There are 4.8 million undergraduate students currently enrolled in the U.S. who are also parents, representing 26 percent of all undergraduates, according to a 2014 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research.1 In serving this growing student group, career colleges - known to offer increased schedule flexibility - have an advantage over traditional higher education institutions. Though student parents tend to have a greater appreciation for the opportunities that higher education provides, balancing parenting responsibilities often proves too stressful to make going back to school a viable option.

Consider offering the following amenities at your career college. You'll encourage and support parents looking to return to school while benefitting from increased enrollment and reduced attrition rates.

Promote Peace of Mind with On-Site Daycare

Parents with dependent children drop out of college at a higher rate than any other demographic, with only 33 percent of students with children obtaining a degree or certificate within six years, the IWPR found. Lack of proper or affordable child care means parents have to forgo college to stay home with their child or pick up an additional job to afford child care.

Offering on-campus daycare reduces the financial burden on this cohort of students and gives them peace of mind, enabling them to focus on their studies instead. Additionally, it relieves the added stress of trying to schedule classes around traditional day care program schedules.

Flexibility for Every Stage of the Education Journey

To balance work responsibilities and family life, students who are parents may require more flexibility than traditional students. Offer weekend and evening courses for students who can't attend class during the day due to their parenting and work obligations.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 30 percent of teen girls who leave high school say it's due to parenthood.2 This creates a unique challenge for a subset of parents who are looking to return to school, but lack a high school diploma. Career colleges can help those who need a high school diploma before they can enroll in post-secondary education. By offering a High School Completion program on your campus, you are able to create a bridge for former high school dropouts to enroll in your school, and become career ready.

Reduce Interrupted Enrollments with a Backup Plan

Offer student parents a backup plan for when their children are sick or for times when their caretakers are unable to provide childcare that day. To do so, consider integrating child care programs within nursing or education curriculum. Ask qualified students in those departments to implement a child care program as part of the course offerings, or reach out to former students who are screened and trained in child development.

Catering to the needs of parent students gives career colleges a competitive advantage when it comes to enrollment and retention. Give this motivated and determined group of students the tools they need to succeed and help your academic institution increase applications and graduation rates.

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Resources: Photo Credit. (1) Student Parent Success Initiative (2) The PPSAE Act: Important Legislation--and a Great Reminder About Prevention