Parenting While In College: Basic Needs Insecurity Among Students With Children

At least one in five of today’s college students is parenting a child while enrolled in classes. If these parenting students complete their degrees, both they and their children could expect improved social, economic, and health outcomes. Nevertheless, degree attainment rates among parenting students are low, and evidence about their experiences—which is critical to improving policy and practice regarding parenting students—is sparse. In 2019, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice began using our tools to fill that gap. Specifically, we added new questions to our fifth annual #RealCollege survey, asking parenting students at 171 two-year institutions and 56 four-year institutions about their experiences with basic needs insecurity, childcare, depression and anxiety, and campus and social supports. More than 23,000 parenting students responded to the survey. The results indicate:

• 53% of parenting students were food insecure in the prior 30 days
• 68% of parenting students were housing insecure in the previous year
• 17% of parenting students were homeless in the previous year

While rates of basic needs insecurity are substantial among nearly all college students, they are especially high among parenting students. Moreover, parenting students are more likely to face increased time and financial demands, including childcare costs. This report explores these results.