By Aurora Harris, Southern Regional Director, Young Invincibles, and Joscelyne Lee, Intern, Young Invincibles
July 29, 2020
Young Invincibles (YI) was started in 2009 by a group of college students in their cafeteria and stands today, a nationwide organization uplifting the voices of young people. Initially in response to the national discussion about healthcare reform, YI now also advocates on behalf of young people regarding issues related to higher education and economic security. As their work continues to call attention to areas in which we can better address the needs of young people, Aurora Harris, YI Southern Regional Director, shares with us the urgency in taking into account the student parent perspective.
Impact in Texas
In Texas, one in four college students is parenting someone under the age of 18. While this makes up a significant portion of the next generation of leaders, student parents are still classified as “non-traditional students” by university administrators and legislators. As indicated by the title given to them, student parents struggle feeling connected to the campus community. More pressing, however, is that student parents struggle meeting their basic needs.
Texas student parents are often of color, lower income, living off-campus, and enrolling in college campuses with a lot of additional needs. These manifest in many unique ways for the individuals but overarching areas of need are: healthcare accessibility, child care services, and financial aid.
Healthcare for student parents is extremely necessary and, unfortunately, out of reach. A significant portion of young adults in Texas remain uninsured. For student parents, this has particularly negative repercussions on women’s behavioral and reproductive health issues, such as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) and unplanned pregnancies.
In terms of child care services, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that even though the number of students with children on campus has been steadily increasing, the number of campuses with child care supports has declined. And even when child care is available, it is often unreasonably expensive. The average cost of child care for a family with an infant and 4-year-old is approximately $15,489 a year, a price college students with dependents simply cannot afford.
The previously outlined needs are all interdependent, and as such, the increased needs for healthcare and child care contribute to pressures on a student parent’s finances. Many are forced to also work a job while pursuing education and raising children. These factors and more contribute to student parents having a higher risk of dropping out than those who do not have children. One study found that an additional child reduces a student parent’s chances of completing their degree by approximately 50 percent.
Behind the statistics and larger picture of student parents as a population are distinct voices and experiences deserving to be heard. Take a moment to read more about the YI student parent report, including vignettes of student parent perspectives, here.
Juggling many different roles herself, YI intern Joscelyne Lee shares with us her experiences. Josceleyne has two boys and a girl of her own in kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade. She is a YI Young Advocate. With the onset of COVID-19 in March, she began homeschooling her children, in addition to her professional job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Recently through YI, she held a reproductive health group where she gave a presentation on postpartum depression symptoms, which studies show 17% of women in Texas experience.
Joscelyne is passionate about this topic in particular because she feels she had to work through some postpartum anxiety on her own. After recognizing that her various responsibilities were becoming overwhelming, she made a point to develop a concrete schedule for herself and designate time for her own wellbeing. She enjoys walking, talking with friends over Zoom, and other de-stressing activities.
Joscelyne is a strong believer in having candid conversations and extending support and information to postpartum mothers—especially if they are students as well— in any way she can. She says she “wants to make sure women take care of themselves so that they can better take care of others.”
With persistence, grace, and a glass of wine here and there, Joscelyne has overcome many struggles of her own that continue to motivate her to speak out on behalf of disenfranchised young adults.
Ultimately, Aurora and Joscelyne want readers to come away with an understanding of the urgency of counting student parents and addressing their needs. YI worked hard in the 86th Texas Legislative session and will continue pushing for the following recommendations on behalf of student parents:
- Foster supportive health care environments
- Group prenatal and parenting education
- Combine postpartum follow-up visits and pediatric visits
- Mobile clinics to meet parents on campus
- Increased use of telemedicine and social media to connect with young parents
- Expand Medicaid insurance coverage
- Through one year postpartum
- Promote holistic supports on college campuses
- Family-friendly policies
- Child care
- Reproductive health
- Behavioral health
- Collect data on Texas student parents
- Track outcomes post-graduation
- Standardize and publish an annual survey on student parents’ experiences