"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."
Previously we focused on the frustrations faced by pregnant and parenting students — mainly the areas of housing and childcare. These account for just the initial concerns expressed by your student client. However, there is much more to consider than your mom-to-be, at her level of life experience, will realize. She feels defeated, abandoned, and confused. She cannot be blamed for her loss of vision in her situation, only loved through it until she reaches a threshold — and then loved even more.
In a 2007 national survey conducted by Feminists for Life, 165 respondents from 117 colleges and universities spoke to the issues at hand for pregnant and parenting students. Fifty-eight percent of respondents were from state schools with the balance equally divided between private and religious institutions.*
These findings offer important insight to how a pregnant and parenting student views her life on campus. They also explain why a pregnant student often disappears from campus or chooses abortion. Sadly, the alma mater welcome mat seems to roll up when the pregnancy test shows positive. What your client perceives most often frames her only option — your baby or your education.
She deserves better, and your college town center is blessedly poised to guide her to empowerment as a successful mother and student. It is a win-win situation.
What do pregnant and parenting students need? Besides affordable housing and daycare, which we already know to be a major hurdle:
Alternative academic schedules and flexible class times — most state schools provide offerings.
College connection to volunteer or paid babysitters — more than half of survey respondents did not know if there existed some link for students. A few, however, said there were lists available on campus.
Maternity coverage in the student health plan — higher than 75 percent of those asked did not know.
Insurance riders available to cover children — 79 percent said they did not know if riders were available. Fourteen percent indicated that they could not obtain riders to insure their children.
These are monumental barriers to carrying to term for the student mom. Notice the IDK pattern (I don't know). Other needs include stroller accessibility, changing tables in restrooms, designated parking, loans and scholarships for education and for housing, protective policies for pregnant athletes, scholarship protection for pregnant athletes, a central guidance office or individual for pregnant and parenting resources, Resident Advisor training and awareness, and policies and resources clearly stated on college or university websites.
I've counseled many scholarship athletes. I know of only one who carried to term. Many assumed they would lose their scholarships, but how many actually inquired remains unknown.
It is somewhat surprising the campus services that were believed to be available based on the respondents' answers in the survey. For instance, 7 percent said that student insurance plans did cover maternity. Six percent believed loans and scholarships were available for parenting students. However, what your client cannot readily see, she will deem not to exist.
Your center's oversight of a student group on campus is essential to increased awareness and accessibility to available resources. A campus-based information office staffed by your student volunteer can direct students to your services as well.
"Where have all the pregnant students gone?" With 10 percent of college-aged women getting pregnant each year, there should be no question. Choosing between her baby and her education should never be considered an option.
Pregnancy centers make a huge impact by joining forces with students, parents, alumni, and administrators in becoming a voice for the parenting student and her child. It is my hope that this information will rally your college town center into further action. My prayers go with you as you serve.
* Survey and report at www.feministsforlife.org.
Marcia Warmkessel lives near Virginville, Pennsylvania, (We are NOT kidding!). She served as a PCC director and administrator for over 13 years. Marcia now mentors incarcerated and newly-paroled women and mothers with those same life-affirming truths shared in PCC outreach.