Pregnant and parenting students have been called “an invisible population.” By and large, higher education is constructed around a framework that assumes students fit a narrow mold: single, childless, and unbound by jobs or other relationships. We often hear of hardworking students who, to pay tuition or other bills, maintain a job while in school. But almost no recognition is given to students who parent through college – many of whom also maintain jobs in addition to classes and study.
“I felt like I had to set aside my parent status in order to be a student,” student Michelle Marie told The Atlantic in 2014. Halfway through her bachelor’s education, Michelle had a baby and took two years off to be with her. But when she was ready to go back, Michelle faced the reality that there were very few resources and accommodations to help parenting students succeed. Pro-Life groups have stepped forward to fill the void with encouragement and tangible assistance so that students who become pregnant and/or parent through college are equipped to attain their goals.
Several Pro-Life student groups in Texas, which work with Texas Right to Life through the Dr. Joseph Graham Fellowship for College Pro-Life Leaders, have launched initiatives to help pregnant and parenting students on campus. Texas A&M’s Pro-Life Aggies, for example, award pregnant and parenting students with a Pregnant and Parenting Student Scholarship. The group funds the scholarship through an annual 5k run.
“The Pregnant and Parenting Student Scholarship demonstrates that we love all life — in the womb and out,” said an alumna of Pro-Life Aggies, “and we want to help these students as much after the birth of their child as we do when the child is in the womb. The hope is that the recipients will have the financial resources to overcome the challenge of attending college while raising a child.”
There is still much work to be done to further the cause of parenting students. For example, housing options should be available so that parenting students can live on-campus and benefit from the full spectrum of academic help and opportunity available to other students. Other needed changes include seemingly small gestures, such as the installation of diaper changing tables in men’s and women’s restrooms throughout college campuses. By creating an atmosphere where children are accepted and embraced, parenting students are not only more likely to succeed, but the fears of students who find themselves pregnant unexpectedly may be mitigated.
This graduation season, the Pregnant on Campus Initiative – a national network for pregnant and parenting students – has chronicled some of the touching graduation moments of parents who overcame obstacles to achieve their academic goals. Here are a few examples: