Kent State’s single parent students are offered extra financial assistance, tutoring,and tailored counseling from the university, but there may be more that can be done.
The LIFE Program began in the fall of 2006 and supplies single parents with resources to help balance the responsibilities of parenthood with the schedule of a working college student. This year, nine students are members of the program.
“Everything contributes to making sure they stay in school and graduate,” said Lanika Mutsach, graduate assistant in the CAVS office and head of the LIFE Program. “The retention rate for single parents is incredibly low.”
Eight percent of single mothers in college graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. This statistic is a stark contrast to the 49 percent graduation rate of women without children.
One recipient of the LIFE Program’s benefits who has held on all the way to senior year is nutrition major Kenisha Chisholm. She said the program provides her and her child with a free meal once a week. During this time, she can study with tutors while her child is kept occupied with crafts and games.
Chisholm also said the program offers textbook scholarship programs. Members can rack up points by attending info sessions and studying at the Women’s Center. They can redeem them for $300 worth of books. Members are encouraged to bring their children to these events.
Another recipient of the LIFE Program’s benefits is senior Nia Tucker. She is the mother of two children, five-year-old Nicholas, and one-year-old Nora. She says that a strength of the LIFE Program is the community it provides.
“The LIFE Program brings other mothers like myself who are going through the same things, trying to be parents, go to school, work, stuff like that,” Tucker said. “So it brings a connection, and there’s someone out there going through the same thing as me.”
Another strength is the amount of information it can provide. Tucker says that she has learned a good deal about child care, purchasing books and finances from LIFE.
There are also lactation rooms throughout the main campus that mothers can reserve during the day by calling the administrators overseeing them.
While Tucker and Chisholm say the LIFE Program has eased the burden of their many responsibilities, they say there are still missing pieces.
“I think the LIFE Program is actually good, but I think there are more things that could be more accommodating for people who have children,” Chisholm said.
She said she is burdened by the absence of child care on campus, and Tucker agreed with this sentiment.
“When school is cancelled, or the kids may have a snow day and my school isn’t cancelled, I still have to come to class or find someone to watch my child,” Tucker said, “which sometimes can be hard if I have to drive far out.”
This is troubling because the Institute of Women’s Policy Research also found that women who use a campus child care center had triple the on-time graduation rate of those who don’t.
The absence of assets that single parents need stems from a lack of funding and attention from administrators, said Mutsach.
“If only the provost or whoever has the purse strings would listen and know about this population and it’s value,” Mutsach said, “this is a really important bunch of people.”
Connor Everett covers Recruiting and Retention. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org