New England is internationally known for both its highly ranked and large number of colleges and universities. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 18% of New England’s postsecondary students attend college while raising and supporting families as student parents. According to the New England Board of Higher Education there are over 800,000 students enrolled at New England’s postsecondary institutions. This means that there are approximately 144,000 student parents enrolled at colleges and universities in the region.
This study reviewed each accredited New England postsecondary institution to find available information about student parent support services. Specifically, it focused on family housing, child care centers or programs, scholarships specifically targeted to parenting students, women’s centers, work/life programs, or specialized programs targeting student parents or other overlapping groups such as “Women in Transition” or “Non-Traditional Students.”
Overall, the study found that 32% of New England institutions offered child care and 20% offered scholarships targeting parenting students. Only 8% of New England postsecondary institutions offered work/life programs serving either graduate or undergraduate student parents, only 10% offered student housing that allowed children to live in residence, and only 11% offered a specialized program for student parents.
This study found that the availability of a program or service did not necessarily guarantee that students would be able to access it. While child care centers were the most common program, for example, these programs also accepted faculty, staff, and community families, and admissions waitlists were often lengthy. Furthermore, the cost of campus child care center programs can be prohibitive for student families. The most alarming finding, however, was the generalized lack of support services and programming for student parents at New England’s higher education institutions.
The New England Survey of Student Parent Programs is a part of the Find Your Way project of the Higher Education Access for Student Parents Research Initiative at Wellesley Centers for Women, based at Wellesley College. Findings from this study were also compiled into a guide for prospective college students with kids.
Suggested Citation for this Report:
Green A.R., Parsons, N.A., and Galison, S.M. (2021, January). Supporting Student Parents: Results From Pilot Research on New England Colleges and Universities [Report]. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Centers for Women. wcwonline.org/ findyourway
Funding for the New England Survey of Student Parent Programs was supported by a fellowship from the Van Loan School for Graduate and Professional Studies and undergraduate research fellowships through the Keys to Degrees Program both at Endicott College.