Being a parent is not easy. Being a parent who is also a student attending university presents an entirely new set of challenges.
A study conducted in 2014 by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research showed that 4.8 million (or 26 percent) of all college students in the country are parents. With such a large number of student parents in the nation, it is pertinent for colleges and universities to assist students who are parents. A surprising number of schools, however, do not have any services.
Thankfully, St. Catherine University is not one of those schools. St. Kate’s has the Access and Success program. The team at Access and Success consists of licensed social workers that work across both campuses and throughout all programs (Day, E/W/O, Associate and Graduate). There’s no shortage of people on campus who utilize their resources, with approximately 900 students that use their resources.
“I think what makes us stand out is how comprehensive we are. We serve all students with children, we don’t delineate by whether you’re single, married, partnered.” says Beth Hamer, a member of the Access and Success team who works with Day students. “Anyone who is raising a child or children can get services from us.”
Other schools, such as Endicott College in Massachusetts, have requirements for those who wish to enter, such as being single, having only one child, and being between the ages of 18 and 24.
For a prospective student looking into St. Kate’s who is already a parent or who is a parent-to-be, the admissions crew immediately informs them of the advantages of the Access and Success program. Hamer will also meet with these prospective students so they can get a feel for what the program can do for them. But how does the program assist a student who suddenly becomes a parent in the middle of their time at school?
First, if the student is uncertain of whether or not they will be able to manage being a student and a parent while in school, they can confide in those in the Access and Success program. They are not predisposed to encouraging one choice over another, but they will present the student with success stories from the thousands of student parents who have gotten degrees from St. Kate’s so that they are made aware that it is completely possible to manage being a student while being a parent.
Students who give birth mid-semester are able to choose whether to carry out the term or not, and as always Access and Success is willing to show them the pros and cons of each option. However, most students do choose to carry out the rest of the semester with the help of their empathetic professors who are generally more flexible with due dates for new mothers. One of the primary incentives for parents staying in school is that studies have shown that how far a mother succeeds academically is generally how far their child will succeed.
Housing for student parents is also something that Access and Success can assist with. Students can choose to either live on campus in the Alberta apartments or they can choose to live off campus. Most choose to live off campus so that they can live with or close to their families. Those who might be on financially unstable ground are given options for subsidized housing, which often are apartments that offer lower rents for people on government support like food stamps.
Other benefits offered by the program include multiple lactation rooms across the campuses, including one on the first floor of Whitby Hall that many students walk past on a daily basis. Access and Success also provides parents with a study room next door to their office in room 491 of the CDC. This is a unique room that is split in half, with one side with desks, chairs, computers, and a printer for parents and the other half dedicated entirely to the kids with all sorts of toys and playing equipment for them. Windows cover the wall between the rooms and two doors can be propped open so that the parents can keep a watchful eye over them. Also, there are volunteer and paid babysitters who can assist mothers whenever they need childcare in their place of residence.
Access and Success supports all student parents on campus who ask for their assistance. They can help any parent who is struggling financially by giving them resources for free or cheap options for resources like childcare, housing, activities for the family, and more. They are a resource on campus that is often forgotten about but offers a great deal of support to all the student parents who attend St. Kate’s.