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Degree Completion & Retention Plan

DCR Plan

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Factor 7: Parent Support Services

An inclusive campus enhances the educational experiences of all members of the EMU community. To that end, EMU recognizes that becoming a Michigan school of choice for non-traditional students, particularly for ethnically diverse low-income single parents who struggle to pursue postsecondary education, is a commitment worth pursuing. EMU understands that becoming a successful college student can be a stressful and difficult transition. The transition for single parents is even more difficult.  They are a special population of students who need to be supported differently from traditional students to insure timely progress to degree completion. Too many single parent students have been forced to limit course loads, drop classes, miss classes or assignments, and leave school before completion due to issues directly related to being a single parent.

In May 2012, the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) published these findings:

  • Twelve percent of students enrolled in post-secondary academic programs are single parents (with one or more children depending on their income for survival).  These parents have less money to pay for their own educational development, have greater needs to meet when financial aid does not cover the cost of living, and they accumulate more debt than students without children.                    
  • Single parents have ten times more debt after graduating than their childless classmates.

The 2012 U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicated that 84.1% of single parent families included mother only with child(ren) under 18 and 15.9% represented father only with child(ren) under 18.  Additionally, the Single Mother Guide statistics showed that single mothers often spend over half of their income on housing expenses and a third on child care, leaving them with less money for educational expenses.  Nearly two-thirds (62%) have an expected family contribution (EFC) of zero compared to 20% of postsecondary students without children and 18% of married student parents.

Eastern Michigan University has a high proportion of non-traditional students, many of whom are single parents raising children alone.  While Eastern has not formally collected data to determine the number of students who are parents, especially single parents, two surveys conducted in 2002 provided some insight into the status of single parent students.  In a phone registration survey conducted in winter 2002, over one-third of the 7,000 respondents had children, with 1225 having children under 5 years of age.  In the EMU Child Care Needs Survey (February 2002), findings from the 479 respondents pointed to child care as a major barrier:

  • 55% were hindered from completing their degrees
  • 18% were forced to drop out of school for periods of time
  • 15% had failed at least one class

Many of these students cited cost of child care to be their largest hurdle, an understandable fact when one considers that 43% of the respondents had monthly incomes of under $1,100.

Challenges Single Parents Face in Pursuit of Education

In general, nontraditional students are more likely to have at-risk factors that make their path to graduation more complicated.  To invest in the retention of this diverse, predominantly female, non-traditional student constituency, EMU must address the barriers/challenges to academic progress and degree completion.  These challenges can be broken down into three major areas: financial constraints (especially child care expenses), time management, and social pressures.

Recommended Key Actions:

Student support and services need to be focused and specifically geared toward the single parent student, not folded into what is already provided to our traditional student. To that end, there are four key actions recommended:

1. Child Care Grants and Financial Assistance Programs

a.   Study best practices for how to establish child care grants funded by EMU with maximum annual amounts or hours of care. The study should also include consideration for an incentivized program grant renewal and subsidies to families.

b.   Investigate a school-age drop-in program for after-school and early evening support (as unique from services provided by the current Children's Institute located on campus).

c.   Explore how the University might provide single parent on-campus housing opportunity with possible sliding scale rate structure.

d.   Collaborate with the EMU Foundation on a campaign to establish a single student parent child care scholarship.

2.   Wrap Around Support Services (academic and personal)

a.   Create a Family Resource Center (FRC) on the EMU campus.  Ideally, the University would also locate a space for the FRC that could accommodate a meeting room, activity room and child care/play space.    The Center will focus on helping students engage in effective problem solving, ensuring proper access to care, academic assistance and other mechanisms of support.  Studies have shown that student retention typically increases if there are more support resources for student parents in place on the campus.

b.   Create a coordinator position to lead and foster support programs for student parents.  The coordinator might potentially oversee the FRC as well as assist students overcome obstacles they encounter as single parents on campus. Special Academic Advising and Course Registration Assistance - Academic advisors play a critical role in helping single parent students manage school in addition to their other responsibilities. Training advisors to understand and support the unique needs of single parents is essential.  Advisors should recognize diversity within the single-parent group.  Some of these differences include degree of family emotional support, degree of financial support from outside sources, the age of the student's children, the student's age, and whether the student has been married or divorced.  Encouraging students to develop relationships with faculty, as well as making students aware of appropriate campus resources are important ways for academic advisors to support single parents, along with asking students what services may be lacking for single student parents and then advocating for those services.

c.  Have the FRC and EMU Children's Institute collaborate to offer workshops provided by campus and community leaders with focus on family development, life skills training and academic success strategies.

d.  Link a Single Parent Student Organization to the FRC.  Leadership from the Family Resource Center and EMU Children's Institute could assist in the development of a parenting organization and website that will focus on advocacy and program development for student parents.

3.  Mentoring/Coaching/Peer Support Program.  The University will create comprehensive support program that includes mentoring, coaching and peer support elements.  The program should explore the use of possible sponsors from the community and partnering with academic departments, such as Social Work, to create internships through the Family Resource Center and provide interested students with a 'success' coach. Framed on the Keys to Degrees coach concept, coaches would be available to aid and motivate single parents in their quest to balance school, work, child-rearing, and personal growth.


Degree Completion & Retention Plan, Academic & Student Affairs, 106 Welch Hall 734.487.3200