Federal grant will help growing student-parent population pay for child care
October 05, 2022
In 2017, about 12% of Sacramento State’s students were parents. Just five years later, that number has soared to 30%, according to new data.
The road to obtaining a degree while raising children is long and difficult. Studies show that students who are parents of young children are far less likely to graduate from college than those without children. One of the biggest obstacles that they face is the cost and availability of child care.
A $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will enable Sac State to continue easing that burden for dozens of student-parents during the next four years. The University’s Parents and Families Program will use the funding to help pay for child care for low-income students who are raising children.
“This is a crucial resource that helps student-parents stay in school and graduate,” said program director Haley Myers Dillon, who documented the dramatic increase in student-parents at the University.
Last year, all 34 Sac State students who received grants from the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School program either graduated or continued pursuing their degrees, Myers Dillon said. All 20 of those surveyed about the program in January said the grant helped them stay enrolled, and they all rated the grant as “very important” in helping them earn their degrees. Fifteen said they would have been unable to attend Sac State without the support.
The grant money subsidizes or fully funds day care at licensed facilities in the Sacramento area, including the ASI Children’s Center on campus. With their youngsters in day care, student-parents have more time to attend classes, study, obtain tutoring or advising, and otherwise work toward their degrees and careers.
Survey respondents said the grants helped reduce stress and financial pressure, and they expressed deep gratitude.
“The grant was instrumental in allowing me to get my degree, with honors,” one said.
“This is an amazing program,” said another. It “has helped give my daughter and I a better relationship, because I can focus on her during our time together.”
Mikaela Huang, whose son Edoardo was 3 years old when she enrolled in Sac State in 2018, said the grants she received for child care helped her succeed as a single mother and a student. She has since earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in English.
She used money from the Parents and Families Program to place Edoardo in the ASI Children’s Center, freeing time for classes and studying. The arrangement also allowed her to visit her son during breaks in her schedule.
Without the grants, “I would maybe have been able to take one or two classes a semester,” Huang said. Instead, she finished her undergraduate degree in four years and her master’s degree in two, graduating last semester.
Now, she teaches writing at Sac State and works as an administrative assistant at UC Davis.
“This program is great,” Huang said. “I don’t think most people understand how expensive child care can be. The grants really level the playing field for students with children. It’s really important.”
Sac State is the only CSU campus with a program dedicated to serving students with children, Myers Dillon said. The Parents and Families Program also serves parents and guardians of Sac State students.
Besides funding child care, the program also helps connect student-parents with peer mentors, academic support, and other resources.
“Our goal is to help them clear administrative barriers so that they can remain in school and graduate,” Myers Dillon said, noting that the program has had contact with about 4,000 of Sac State’s 9,430 student-parents last year.
Myers Dillon said she is uncertain why the number of student-parents has increased so dramatically. The jump may be attributed, in part, to an increase in online courses, which gave some student-parents more flexibility in attending class, she said. It also could be tied to unstable economic conditions during the height of the pandemic, when many people lost service jobs and enrolled in college instead.
Myers Dillon is collecting data across the CSU system to document the need for more funding and services for student-parents. The Parents and Families Program relies almost exclusively on grant funding, and demand for services constantly outpaces supply, she said.
“One in three of our students at Sac State is a parent,” she said. “Counting them and establishing quantitative metrics for the whole CSU system is the most effective way to make a case for more resources.”
Looking for a Faculty Expert?
Contact University Communications