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Report: College Students with Children Have Slightly Higher GPAs

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New research based on financial-aid data shows 72% of student parents are enrolled at a community college. (Endho/Pixabay)
New research based on financial-aid data shows 72% of student parents are enrolled at a community college. (Endho/Pixabay)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
March 19, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - New research paints a portrait of community college students who have children - and finds that compared with nonparents, they have better grades and are more likely to be female and African-American.

For the first time ever, researchers at the Center for Community College Leadership and Research at the University of California, Davis were able to use financial aid data to identify student parents.

Report co-author and Executive Director of the California Education Lab at UC Davis, Sherrie Reed, theorized that student parents may have higher grades because they're focused on performing well so they can earn a degree and support their kids.

"They earn fewer units than the nonparents," said Reed. "But their GPA is slightly higher than non-parents."

The report finds that the percentage of student parents who are Black is 13%, whereas the percentage of nonparents who are Black is 7%.

Almost three-quarters of student parents attend a community college. Many are slightly older than the general student population and they tend to go part time and take longer to graduate, likely because they have to work more to pay the bills.

Reed suggested the state do more to help student parents by subsidizing child care, providing extra academic support and offering them a quiet space to work.

Schools also could offer student parents more financial aid, so they can work fewer hours and spend more time studying or playing with their kids.

"If we directed our efforts, we could improve their degree attainment," said Reed. "I think that will benefit the state in terms of the contribution that they can make to the economy."

The report also found that about 25% of student parents make it to graduation, which is just three percentage points lower than the nonparent student population.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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