Multiple faculty members and students, are working to create more resources for student mothers on campus. Their goals range from creating a new childcare facility on campus to making childcare more affordable for students with children and creating a general support system for these students.
Undergraduate students with dependents have more than doubled nationally between 1999 and 2013, according to a 2013 report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Nearly four million college students — roughly 25 percent of all undergraduate students — have one or more children.
“The growth in (single) mothers in college was more than twice the rate of growth seen among the overall undergraduate student population (42 percent) over the same time period,” IWPR’s report read.
Although many universities throughout the country have resources to help student mothers, the University of Mississippi provides more of these resources for its faculty than for its students.
Kelly Houston, the administrative coordinator for the Department of History, created the University of Mississippi Working Mothers Support Network in April of 2016 in hopes of creating a more family-friendly environment at the university by providing support to its working mothers. Unfortunately, not many student mothers are included.
Although the university does have an on-campus childcare facility, the Willie Price Lab School, it is primarily for faculty, staff and some community members, and only takes children aged 3-4.
“Currently, the university does not have anything (for children under the age of three),” Houston said. “The cost of (the Willie Price Lab School) in the past has kind of prohibited a lot of student involvement…it’s about $7000 a year.”
Cost and limited access to childcare are not the only hindering factors for student mothers. Creating new childcare facilities on campus is not a cheap task.
“(Childcare committees) have almost always said, ‘Yes, we need childcare on campus,’ but then nothing is done about it, I think because of the large startup cost,” Houston said. “The most recent childcare committee said yes, there was a need, but instead of saying to start the center, they said to hire a childcare fellow to research ways to make it possible.”
Laura Antonow, the university’s current childcare fellow, is working to calculate the number of student mothers currently enrolled, but has found that getting this data can be a challenge. She is working with the financial aid office to pull data from students’ FASFA forms and plans on releasing a student parent survey within the next week or two.
One of her main goals is for the university to apply for and receive the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Grant, which provides childcare subsidies for student parents. As of today, Southern Miss is the only school in Mississippi to receive CCAMPIS funding.
“I’m questioning now why we haven’t already applied for it,” Antonow said. “If we have that CCAMPIS Grant, there could be a whole new group of students who might give college a second look.”
Antonow has noticed the enrollment of students plateauing and believes the CCAMPIS Grant could potentially help increase enrollment in both undergraduate and graduate students.
“I think there’s a lot in it for the university to make this more of a priority,” Antonow said.