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Supporting College Student Parent Success

We will develop and disseminate a model of support for college student parents to help them be successful as both students and parents

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

We have been made aware of a program in Arkansas and are trying to reach them for additional information. In addition, we had a data question through this process that led us to modify the plan to pilot this program at a technical college in addition to a 4 year university. We have also made some changes from the original which I think makes our approach more balanced. In addition to creating the model Student Parent Success Centers, we also plan to work with colleges and tech schools to conduct a policy and practices audit to determine how "student parent friendly" existing polices and practices are and develop model policies and practices that might better support student parent success.

Name or Organization

Quality Care for Children (QCC) will partner with Clayton State University and Columbus State University. We will also seek a partnership with an Atlanta area Technical college.


QCC is in Atlanta Georgia. Universities are in Morrow, GA and Columbus GA, Atlanta GA

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

25% or more of all college students are parents. The % is even higher for students in technical colleges. 53% of college student parents, and 73% of college students who are single, never graduate. Increasing parents’ educational attainment yields positive short- and long-term gains for children (higher earnings, greater likelihood of attending college). Providing a program to help college student parents support the healthy growth, development and learning of their young children, while successfully completing college, could be a game-changer for both generations.

Select an Innovation Target

  • System design: Solutions that target changing larger systems.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

QCC will work with universities and a technical college to develop a student parent support program that supports students in their parenting responsibilities and helps them successfully complete college. QCC has a child care scholarship program for student parents (Boost) currently paying for quality child care for 185 children of student parents. In response to the needs scholarship recipients have expressed, we will provide student parents opportunities to socialize and develop peer communities, information about how they can support their child's development and learning, information and access to community resources they might need. We will host focus groups with student parents to design the resource center and services and will create a replication guide to help other universities interested in providing a similar program. As we create supports for student parents, we will also be identifying issues that may need to be addressed through university policy or the education of faculty about the special challenges of student parents. We will work with university committees to develop recommendations for policy change and additional parent support strategies, pursue implementation at pilot schools, and present recommendations to the Board of Regents and Technical College System of GA. As the population of student parents grows, and the demand for college graduates increases, universities need strategies to help them be successful as both parents as well as students.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

College student parents of young children report feeling stressed, isolated, like the only student parent on campus, with no one to call on for support. Their drop-out rate is high and some report feeling that they are not being good parents or good students. Georgia universities and technical schools are not prepared to support this growing population so that they are successful in school and in parenting. Their school success is critical to their ability to support their families.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

The college student population is changing. Approximately 25% of students are also parents of young children, and that number is on the rise. The percentage of minority and first generation students who are also parents is even higher. At the same time, federal funding for programs like on-site child care that support student parents continues to decline. QCC is providing child care scholarships to approximately 170 student parents (serving 183 children) at four GA universities. The goals of this project are to increase college graduate rates for student parents, ensure that while they are attending college, their children are receiving the high quality early care and education they need to be ready for school, and to advocate in Georgia for state funding for child care for student parents. Increasing parents’ educational attainment yields positive short- and long-term gains for children in the form of higher earnings, greater access to resources, more involvement in their child’s education and greater likelihood of their child pursuing a higher educational degree (Miller, Gault, and Thorman 2011; Attewell and Lavin 2007). The Boost program, while having the positive impact on school retention, grades, and graduation we anticipated, cannot serve all of the student parents enrolled in these universities. Working with the scholarships recipients has allowed us to learn more about their needs and ways we can support them in addition to financial assistance to pay for quality child care. These full time students are also working and trying to juggle parenting with studying and preparing for class. They feel very stressed and isolated, like they are the only students also raising children. Many have expressed that their university professors are unsympathetic to the balancing act they are engaged in and inflexible when parenting responsibilities conflict with school obligations. Further, university policy does not seem to recognize these students at all and offers no guidance to faculty and staff about how to support their success. QCC is currently engaged in planning a pilot with Clayton State University for a program to provide additional supports to student parents. Clayton State and Columbus State Universities have offered to provide space for a student parent success center. While we are aware of some of the student parent needs, we will host focus groups to learn more and engage student parents in designing the student parent success center and the programs and services it will provide. QCC and the Universities have assets to leverage in meeting the needs of this population. QCC, as the child care referral service for the state of GA, has a wealth of information about parenting and provides assistance to parents in finding and choosing quality child care. We have a curriculum and most of the toys and materials needed for a play and learn program that teaches parents how to support their child’s development while engaging parents and children in play. QCC has a parent texting program that sends 2 texts a month providing age appropriate information and support to parents. A separate student parent texting group can be established that could combine QCC’s parenting and child development texts with university specific and/or student parent specific texts. Our liaison with the Clayton State University, a Professor in Psychology who teaches child development courses, plans to explore the use of psychology or education interns and work study students to assist in coordinating and managing the student parent resource center there. We have met with representatives from United Way and other social service agencies serving parents and children in Morrow GA who have expressed an interest in participating in the planning and implementation of the student parent success center and making their services and programs more accessible to student parents and their children. Similar meetings are planned in Columbus. QCC will also work with our university liaisons to conduct surveys and focus groups with student parents to identify ways that college policies and practices create barriers to student parent success and make balancing parenting and school success more difficult. We will create university committees to explore ways to educate staff and faculty about the challenges of student parents and identify strategies, including university policy changes, that can be more supportive to student parents in their student and parenting roles. QCC, Clayton and Columbus State Universities, and a technical college will create replication guide for other universities and technical colleges to use in creating parent success centers on their campuses. QCC and our partners will issue a report to the University System Board of Regents and the Technical College System of GA to engage them in discussions about how the lessons learned from this project can be used to increase student parent success.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Student parents and their young children benefit. The college completion rate for student parents is low and the stress they experience related to juggling parenting, work and college, negatively impacts their ability to be good parents. Today, nearly 60% of all jobs in the U.S. economy require higher education. The wage gap between people who have bachelor's degrees and people with only high school diplomas has nearly doubled since the early 1980s. Increasing parents’ educational attainment yields positive short- and long-term gains for children in the form of higher earnings, greater access to resources, more involvement in their child’s education and greater likelihood of their child pursuing a higher educational degree (Miller, Gault, and Thorman 2011; Attewell and Lavin 2007). Universities, employers, and the state of GA will benefit. Universities in GA are under great pressure to increase college completion rates. Workforce projections for GA indicate that GA is falling well short of creating the number of college graduates needed for the current and future workforce. A recent report stated that if every high school junior and senior currently in school in earns a college degree, GA will still not have enough college graduates. The success of non-traditional students, including student parents, will be critical to GA meeting its workforce needs.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

This project could increase college completion for student parents and help them support their children's early development. It could improve the likelihood of educational success for the parents and children served in ways that positively impacts their lives as well as the generations that come after them. This could also change the way GA technical colleges and universities, and their faculty and staff, work with student parents. It could lead to a new statewide system of support for student parent success on college campuses and greater college completion rates. Georgia employers could better meet their demand for a college educated workforce spurring continued economic growth and prosperity in GA communities.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

The vast majority of student parents attending GA colleges and universities are low income (pell grant eligible.) The employment and economic prospects for these students if they do not complete college are not good. The students and their children would very likely remain low income or in poverty. Helping these parents earn a college degree will help them provide for their children and increase their child's likelihood of success. In addition, we know that parents of young children attending college struggle to balance the demands of work, parenting, and college. They experience a great amount of stress that impacts their ability to be a good parents for their children. Many student parents have shared with us the guilt they feel about how the stress they experience is impacting their parenting and their children. The student parent success center will offer programs and services that will reduce the stress by helping student parents develop peer communities and equipping them with the information and resources they need to better care for their children and support their children's early learning.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

Currently in GA the needs of student parents in GA's technical colleges and universities are not recognized or addressed. This is true in spite of the well documented shortage of college graduates to meet workforce demands and with a significant investment in the Governor's Complete College GA Initiative. We are proposing that colleges and universities engage differently with student parents and invest in their success with a new model of support -- Student Parents Success Centers. This will entail more than the creation of the centers. It will also require that universities and technical colleges look at the ways their policies and practices contribute to or hinder student parent success. Listening to and being responsive to student needs on this level may be a new way of operating for university systems where polices and practices are most often imposed top down and can be heavily steeped in tradition.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

The model student parent success center at Clayton State and Columbus State Universities will be available to serve the Universities' approximately 4,450 student parents. Technical colleges typically have a greater percentage of student parents. Depending upon the technical college partner, significantly more student parents could be impacted. If this program is replicated throughout the college and university systems in GA, that number will be even greater. There are 318,164 students enrolled in GA's four year colleges alone. Assuming the national average of 25% student parents, this program could impact almost 80,000 student parents and their children. We believe once developed, this program can be replicated at minimal costs on University campuses. Many universities have space that could serve as a success center, and many of the items in the success center and the services student parents will be connected to already exist in the community. We believe that if we can make the case of the impact of the success center on parent college completion, and can provide a model and an easy replication guide that helps colleges and universities identify needed services in their community, many universities will be interested in replicating the program. Further, if we are successful in developing a plan for staffing the success center with student interns tied to a university major, e.g., child development, social work, early education, our chances for replication will be greater.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

We have a staff team currently working with University faculty and staff. Clayton State University administration has approved the idea has offered space for the success center. We have met with other service providers in the Morrow GA community, including United Way, and secured their participation. QCC's parent services team is charged with providing supports to parents of young children and helping them support their children's early learning. This program will provide them with an additional avenue for providing their services. Columbus State University has identified space and is currently seeking administration approval. They do not anticipate any challenges. QCC is currently reaching out to technical colleges in the Atlanta area to find a strong partner for implementing the model in technical colleges. This idea is very feasible. QCC has met with a representative from the Board of Regents about the challenges of student parents and had conversations with representative of the Governor's "Complete College Georgia", an office that focuses on increasing college completion rates at GA colleges. They are both aware of the large numbers of student parents and their lower college completion rates and are supportive of our work with student parents. We are keeping them informed of our progress with Boost (child care scholarships for student parents) and believe they will be interested in a low cost support to increase college completion for student parents.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

We believe this is a viable model with a strong likelihood of success. GA is facing a severe shortage of college graduates to meet workforce demands and is investing heavily in increasing college completion rates. The student parent success centers would requires a relatively low investment, largely leveraging existing resources. If we can demonstrate their effectiveness and create a guide that make replication relatively easy, we think they would be widely embraced by colleges and universities. The more difficult part of this project may be getting college faculty and staff to consider possible needed changes to policies and practices. However, with Complete College GA, each university is required to submit a plan for how it will improve college completion rates. In reviewing those plans we have identified similar efforts related to policy reviews and changes that give us hope. In addition, the university President at Clayton State University, where we are implementing our child care scholarships for college student parents, has been very supportive of our efforts. He is an advocate for meeting the needs of college student parents and has spoken publicly about the need for colleges and universities to improve in supporting their success. He is also very well regarded leader in the university system. Having his support, his willingness to engage his faculty and staff in an audit of polices and practices, and his willingness to serve as an ambassador for this project in the university community will increase our likelihood of success. We have also recently been linked through email to an employee at the Board of Regents whose focus is increasing college completion rates. He is an advocate for student parents and is interested in learning more about our work. We are currently working on scheduling a meeting.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

The idea for the student parent success centers emerged from conversations and a request from student parents for additional supports and opportunities to network with one another. We plan to engage student parents through focus groups to design the success centers, from how they look to what they offer and when they offer it. We will also provide ongoing opportunities for feedback and input and so that the success centers can evolve and change to meet student parent needs. We would encourage student parents to play leadership roles in the student success center operations. This could be in an advisory capacity or more. However, we are also cognizant of the fact that student parents are already balancing parenting and their studies. In addition, most student parents work part time. What is most important is that students feel a sense of ownership of the success center and its offerings and that it meets their needs. We are also working to engage leadership at the University and technical college systems level, e.g., Board of Regents, The technical College System of GA. We also are also working with faculty and staff at individual partner universities. Support is required at all levels, and while we hope to engage them in develop this program in a way that they feel ownership, we are still getting to know the players in this system and determining the best way to engage them in this process.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

In 1979, Nancy Travis founded an office of Save the Children with a vision that every young child would receive quality early learning. She knew then through experience what research has now proven – children who receive quality early learning opportunities are better able to success in school and life. In 1998, the organization became Quality Care for Children (QCC), an independent Atlanta-based nonprofit providing child care food programs statewide and child care resource and referral services to 10 metro Atlanta counties. Since then, QCC has expanded its programs and service area. In 2009, QCC expanded the number of counties in its service area to 46 and was awarded the contract to establish the first statewide child care referral service, 877-ALL-GA-KIDS. For more than 35 years, QCC has worked to ensure Georgia’s infants and young children are nurtured and educated. We employ a robust portfolio of programs and services and strong partnerships with child care experts and organizations to achieve our vision that every child will reach their full potential and enter school ready to learn. QCC is a leading resource for parents, child care providers and community leaders in Georgia seeking information and support to provide excellent care and secure the quality early learning experiences that all infants and children – regardless of race, gender, or economic background – deserve. Led by Pam Tatum since 2004, QCC helps more than 100,000 children – primarily from low-income families – benefit from high-quality early education each year. We accomplish this by focusing on CREATING QUALITY (providing training and resources to child care providers to increase the overall quality of care) and ENSURING ACCESS (helping parents access affordable, quality care for their children to ensure the best early learning experiences). Over the years, QCC’s programs have been showcased nationally as best practices. QCC has received numerous awards recognizing efforts to provide children with quality care, including finalist for Carter Presidential Award for work in building the supply of quality child care in metro Atlanta’s Latino/Hispanic community, and the Doris Duke Foundation’s Exemplary Program Award for work in providing family support through child care settings. In addition, QCC received the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s 2013 Managing for Excellence Award, in recognition of the leadership and management practices that drive our success. This idea of a student parent resource center was inspired by the parents we are serving in our Boost program. These students are extremely determined, hard working and resilient. But they are also very stressed and need our support. We have hosted two gathering of these parents on the college campus. The gratitude they expressed for giving them the opportunity to meet other college student parents, the relationships already formed and they ways they are already supporting one another, was inspiring.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

We have the partners that we need. We have excellent university partners, including the president of Clayton State University who personally attends events for student parents and has spoken publicly on their need for support in both parenting and college completion. He is a great advocate for the work we are doing. QCC has strong, long-standing relationships with many other social service agencies and we feel that we can easily bring additional partners to the table as needed.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We are always interested in networking with and learning from other organizations doing similar work. We are also familiar with the Student Parent Success Initiative of the Institute for Women's Policy Research and will be reviewing their materials in depth and reaching out to them as we move forward. it would be great to have someone from that initiative serve on a advisory committee for our work.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • No

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).


Join the conversation:

Photo of Christina Schwanke

We are so passionate about having parents gain education! It's funny your two posts are the two I was super interested in! May I add you on Linkedin?

Photo of Pam

Yes please!

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Here is my link...I would love to connect!

Photo of Jessica Brisson

 Hi Pam,

I was so interested in your submission- thanks so much for sharing! I can really understand the additional struggles higher education students with young children face from your submission. I appreciate the thought you provide around added supports to parents to ensure graduation. I think it's a strong point that many of your solutions are driven by students through various ways you are soliciting their feedback and responses. 

Best of luck to you!

Photo of Pam

Thank you Jessica!! It is very rewarding work.

Photo of Pam

Hi Jessica,
I wanted to share a video with you. There are parents who are receiving child care scholarships through our Boost program. You can hear directly from them how challenging it is to be both and a parent and a student, and in particular, how critical financial assistance paying for child care is.
Thank you

Photo of Jessica Brisson

Hi Pam!
Thank you so much for passing along the link to the video. I had an opportunity to watch and it was so incredibly inspiring! I appreciated the stories of each parent as well as some of the data that demonstrates why we need to support families in these situations. It was a wonderful demonstration of the realities and challenges parents of young children face while attending higher education. Thank you for sharing!

Photo of Pam

Thank you for your interest.

Photo of Peggy Sissel, Ed.D.

Hi Pam, great stuff going on! Do you know about The Single Parent Scholarship Fund? It is the oldest initiative of its type in the country, and was founded in the late 1980s by Hillary Clinton when she was first lady of Arkansas. They are based out of Springdale, Arkansas, and might be a good resource for you. I used to sit on their statewide board of directors and have been a mentor for their students, so I know they do good work. Good luck!

Photo of Pam

Thank you Peggy. I was not aware of the program. I will contact them. I am sure they have learned a lot over the years.

Photo of Pam

Hi IIiriana. Thank you for your interest in this issue.

First, let me address your data question. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Women make up 71 percent of all student parents, and roughly 2 million students, or 43 percent of the total student parent population, are single mothers. Single student fathers make up 11 percent of the student parent population.” Institute for Women’s Policy Research Fact sheet IWPR #C424

In terms of statewide polices impacting student parents, GA is one of eight states where attendance at a 4 year college does not meet the eligibility requirements for the state child care subsidy. Through our Boost Initiative,, we hope to change that policy. In fact, we have state legislators who agree to support this with state legislation. However, funding for child care subsidies in GA is very limited. Without also acquiring increased funding the policy change would not be very meaningful. We are working on that front as well. In terms of getting resource centers statewide, we believe the first step is to demonstrate that it can be done with minimal investment and that it will make a difference to student parent retention and graduation rates. GA has a statewide initiative called Complete College GA that was launched by our current Governor. This was created to help address a major shortage of college graduates to meet current and future workforce demands in GA. According to a recent report, if all high school students currently enrolled in GA high schools graduate and go on to earn college degrees, we will still face a shortage in college graduates. GA simply cannot afford to ignore the needs of current college students who are parents. In addition, we will need to attract more non-traditional and returning students to meet workforce demands. We anticipate that many of them may also be parents. The leadership at Complete College GA are very aware of the lower graduation rates among college student parents. Short of developing on-site child care programs, which they ruled out as too expensive, they do not feel they have a strategy that will be successful in helping student parents to graduate. I am also not sure that they have focused sufficiently on this issue. Complete College GA invests in strategies to increase graduation rates. We believe that if we can demonstrate success with the parent resource centers, Universities may be able to secure funding for them from Complete College GA. Ultimately, to support college student parents we need funding for child care subsidies or child care scholarships, parent resources centers on college campuses, and university policies and practices that are parent friendly. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has some excellent tools and publications that will be useful to us in this work.

Photo of Iliriana Kacaniku

Hey Pam T 

Welcome to the Early Childhood Innovation Prize. We're thrilled to host your idea and help it grow through our human-centered design approach and toolkits. I really enjoyed learning about the challenges that parent students in Georgia go through to attain their college degree. And agree with you that this is an issue that requires systemic change. To this end, I would love to learn your vision for advocating resource centers for the entire state of Georgia, to which you refer in your description. With 25% of students being parents as well, what do you think would it take to advocate state-wide policies that will support education and graduation of student parents (especially if they are single parents)? And lastly, how many of the student parents could be single parents, especially single mothers, etc.?

Best regards,