After U.C. Davis study showed student parents struggling, community colleges and state campuses around Sacramento implement new support systems  

Estela Cuevas, a Sacramento-area student parent.

By Tyra Willis and Celene Talavera

A new law hopes to address the equity gap for parents that are enrolled in California community colleges and state universities by requiring campuses to offer priority registration – and produce a web page full of resources available to them.

Assembly Bill 2881 took effect last week with CSUs and community colleges required to establish a resource center for student parents. Between that and new webpages, the schools will provide information with a description and location of services offered, tax credits, access to food programs and more.

Priority registration will be available by July 1, 2023 for student parents at CSUs and community colleges. UCs will be requested to enact the bill at each campus.

Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) introduced the bill, citing concerns for parents seeking higher education.

“The journey to and through college is challenging for many students but it is even more difficult for student parents as they juggle academic demands while also raising children,” Berman said.

A U.C. Davis study found that parents enrolled in community colleges across California experience greater financial burdens compared to students without children. Parents in college are also less likely to finish college with a degree.

Sacramento State student Estela Cuevas, a parent to three children, said it has taken her 10 years to finally get to her senior year.

“I was a single parent at one point in my life and I had to work,” Cuevas recalled. “I had to take less courses so I would have time to get the grade I wanted and study and also take care of my children at the same time.”

Out of the 1.5 million college students that applied for financial aid during the 2018-2019 school year, around 13.4% of those students were parents, according to the study.

Melinda Bee has a newborn son and attends a Los Rios community college campus. She wants to become a nurse. She was happy to find out that she will be receiving priority registration next year.

“I always struggle to get into the classes that I need,” Bee acknowledged. “Being a parent, I always need a certain time slot that is usually full by the time my enrollment appointment comes. It feels like I will never graduate at this rate.”

Bee hopes to transfer to Sacramento State next year.

 “Having priority registration will be life changing for me, honestly,” she stressed. “I know I need that so I can only imagine how much other parents need it, too.”

The legislation cites a report by The Institute for Women’s Policy Research that students of color who are parents are the most likely to drop out from school and face more barriers.

While registration plays a key part, the availability of resources also impacts student parents and how they navigate the campus. especially women of color who are often primary caretakers. 

The Education Trust – West, an organization focused on addressing racial and economic barriers within the American education system, supports the broad goals of the new law.

Christopher Nellum, executive director of The Education Trust – West, said students often hear about different resources around different pockets of campus. While the law won’t solve all the issues for student parents, it at least focuses all resources and services in one place.

Nellum adds that this law is a good start to addressing the student-parent demographic. He hopes that this progress continues and that lawmakers continue to focus on student parents.

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