Redefining Traditional

Research

An annotated bibliography of articles, reports and other research relating to student parents in post-secondary education.

Barnes, J. (2016). Student-Sole-Parents and the Academic Library. New Zealand Library & Information Management Journal56(1).
This small qualitative study demonstrates how disallowing children in the library creates challenges for students who are sole parents by preventing them from fulfilling care obligations. Lack of access to library services for this group diminishes their ability to engage with study material, obstructs use of Librarian expertise, and diminishes their study experience.

Brooks, R. (2015). Social and spatial disparities in emotional responses to education: feelings of ‘guilt’ among student‐parents. British Educational Research Journal41(3), 505-519. 
This article describes how student parents’ emotional experience of guilt is linked to social characteristics and spatial contexts. Mothers tend to experience more guilt than fathers, and British mothers experience more guilt than mothers in Scandinavian countries. These differences are explained by social norms (a parent-worker model is culturally dominant in Scandinavian countries, while intensive mothering is common in the UK) and thus should be address through systemic change.

Brown, V., & Nichols, T. R. (2013). Pregnant and parenting students on campus: Policy and program implications for a growing population. Educational Policy27(3), 499-530.
Here, researchers from the University of North Carolina interviewed student parents about the policies and programs needed to support them in completing post-secondary education. This included a campus-wide incidental fee to subsidize childcare, lactation rooms, a policy for student maternity/paternity leave, and a student parent representative on the campus presidential board. The authors recommend that institutions document numbers of student parents; however, do not make extensive additional policy recommendations.

Cannady, R. E., King, S. B., & Blendinger, J. G. (2012). Proactive outreach to adult students: A department and library collaborative effort. The Reference Librarian53(2), 156-169.
Collaboration between faculty members and librarians is needed to improve access to services for student parents. Offering flexible communications options, including chat, email, telephone, and LibGuide pages supports student parents. Most adult learners have gained research and library use skills through life experience, which can render some programming less relevant to them, thus adult-specific content should be developed.

Carliner, Jesse, and Kyla Everall. “Playtime at Robarts Library: Opening a Family-Friendly Study Space at the University of Toronto.” College & Research Libraries News 80, no. 2 (2019).
The University of Toronto opened the first family-friendly study space in a Canadian academic library (which in general offer few services to support caregivers) in 2019. This room features presentation facilities, whiteboards, child-sized furniture, and tamper-resistant outlets, and is soundproof. It also includes a “take-a-book, leave-a-book” library of children’s literature, which allows children to learn alongside their parents, avoids the need to create a catalogue exclusive to caregivers. This space was well-received by staff and students at the university and has sparked interest in launching a similar initiative at other universities.

Cox, R. D., & Sallee, M. W. (2018). Neoliberalism across borders: A comparative case study of community colleges’ capacity to serve student-parents. The Journal of Higher Education89(1), 54-80.
This comparative case study of a Canadian (British Columbia) and American (New York) urban community college explores how neoliberalist policies have rendered students with dependent children invisible. State funding obligates the BC college to attract students who will enter into in-demand occupations (especially those supporting extraction of liquefied natural gas (LNG). These budgetary constraints prevent them from supporting student parents beyond an on-campus childcare centre. In contrast, the location of the American Community College in a market-oriented system keeps it free from direct state intervention and allows it to attract and support a wide range of students, including student parents. It can offer childcare to more students, as well as assistance in housing and childcare costs.

Cruse, L. R., Mendez, S. C., & Holtzman, T. (2020). Student parents in the COVID-19 pandemic: Heightened need & the imperative for strengthened support. (). Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, student parents are facing disproportionate financial insecurity, challenges meeting basic needs, and higher caregiving demands. Rapid relocation from on-campus housing, job losses, and expectations to homeschool children are also acute stressors they face atop transitions to remote learning.

Gault, B., Noll, E., & Reichlin, L. (2016). The Family-Friendly Campus Imperative Supporting Success Among Community College Students With Children. In The Acct 2016 Invitational Symposium: Getting in the Fast Lane Ensuring Economic Security and Meeting the Workforce Needs of the Nation. Association of Community Colleges Trustees.
Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, this paper identifies the demographic characteristics and needs of college student parents. It describes the state of childcare in community colleges, the role childcare plays on student parents’ academic progress, and strategies that can be used on-campus to better support childcare access for student parents. This research is used to support federal and state policy recommendations for supporting access to childcare for students with dependents.

Gerami, S., Lum, D., Brechbill, L., & Corlett, K. (2019). Understanding the experience of student parents at the university of toronto. The Innovation Hub.
Here, researchers at the Innovation Hub use design thinking to draw from the stories and experience of graduate student parents at the University of Toronto. Major needs identified are finding belonging, navigating systems, emotional challenges, and practical needs.

Gerami, S., Dainow, A., Lam, C., & Corlett, K. (2019). Family care office — what are the experiences of student parents at UofT? The Innovation Hub.
Drawing from a previous report describing the experiences of graduate student parents at the University of Toronto, researchers at the Innovation Hub offer specific recommendations for supporting student parents, including developing connectedness, improving communication, making changes to accommodations, creating spaces, providing resources, and increasing inclusivity and visibility. describe the immediate needs of student parents in higher education. Student parents’ policy recommendations are also described.

Gerrard, E., & Roberts, R. (2006). Student parents, hardship and debt: A qualitative study. Journal of further and higher education30(4), 393-403. 
This study explores the nature and impact of financial hardship on female student parents. Interviews with 12 women revealed that financial pressure negatively impacted psychological health and led to increased stress levels that negatively affected children. At times, financial insecurity also led to food insecurity. Overall, quality of home and family life was compromised among this population as a result of financial adversity.

Godfrey, I., Rutledge, L., Mowdood, A., Reed, J., Bigler, S., & Soehner, C. (2017). Supporting student retention and success: Including family areas in an academic library. portal: Libraries and the Academy17(2), 375-388. 
Here, the authors, which include librarians, administrative staff and faculty at the University of Utah, describe the creation of a family-friendly study space (“Family Reading Room”) within the J. Willard Marriott Library. This was achieved through inter-departmental collaboration and support from external donors. The space allowed children to play with toys and complete arts and crafts while parents studied. Additional research revealed the importance of family restrooms, an area where lactation equipment could be washed, and additional spaces for fathers.

Smith, G., & Wayman, S. (2009). Meet the Parents: The experiences of students with children in further and higher education.
Drawing from literature reviews, in-person interviews with faculty, staff and student parents, an online survey of 2,167 students with children, as well as a roundtable discussion, the authors report on the experience of student parents in the UK. Recommendations include greater collaboration between support services, information dissemination, a student parent helpline, and staff trained specifically in supporting student parents.

Statistics Canada. (2015). Time Use: Total Work Burden, Unpaid Work, and Leisure. Government of Canada.
This report from the Government of Canada describes gendered effects of childcare among men and women in Canada. Both men and women spend more time than they did in 1986 caring for children, however, women show a greater increase than men (despite spending more time on paid work than thirty years ago). Compared to men, women also spend more time performing routine childcare, and are overrepresented among caregivers.

Hinton-Smith, T. (2012). Lone Parents’ Experiences as Higher Education Students. National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
In this sociological analysis of lone student parents in higher education settings, the author provides insight into lone parents’ own interpretations of their experiences at universities in the United Kingdom. She challenges stereotypes that lone parents are lazy, poor role models, wishing to profit from social welfare systems. Despite limited support and numerous barriers, these individuals are motivated to improve their lives by securing education and employment.

Huelsman, M., & Engle, J. (2013). Student Parents and Financial Aid. Working Paper. Institute for Women’s Policy Research. 
In this report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the authors describe the factors affecting the access of student parents to federal, state, and institutional financial aid. This includes college choice, full versus part-time enrollment status, income level and their access to information about the availability of awards. Major federal programs that provide assistance to student parents in terms of tuition coverage, childcare subsidies, and support for low-income families are detailed.

Ismail, L. (2009). What they are telling us: Library use and needs of traditional and non‐traditional students in a graduate social work program. The Journal of Academic Librarianship35(6), 555-564.
In this sample of traditional and non-traditional students enrolled in the MSW program at the University of Marywood, the authors used students enrolled at satellite campuses, part-time, and in weekend programs as non-traditional students. Traditional and non-traditional students were found to use the  library in a similar way (used the on-campus library, and were uninterested in online research help). Nontraditional respondents reported greater difficulty in accessing library resources than traditional respondents ,while both groups  ha d   the same level of difficulty in locating resources. Non traditional students were also more likely to report that library staff were not helpful.

Keyes, K. (2017). Welcoming spaces: Supporting parenting students at the academic library. The Journal of Academic Librarianship43(4), 319-328.
Here, the author assessed the policies of academic libraries in the 80 largest American colleges on allowing accompanied children in the library. Analyses revealed that half of the institutions lacked accessible policies on accompanied children, some had policies discouraging children’s presence, and some actively welcomed children. Recommendations for libraries to be more accommodating of student parents include offering childcare, building a dedicated family study room, increasing the family friendliness of existing spaces or designating such areas as non-exclusive family areas, offering activity kits, and posting welcoming policies.

Regalado, M., & Smale, M. A. (2018). Academic Libraries for Commuter Students: Research-based Strategies. American Library Association.
In chapter three of this book, the authors conduct qualitative research on making the library accessible for student parents. The primary themes identified for the students interviewed were being distracted by family and domestic obligations and being a distraction to other students when accessing library services. Specific desires for the family-friendly study space at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are also identified. 

Luzius, J., & Webb, B. (2002). Non-traditional students’ library satisfaction. Library Philosophy and practice5(1), 1-7.
Here, the authors describe the level of satisfaction of non-traditional students (who are defined as college students over the age of 22, in a non-full-time enrolment, often with family responsibilities and sometimes working full-time) with library services. Non-traditional students were much less satisfied with the library’s weekend hours than traditional students and find these hours more important as they tend to work or have other responsibilities during the week. Longer evening and weekend hours of operation, remote access and assistance, as well non-traditional student library orientation is suggested to support these students. 

David, M., & Friendly, Martha. “Time out: Childcare Fees in Canada 2017.” Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, December 2017.
The authors describe differences in childcare costs across Canadian cities, child age groups, and time. The cost of care was highest in Ontario, with Toronto being the most expensive at $1,758 per month. Quebec, Manitoba, and PEI had the lowest fees, due to operational funding that placed maxima on childcare fees. In all provinces except Quebec (where the cost of care does not depend on the age of the child), infant and toddler care is the highest of all age groups.

Miller, K. (2010). Child Care Support for Student Parents in Community College Is Crucial for Success, but Supply and Funding Are Inadequate. Fact Sheet# C375. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
In this report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, availability of childcare was found to be an important factor in enrolment decisions. Despite this, few campus centres are able to meet demand (according to a recent survey, 90% maintain waiting lists, and many do not accept young infants or provide weekend care). Other challenges of campus childcare described are decreasing numbers of centres, limited federal funding, and high costs. These factors additionally constrain student parents who balance work, family, and school. 

Miller, K. (2012). Single Student Parents Face Financial Difficulties, Debt, without Adequate Aid. Fact Sheet# C394. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
In this report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the author describes several sources of financial insecurity for student parents, including difficulty accessing affordable childcare, greater unmet need for financial aid, and lesser ability to repay student loans. As a result, student parents are more likely than traditional students to report withdrawing from college due to financial difficulty.

Moreau, M. P. (2016). Regulating the student body/ies: University policies and student parents. British Educational Research Journal42(5), 906-925.
Here, the author uses sociological and feminist theory and data from ten higher education institutions in the UK to assert that universities contribute to the marginalization of student parents through exclusive policies. Three institutional approaches to student parents are identified, including ‘careblind’ (minimal policy intervention), ‘targeted’ (some specific provisions made, such as nursery or childcare centre within student services), and ‘mainstreaming’ (integrating the needs of student parents in to policies, including extensive references on website, dedicated spaces, and flexibility in childcare choices. The first and second approaches are limited on the grounds that they are inequitable and produce a deficit view of this group as ‘needy’ respectively. Ultimately, the third is most appropriate, considering all students as potential caregivers, an acknowledging the role played by university policies in marginalizing these groups.

Moreau, M. P., & Kerner, C. (2015). Care in academia: An exploration of student parents’ experiences. British Journal of Sociology of Education36(2), 215-233.
In this original research article, interview with 40 university student parents revealed the challenges and advantages of navigating these dual roles. Limited time, financial insecurity, health, and emotional problems were cited by parents as major stressors. At the same time, the benefits of their position were also identified. These include development of personal human capital, becoming better parents, and setting an example for their children. Perceiving these benefits allows student parents to produce a counter-discourse that care and academia are compatible.

Noll, E., Reichlin, L., & Gault, B. (2017). College students with children: National and regional profiles. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 1-27.
While student parents face considerable challenges in completing higher education, these pressures depend on a multitude of factors, including institution location, ethnicity, and marital status. More student parents make up undergraduate student bodies in the Southwest compared to New England. Women in general, as well as Black and Indigenous mothers are more likely to be student parents than men or White women. Single parents have more unmet financial need than their married peers. Institutional policies that strengthen campus childcare centres, create family-friendly spaces, collect data on student parents needs and outcomes, as well as provide assistance in accessing financial aid can improve the success and retention of these students in programs. 

Petit, Joan. “A Family-Friendly Study Room for Student-Parents and Their Children at Portland State University Library.” OLA Quarterly 20, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 36–39.
In this report, Joan Petit, Assistant Professor and Librarian at Portland State University describes the backstory, processes and outcomes of creating a family-friendly study space at the university’s academic library. Despite demand for the space driven by a large student parent body, promoting it to its intended audience has been a challenge. The space now has a small by loyal following of students with children.

Sallee, M. W. (2015). Adding academics to the work/family puzzle: Graduate student parents in higher education and student affairs. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice52(4), 401-413.
This qualitative research study based on interviews with 18 student parents enrolled in higher education institutions explores how these students balance their academic, familial and professional duties. Adopting strict schedules, setting aside schoolwork days and managing time were shared by student parents as strategies used to meet academic demands. Participants reported that they were not always able to spend as much time with family as preferred, and abandoned hobbies and volunteer activities; nonetheless they identified their role as parents as their top priority. Selecting flexible programs, and making purposeful choices in terms of career options were identified as strategies for fulfilling professional duties.

Schumacher, R. (2013). Prepping Colleges for Parents: Strategies for Supporting Student Parent Success in Postsecondary Education. Working Paper. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
This report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research draws from an online survey, internet research, and interviews with program leaders to recommendations of support strategies for institutions. These include establishing rapport with student parents, developing on-campus childcare centers, speaking to student parents about their needs, building support from many departments on campus, securing public and private funding for programs, as well as research and data collection.

Springer, K. W., Parker, B. K., & Leviten-Reid, C. (2009). Making space for graduate student parents: Practice and politics. Journal of Family Issues30(4), 435-457.
The authors report on a survey about parental supports for graduate students administered to a sample of graduate program directors. Analyses reveal that few official policies to support student parents exist, that most accommodations occur on a case-by-case basis, and directors are often unaware of the services available to graduate student parents. Specific initiatives to support these students are recommended, including paid parental leave, extension of deadlines, part-time options, childcare support, health insurance for dependents, and enhancing family-friendly university culture. Training for graduate directors and students can also enhance visibility and support of student parents.

van Rhijn, T. M. (2012). Post-Secondary Students with Children: An Investigation of Motivation and the Experiences of” Student Parents” (Doctoral dissertation).
Here, the authors describe the motivations of student parents to attend university, their self-efficacy beliefs, definitions of success, and success strategies. Fulfilling career goals was cited as a major motivator for returning to school, and the perceptions of students regarding school-family balance affected their satisfaction in various aspects of life. Success was defined by student parents as involving personal, familial, academic, and vocational success.

van Rhijn, T., Lero, D., Dawczyk, A., de Guzman, J., Pericak, S., Fritz, V., … & Osborne, C. (2015). Student pathways and supports: Investigating retention and attrition in mature university students. 
Here, the authors use a mixed methods pathway to identify student retention enablers and barriers. Predictors of withdrawal among student parents are part-time enrolment status, dissatisfaction with school, and role strain. The top three reasons identified by mature students for withdrawing were finances, family duties, and employment needs. Many students were found to pursue non-traditional pathways to graduation, including taking time off between semesters.

van Rhijn, T. M., Lero, D. S., Bridge, K., & Fritz, V. A. (2016). Unmet needs: Challenges to success from the perspectives of mature university students. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education28(1), 29-47. 
This study of 270 mature undergraduate students in Ontario demonstrates that mature students face challenges in accessing resources, on-campus services, and flexible study options. Policy, social and practical recommendations are made in response to these needs.

van Rhijn, T., Lero, D. S., & Burke, T. (2016). Why go back to school? Investigating the motivations of student parents to pursue post‐secondary education. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development28(2), 14-26.
In a sample of 398 student parents at four Canadian universities, the motivations of student parents to attend school were described. The primary motivations for doing so were career achievement, learning, and family encouragement. Secondary motivators included improvement in lifestyle and income, personal development, as part of social responsibility, to overcome physical and mental challenges and to develop a new hobby.

Wu, A. T. (2015). Torn between three worlds: Examining the graduate school experience of women balancing doctoral education, motherhood, and work.
In this book chapter, the author describes the results of a study on 20 doctoral student mothers that identifies three areas influencing the ability of these women to navigate their roles. Recommendations for supporting this group are given, along with suggestions for research on motherhood in academia.