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Childcare: The Unlikely Secret Sauce to Boost 4-Year Minority Graduation Rates?

One by one, states are abandoning the gospel of affirmative action. Michigan was the latest to go “race-blind” on campuses, with the Supreme Court ruling last week that Michigan voters had the right to change their state constitution to bar public post-secondary institutions from using race as an admissions factor.

 

This doesn’t just affect Michigan citizens – or just the seven other states that have also outlawed affirmative action. Slowly, this trend will create a socioeconomic and cultural shift amongst the student-parent demographic.

 

Minority groups, specifically: The Pew Research Center just reported that while Hispanics and blacks are enrolling in college at historical rates nowadays, they still account for only 9 percent of young adults (ages 25 to 29) with bachelor’s degrees. Why on Earth is this so? “Hispanics are less likely than whites to enroll in a four-year college, attend a selective college and enroll full-time,” the study says.

 

Such education choices are mere coincidence: Neither 4-year schools nor a full-time curriculum is pragmatic for many Hispanics and blacks, because they are more likely to be parents (and working parents, at that).

 

According to last year’s briefing paper from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, students of color are “especially likely” to be balancing parenthood with education: 37% of African American, 33% of Native American, and 25% of Latino students have dependents. Compare that with only 20% of white college students having children.

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These numbers signal an urgent need for policy-makers to walk in the shoes of anyone who has had to juggle work, parenthood, and student-hood. As the abstract says:

 

“Unless the care-giving responsibilities of low-income adults are actively acknowledged and addressed, efforts to improve postsecondary access and completion for low-income adults, be they through online learning, improved on-ramps, developmental education, institutional accountability, financial aid, or curriculum reform, are likely to fall short of their full potential for change.“

 

College: Not just for the young

 

Not too long ago, college recruiting brochures were filled with glossy photos of young, energetic, and always-smiling 18-year-olds socializing on-campus. The youthful standard came from a long-held notion that after high school, the next step is college.

 

But times have changed – especially with the past recession. People are returning to college in droves – either to finish what they began, to start afresh with a more marketable degree. That means parents are fast becoming the new face of campuses. This is especially true at community colleges, which student parents attend more than any other type of institution (50 percent) and where they make up 29 percent of all students.

 

Sadly, the demand is being unmet: According to Degree Solution’s latest infographic, in there was a 10 percent drop in the number of on-site childcare centers available on community college campuses.

 

Enrollment in college is a Pyrrhic victory, if students do not graduate in time. Case in point: Arkansas is one of the 15 states with counties that are over 50 percent populated by African-Americans, and is stymied by the delayed (or never) graduation problem. Though enrollment rates have been rising in the south, just over 40 percent of Arkansas’ college students graduate within six years.

 

The number one predictable reason for dropping out is, of course, financial. Not just for textbooks, computer lab fees, and tuition – but also for childcare.

 

Administrator and policymaker solutions range from 4-year scholarships that increase with each year, as well as academic support services like time management courses for incoming freshmen. But guidance and campus childcare comparison tools are also essential to helping student parents make better decisions about daycare. That’s why Degree Solution created a simple-yet-powerful widget that reveals the specifics of campus childcare centers near you – cost, age minimums, hourly rates, and more.

 

Lastly, as even the most rural of towns start to embrace the power of the Internet, online learning will inevitably become part of the comprehensive solution to the minority graduation problem. It introduces scheduling flexibility to a stressful student-parent’s life, absolving one of the truancy caused by unreliable babysitters or a chicken pox epidemic at the daycare.

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