A new report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research finds that the availability of campus child care services for students with dependent children has declined in recent years and that demand for child care far outpaces available resources
In the State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama identified higher education as a national domestic priority, and highlighted the fact that the U.S. had slipped to 12th among 36 developed nations in rates of college graduation. According to a new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), greater access to on-campus child care facilities would increase opportunities for low-income student parents to complete postsecondary education, but only 5 percent of the child care needed by student parents is supplied at on-campus child centers.
Parents of dependent children make up nearly a quarter (3.9 million) of the 17 million undergraduate students in the United States, and half of those (1.9 million) are single parents. Women are the majority of students in postsecondary settings and they also make up a larger proportion of student parents.
The report, Improving Child Care Access to Promote Postsecondary Success Among Low-Income Parents, finds that the percentage of both two- and four-year campuses with on-site child care centers declined between 2002 and 2009. Community colleges are less likely to have on-site child care than four-year colleges despite the fact that more student parents attend community colleges.
Fewer than half of community college campuses have on-site child care available. Many centers have long waiting lists, with an average wait list of 90 children, and infant care is particularly scarce.
"Our interviews suggest that child care availability is the crucial element predicting student parent's ability to complete school,” said Kevin Miller, Senior Research Analyst with IWPR and the report's lead author. “Child care services are too often an afterthought for administrators and policymakers who strive to promote college completion.”
IWPR interviewed 26 child care experts and campus program directors and conducted a survey of 84 members of the National Coalition of Children’s Centers, representing centers in over 30 states and the District of Columbia. IWPR conducted an additional survey of 52 child care centers recommended for promising practices or model programs. The report also analyzes data from the Department of Education, the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS), the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement.
The research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.