52% of mothers attending college end up dropping out and never returning. When I found this out I was disappointed. Not in moms, but in the college system. Why? Because I know that being successful is possible, even with several odds stacked up against me or any other mother who wants to pursue a college education. I think that it is time that the demographic is recognized widespread. But what do they need? Here are 3 essential factors to help moms succeed in college:
1. Childcare. I know this is a major issue. While many schools have childcare, the number is still low compared to the 4.8 million parenting students currently attending college. We need to work to advocate for this cause, to encourage all colleges to establish child care centers with qualified staff in a safe environment. As a mom in college who has access to child care, I cannot imagine being as successful these last two years at Cal State Fullerton without that support. Yet, for me it’s not 100% necessary because I have help at home. However, a large number of mothers attending college are single with little-to-no help. I encourage students to use their voices and thoughtfully commit to changing this. Research on campus, find out how many parents attend, find out if child care is available, and then make your next move. Don’t let such a necessary need be pushed to the side.
2. Class days/times. The lack of evening and/or weekend classes is an issue for many women raising children. Often, these women are working full-time during the day and end up dropping out because they can’t find classes that work with their schedule. It’s highly disappointing when various majors only have one or two sections of a required class, and always during day time hours. The college system needs to wake up and start accepting the fact that the demographics are changing. I urge each college to work towards ensuring better class availability not only to help parenting students succeed, but all nontraditional students facing the same issue.
3. Equip them with confidence. In the very first chapter of my forthcoming book I tell mothers in college to “Believe You Can (Succeed).” Why? Because it’s half the battle! If you truly want to help a mom trying to succeed in college, take the time to nurture the spirit of confidence in each of these students. Do so by allowing them agency, communicating with them, and being willing to work with their unique situation. Tell them they are capable, don’t expect them to believe it for themselves. Also, either mentor them or help them find a mentor. I think that many people see moms in college as capable because they can “handle so much,” but us moms need help too. We need that cheerleader in our corner. I cannot truly express to you how influential and essential my mentor was in my life — I know without a doubt I wouldn’t even be writing this had I not had her in my corner. I know others moms who have also had mentors who helped them make it to the finish line. So, do your best to include them in any and all activities that might expose them to possible mentors. Do your best to instill confidence into these women.
There are other reasons, and I know they vary depending on each unique situation. Yet, I truly believe that these 3 factors alone can make a world of difference for many. Yes, I have been successful but I am not the norm…why don’t we work together to change that?
If you are a mom in college who has done well, what factors have contributed? If you are struggling, what needs are not being met?