In 2022, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution marking September as National Student Parent Month. According to the National Center for Education, more than one-fifth of college students are student parents. There are more than 4 million college students raising children today.
Attending college is a challenge but add in the responsibility of caring and providing for children and it can be overwhelming. In seven cities across Texas, single parents can find wrap-around support through Buckner Family Pathways® to help them succeed as a student parent.
In 2022, Family Pathways served 166 Texas families and reported a 93.9% success rate. Success is measured by completion of the program by meeting one of the following qualifications: graduation with a degree or certificate, transfer to a higher degree program and/or achieving sustainable employment and financial self-sufficiency.
“When a student parent is tackling the challenges of life and school on their own, it’s even more difficult,” shared Marisa Phillips, senior director for Buckner Family Pathways. “Without support, only 18% will complete their degree within six years.”
When juggling the need for child care, working and studying to achieve successful grades, the lack of support can force a single parent to feel like they have to drop out of school. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, more than 50% of student parents drop out of college before earning their degree.
Offering support to single parents to chase their dreams
The Family Pathways program is designed with these parents in mind: alleviating burdens through meeting basic needs and providing stability and support to help them focus on their education.
“Because of the support our parents receive in the program, more than 76% have completed degrees in just three years over the last five years,” Phillips continued.
Parents have access to affordable housing, life skills development, educational resources and more. Each parent also receives one-on-one support through a family coach who walks beside them throughout the entirety of the program. The family coach provides guidance, resources, advocacy and support.
The relationship built between a parent and a family coach can be transformative for the whole family.
“Our family coaches assist single parents with learning to manage their available benefits such as child care and putting together a plan to manage their basic needs,” Phillips said.
First-generation college students often lack resources
While in the single parent program, participants and their families have access to resources to help them not only succeed in school but also in life. Classes on parenting, budget management, self-important and basic life skills are made available, as well as eligibility for organizational scholarships.
Successfully supporting a family on one income in today’s economy is nearly impossible. Doing so on an income with an earning potential based on a GED or high school diploma is an even harder feat.
“A single income household requires a job that pays a living wage – and that requires an education,” Phillips said. “The other value from obtaining a degree or certificate is the confidence parents obtain along the way. Learning what they’re truly capable of expands the limits of what their family’s life can be. The generational impact of this change in mindset is already being seen and is truly inspiring.”
A success story
For Rhonda Lee, the Family Pathways program in Dallas offered her and her family the foundation to succeed.
Lee never believed going to college was an option for her.
“College was only for those with families to support them,” she believed.
Growing up in the foster care system, Lee felt stuck in a cycle of trying to get ahead, but never being able to get very far because of her lack of education. Going to school meant giving up the job that just barely covered their bills and fed her and her two children.
Family Pathways gave the Lee family security, motivation and hope. She successfully graduated with a degree in nursing, while both her children were inspired to set goals for their life too.
“Watching a family go from the uncertainty of where and how they’ll live to having a place to call home and a community of people to count on is remarkable,” Phillips shared. “You see parents and kids begin to relax, enjoy being who they are and enjoy each other – and begin to believe in what’s possible for them.”
Single parents can experience this same hope and transformation in Amarillo, Dallas, Houston, Midland, Longview, Lubbock and Lufkin.