by Allie Bidwell, Education reporter for U.S. News & World Report
People say millennials are a lot of things – more educated, more entitled, more likely to have student debt. They’re also more likely to be parents, oftentimes while they’re working toward earning a college degree.
Samantha Maggiani, 25, is completing her master’s degree in social work from Texas State University next month. She’s juggled being a full-time student with also holding a full-time internship and being a full-time mother to her 4-year-old son, Kenneth. Maggiani became pregnant toward the end of her general education coursework at a local community college, and started her work toward a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston–Downtown with a newborn child in January 2012. Although she was able to rely on her boyfriend – her son’s father – to work enough to pay the bills, the three were far from any family who could help babysit, and Maggiani found herself constantly balancing school with her parental duties.
“There were often times I couldn’t go to school because I couldn’t find a babysitter,” she says. “I couldn’t have my boyfriend not work because he was the breadwinner, he was paying the bills. So school kind of took the back burner to living, basically.”
A new report from the youth advocacy group Young Invincibles highlights the obstacles many young parents face, including the startling fact that they’re significantly more likely than past generations to be living in poverty. The report, written by Konrad Mugglestone, found 1 in 5 millennial parents lives in poverty. Among the 4.8 million college students who have children, nearly 43 percent – around 2 million students – lived below the federal poverty line during the 2011-12 school year, according to data from the Department of Education.
That’s because young parents, particularly college students, have several financial responsibilities to balance, and few resources to help.
“When you have a kid, obviously you have a lot less time in your day,” Mugglestone says. “You need to probably be working to support them, and if you’re trying to go to school as well, you’re really not going to have that many hours to devote to your education.”
Added responsibilities and a lack of support is particularly a problem for student parents – research has shown that family responsibilities are among the top reasons students with children drop out of college.
But there are more student parents than ever before. While the proportion of student parents has remained relatively stable, the absolute number has jumped from around 3.2 million in 1995 to 4.8 million in 2011, according to a data analysis from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. At the same time, federal funding for campus-based child care hasn’t kept pace. Despite the burgeoning number of student parents, the proportion of community colleges with child care on campus has fallen from a high of 53 percent in 2003-04 to 46 percent in 2013; the proportion of public four-year colleges with child care resources decreased from 54 percent to 51 percent in about the same time.
And even when colleges and universities do have child care options on campus, they’re often very pricey and sometimes even more expensive than options outside of the school, says Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director of the institute.
Colleges and universities “don’t necessarily see the link between investing in campus child care and student success,” she says. “They sometimes see it more as an extra, a perk, something that’s the first thing to cut if they need to trim the budget, or something that somehow should be paying for itself.”
It’s also a problem that many colleges don’t have solid statistics on how many of their students have dependent children, Gault says. What’s more, many college education reforms pushed by large foundations and the Obama administration, Gault says, are more focused on improving curriculum and learning, delivering online education and addressing issues with adult basic education, but less focused on supports for students, such as accessible child care. READ MORE