Student Mothers Need Child Care to Graduate
During this season of giving, we’re sharing stories about how AAUW’s programs affect real women and girls all over the country. The following story originally appeared in the 2013 AAUW annual report.
“I want to complete my education not just for myself but also for my daughter because I don’t always want to struggle. I want something better for both of us,” says LaKeisha Cook, a single mother and community college student.
Today, more undergraduate students are enrolled in community colleges than in any other type of institution, and women especially are drawn to these schools — with their flexible schedules and affordable tuition — for higher education and workforce preparation. More than 4 million women are currently enrolled in community colleges, which can be gateways to better opportunities — but only if students like Cook get the resources they need.
After being out of school for more than 10 years, Cook completed her first year at Montgomery College in Maryland this past spring. She received a grant that allowed her to enroll her 3-year-old daughter in on-campus child care while Cook attends classes.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be able to put my daughter in quality child care,” Cook says. “I have so many friends and neighbors who want to continue their education, but because they have children and can’t afford child care and can’t continue their education, they are just stuck in a rut. They are not able to grow or get quality jobs.”
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In May, thanks to the generous contributions of the Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle and the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund, AAUW released a research report, Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success, that recommends policies and practices to help women succeed in community colleges. The report focuses on what schools can do to encourage women to pursue high-demand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and what students need to make it to graduation.
For instance, Women in Community Colleges found that although more than 1 million mothers attend community college, fewer than half of schools provide on-campus child care. And in those that do, there aren’t enough available slots to meet demand. The report calls for increasing on-campus child care funding at the federal and state levels to help parents stay in school.
Such action could make the difference for Cook in reaching her dreams. “I’m concerned about how I’ll be able to continue my studies,” she says. “Currently, I have a grant that covers my child care costs, but the money is running out. And I’m not alone — a lot of other mothers are facing the same issue.”
The report’s findings, AAUW’s policy work, and AAUW Campus Action Project grants will work to protect and grow the campus resources that Cook and women like her rely on to stay in school and build bridges to more secure futures for themselves and their families.
Related video: You make dreams come true.