resource guides and online tools will be developed to support educational access and success for parenting students, and the researchers will work with advocacy organizations and higher education institutions to inform higher education policy and practice. This includes efforts to support, encourage, and enforce the provision of support services and existing legal protections for parenting students, and encourage and promote the growth of parenting student support services through offering best practices to institutions aiming toward greater inclusion of parenting students on campus.
Current and past contributors to the Parenting Students on Campus Research Initiative include Dr. Autumn R. Green and Sarah Galison of the Wellesley Centers for Women; Dr. Nicole Parsons of Curry College; Dr. Sheila Katz, Yen Ni "Annie" Pham, and Suezen Salinas of the University of Houston; Sahar Haghighat of George Mason University; Teresa Bill of the University of Hawaii; and Karissa Gibbs, Isis Patterson, and Meghan Cane of Endicott College.