Alex and AubreyNov. 22, 2023 — CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Studio Arts major Alex Davis spends almost as much time on the 210 freeway as he does in class. That’s because he is co-parenting his nine-year-old daughter, Aubrey, which involves constant commutes to San Bernadino, where Aubrey’s mom lives.

“My daughter comes to the dorms with me on weekends and holidays,” Davis said. “One of the biggest problems with being a parent and a student is the commuting while meeting your child’s needs. Not just getting her to school, but dentist and doctor’s appointments and making sure she’s fed.”

Learning about and designing support for student parents like Davis is the aim behind a $60,000 grant CSUCI was recently awarded by the Urban Institute (UI) to take part in the UI’s Parenting Students College Community of Practice. It’s all part of the UI’s Data to Action Campaign for Parenting Students.

CSUCI was among a larger group of campuses from around the nation chosen to participate. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was also chosen to pioneer the effort, so the statistics and strategies developed by Cal Poly SLO and CSUCI could be used as a model for the rest of the CSU system.

For the next two years, a CSUCI select committee will research CSUCI’s student parents so they can create programs to meet their financial, academic, housing and other needs.

“The purpose of this initiative is to get a more accurate picture of the student parents we have at CSUCI,” said CSUCI Basic Needs Associate Director Julia Rose. “We now have over 1,000 students at CSUCI who have dependents and we know that from our FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), but that doesn’t account for all of the student parents.”

Davis and Rose are part of the campus cross-divisional task force with representatives from programs that have an impact on student parents. Also on the committee are: Assistant Vice President for Student Success & Retention Ernesto Guerrero; Restorative Justice & Outreach Title IX Coordinator Katy Johnson; and Senior Data and Research Analyst Paul Peterson.

Peterson’s role will be to collect data on student parents and cross reference it with other data, so for example, he can ascertain how many student parents are also transfer students, how many have financial aid, how many student parents are in specific majors, etc.

“We can, for example, find facts about student parents that are true on a national level but may not be true at the CSUCI level,” Peterson said. “We might find out the majority of student parents are transfer students, or perhaps they cluster around one particular major, so we can offer support in those areas.”

More than 5.4 million college students in the U.S. are raising children, which represents almost a quarter of the nation’s undergraduate students near nearly a third of graduate students. Yet despite the size of this population, there is an absence of data about their characteristics, circumstances, experiences and educational outcomes that renders them nearly invisible.

California is among the states seeking to rectify the problem by passing bills to help student parents, such as AB 2881, which passed in September of 2022 and requires all campuses across California’s three public education systems to provide priority registration for student parents.

Peterson said information from the priority registration module will also be helpful in determining the needs of student parents.

The grant money, Rose said, will be used for concrete needs for student parent such as more diapers and formula at the Dolphin Pantry, and creating a family-friendly space for student parents to study.

A lot of plans are still in development, but Rose said there will be outreach and informational events coming up in spring as well as more information on the student parent priority registration portal.

Davis plans to graduate in Spring of 2024, and hopes his daughter finds her academic passion as well, and also attends college.

“She really is my world and I want to be that dad who sits there and listens to find out what she wants to do in life,” Davis said. “I want her to know it’s all about making the right decisions and that she can always come back to me.”

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