Experts think that two of every ten college students today is a single parent, whether male or female. And the number of single parents in college is on a steady rise. This shouldn’t really be surprising since single-parent households have been on a sharp and steady increase for several decades. Whether by chance or choice, single parenting is a popular lifestyle for adults today.
Today, there are more single parents enrolled in college than ever before. Single parents face difficult challenges, and single parents who are also college students have additional stresses and demands to deal with.
The Challenges for Single-Parent College Students
Single parents attending college have many obstacles and difficulties. They have demands on their time greater than the amount of time they spend in class. They must also study to achieve satisfactory academic performance. Pressures to perform in class are added to those they already feel from their home and child-rearing responsibilities.
Society may not recognize the added burden. Being a single parent in college doesn’t change social expectations for making parent-teacher conferences, attending PTA meetings, coaching kids’ sports teams, and the host of activities expected of parents today.
And people may view single parents in college differently. Even if having children was a conscious choice, people may assume that the single parent was irresponsible in his or her social and sexual behavior. Peers and professors may assume the single parent is promiscuous, creating even more problems for the harried student. So while the stigma against single parents has largely disappeared in modern western cultures, it may not be completely gone for single parents in college.
* Managing Time
Handling crowded schedules and meeting difficult time constraints is hard enough for single parents. There are so many expectations and demands, and the same 24 hours for meeting them. For the single parent attending college, time is a precious commodity.
They must some how deal with the need to study and keep up the grades with the need to take care of their children and give them a happy, healthy environment in which to grow. Class attendance and the children’s extra-curricular activities may conflict.
Exams may be scheduled over soccer games. They may have to choose between taking the baby to the pediatrician and going to their own doctor about that bad cold. There are no easy choices for single parents in college.
Time constraints affect more than the kids and family unit. The single-parent college student has little time to care for their own physical and emotional health. Getting regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate rest may be impossible.
Finding the time and a quiet place to study may be one of the most difficult parts of their day. Often, study doesn’t begin until after the kids are asleep. That means losing precious hours of their own sleep. Balancing academic life and a single-parent family are a Herculean challenge.
* Managing Money
Single parents already face the challenge of being the main source of income for their family. Attending college adds a significant financial burden to an already strained pocketbook and budget.
As most of us know, college expenses are significant today. The costs of tuition and fees, textbooks, laboratory fees, and transportation and parking eat into limited money for rent, groceries, and child care.
While student loans are available, they add to financial burdens unknown to college students who don’t have children. Mounting debt may be a necessary evil for single parents attending college.
Is there any question, then, about why so many single parents drop out of college or get failing grades? Recent studies suggest that some single parents are choosing to put their kids in foster care or out for adoption in order to improve their lives with a college degree.
Those without a supportive extended family or outside resources may be forced to make this heart-breaking decision to give their children the best possible chance at life. The hard fact of the matter is that, without a college degree, the single parent may not be able to give their children a normal life anyway.
No matter how tempted we may be to judge the single parent in college who gives up their children, it is important to recognize and acknowledge their terrible dilemma. And for those that are able to pull it off, society owes a round of thunderous applause.