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College Students with Young Kids Twice As Likely to Drop Out

College students who are also parents of young children have far fewer hours to study and are twice as likely to drop out compared to students who have no children, according to a new study by Borough of Manhattan Community College Professor Claire Wladis.

Prior research has attributed a lack of time to poor outcomes of student-parents, but Wladis and her co-authors, including BMCC Professor Katherine Conway, wanted to investigate the relationship between time demands and college outcome. They included data on 15,385 students in the CUNY system.

Published in The Journal of Higher Education, the study found that students with preschool-aged children had only about 10 hours per day left over — after paid work, housework, and child care — to fit in sleeping, eating, schoolwork, and leisure activities. Childless students had more than double that — about 21 hours a day — for the same activities. In addition, parent-students rated the quality of their “homework” time as significantly worse than that of their peers.

“Our research shows that parents of preschool-aged children were roughly twice as likely to drop out of college as those with no children, and that they accumulated significantly fewer credits each semester,” wrote Wladis in an essay. “These gaps were largely explained by the time that students spent on child care and, to a lesser extent, time that they spent working to support their families.”

About two-thirds of the student-parents surveyed did not feel that available child care was adequate for them to complete their schoolwork. “If we wish to improve educational outcomes for student-parents, policymakers will need to provide them with resources that allow them to spend more time studying,” wrote Wladis.

The authors recommend expanding on-campus child care centers (fewer than half of U.S. colleges provide onsite child care), and revising the way the federal financial aid system calculates financial need for student-parents to include living expenses of dependent children and increasing estimates of child care costs. More than a quarter of U.S. undergraduates have dependent children.

CUNY just announced that it secured nearly $6 million in federal grant funds in 2018 to benefit early childhood centers at its colleges and the student-parents who rely on them.

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work
“No time for college? An investigation of time poverty and parenthood” (CUNY Academic Works)
The Journal of Higher Education

Work By
Claire Wladis (Professor, Mathematics) | Profile 1 | Profile 2
Katherine Conway (Professor, Business Management) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools
Borough of Manhattan Community College

Bonus Content
“‘Time Poverty’ of Students Who Are Parents” (Inside Higher Ed)
“Many student-parents drop out because they don’t have enough time” (The Hechinger Report)

Related Terms

Beyond SUM