New Research Offers a Framework for Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Student Parents

October 8, 2021

Share this

Title: Improving Mental Health of Student Parents: A Framework for Higher Education

Source: The JED Foundation and Ascend at the Aspen Institute

With over 20 percent of total undergraduate students identifying as student parents, new research from the JED Foundation and Ascend at the Aspen Institute offers specific recommendations for supporting these individuals in their academic pursuits. The report outlines specific barriers student parents face including financial stress, balancing full-time employment, caring for dependents, and academic demands among others, all of which impact mental health.

Based on this analysis, the authors offer eight recommendations for colleges and universities to support the mental health of parenting students. These recommendations are summarized below:

1. Train campus mental health providers, faculty, and staff on specific stressors parenting students face. This helps critical supports on campus, such as counselors and professors, to better understand student parents’ experiences and address their basic needs.

2. Establish spaces on campus that meet the needs of student parents. Examples of this include opening family-friendly common areas, providing highchairs in dining facilities, and welcoming children at campus events.

3. Create opportunities for parenting students to meet and support one another. This includes starting student organizations or developing a mentorship program between older and younger student parents.

4. Develop flexible classroom policies to help student parents balance academic courses and caretaking. This may include flexible options for turning in assignments, having the ability to take emergency phone calls, and supporting students who may need to miss class for appointments or in the absence of childcare.

5. Collect data on the needs and experiences of parenting students on a regular basis. This data can be used to assess their use of campus services and inform actions to best support changing needs.

6. Invest in purposeful planning around student parents’ basic needs. This includes creating information hubs on available resources, providing application support, and referring students to off-campus resources when appropriate.

7. Provide parenting students with access to childcare. This could include expanding current campus childcare offerings or helping students find and fund childcare off-campus.

8. Increase parenting student visibility by updating campus orientation and programming materials. Such efforts bring awareness to resources available to student parents, demonstrate how the institution is prioritizing support for these students and could improve sense of belonging.

Click here to read the full report.

—Danielle Melidona

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please contact us.

Keep Reading

What Can Colleges and Universities Do to Support the Mental Health of Their Student-Athletes?

The demands of the college experience can place significant stress on student-athletes, which can in turn impact their mental heatlh. How can higher education leaders, coaches, and faculty work together to address these challenges?

November 3, 2023

Centering Equity in Student Mental Health Task Forces: Lessons Learned From the University of Michigan

Based on their work with the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School Task Force on Graduate Student Mental Health, Sara Abelson, Meghan Duffy, and Janelle Goodwill identify eight ways that university mental health task forces can center equity in their work.

September 21, 2020

College Student Mental Health and Well-Being: A Survey of Presidents

To better understand how campuses are navigating the challenge of student mental health and well-being, ACE conducted a survey of 400 college and university presidents at the end of April. Read what they had to say.

August 12, 2019