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Student persistence requires community college support

A new study conducted by Lake Research Partners for New America shows that community college students who also care for a child under 12 are more likely to persist when their school provides support for basic needs.

Nearly half (46%) of community college students who enrolled for the first time in 2012 and who did not graduate or transfer were no longer enrolled five years later. Among students with children under the age of 12, the drop-out rate was 66%. In other words, student parents were 44% more likely to stop attending classes without earning a degree within five years of first enrollment.

The researchers restricted their analysis to students who had enrolled for the first time in 2012 and who cared for at least one child under 12 years of age. Additionally, they eliminated students who graduated or transferred to another school. This allowed them to focus on students with children who had either persisted or stopped taking classes.

Students who persisted were significantly more likely to receive a variety basic-needs support from their schools, including free or subsidized meals, emergency food assistance, childcare assistance, emergency aid, mental health support, transportation assistance, and housing assistance.

On the other hand, only 12% of students who dropped out reported that they had attended a school that provided some form of childcare support. The majority of students who stopped attending reported that support services like food assistance, housing assistance, mental health care, transportation subsidies and housing assistance were not available at the schools they attended.

Interestingly, while two-thirds of students who stopped attending classes identified childcare responsibilities as a primary challenge for them, nearly three-fourths of students who persisted said that childcare was a primary challenge for them. Researchers attributed the students’ persistence to childcare support from the students’ schools.

Most community colleges that support student parents see improved student persistence

Unfortunately, we will never know how many student parents’ educational opportunities were derailed by the WCC Administration’s decision to permanently close the Children’s Center on campus during the pandemic. At the same time WCC relinquished more than 130 licensed childcare slots, other childcare providers used the pandemic as an opportunity to exit the sector.

During the pandemic, Michigan lost more than 600 licensed childcare providers. Even more providers were put at risk when federal subsidies to them ended last fall. Nearly half of all Michigan residents live in a “childcare desert,” which is defined as an area where there are at least three times more children who need childcare services than there are licensed childcare slots available.

I am continually amazed by the WCC administration’s rationale for subsidizing the operation of a publicly facing health club (that no one asked for) but they are not willing to offer a public-facing childcare center, even though it would provide direct support for some of their academic programs as well as their student-parents.

I’m pretty sure a daycare center could support itself. I don’t have that same level of confidence in the Health and Fitness Center.

Photo Credit: Kids Work Chicago Daycare, via Flickr