The Prospector

UTEP professor highlights the struggles of being a student parent

Cat+Holguin+and+her+four-year+old+son+Daniel+celebrate+her+recent+graduation+from+UTEP.
Cat Holguin and her four-year old son Daniel celebrate her recent graduation from UTEP.

Cat Holguin and her four-year old son Daniel celebrate her recent graduation from UTEP.

Cat Holguin and her four-year old son Daniel celebrate her recent graduation from UTEP.

Brianna Chavez, Staff Reporter

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It’s no secret that student parents are more likely disadvantaged when it comes to earning their degree on time, but for the first time ever, a research paper co-authored by a UTEP professor proves why they are at risk.

Associate professor of early childhood education, Alyse Hachey, PhD., co-authored the study titled “No Time for College? An Investigation of Time Poverty and Parenthood” with two of her former colleagues at the Borough of Manhattan Community College at the City University of New York (CUNY).

The study is part of a four-year research grant from the National Science Foundation.

The study analyzed surveys, empirical and institutional research data from the CUNY system showing that student parents with children under the age of six have a lower quantity and quality of time for school than their classmates with older or no children.

“It’s a given parents don’t have a lot of time to devote to their studies because they have kids, but it’s surprising that nobody actually crunched the numbers to say that before,” Dr. Hachey said. 

Hachey and her colleagues began investigating online retention rates for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses but they began to notice the issue of time poverty and parenthood. 

“Parenthood became a significant factor that we noticed, just in the raw data, that was impeding people from getting their degree on time,” Hachey said.

The study analyzes the quantity of time student parents have, the time they have to study and the quality of time they have, the time they are able to dedicate into studying without being interrupted.

Despite other possible factors that could play a role in a student parent being at risk such as race, gender, income, and age,  the study found that the main issue is a lack of childcare.

Parenthood, childcare and time poverty are topics that former UTEP student Cat Holguin understands.

Holguin became a parent at the age of 18. Taking care of her son while maintaining a 3.7 G.P.A. at UTEP was not easy.

“I think the biggest challenges I had were finding someone to take care of him while I was at school or studying,” Holguin said.

“I really just had to have my priorities in line because (other students were) able to just come and go as they please, but I always had to put (my son) first before anything,” the mother of one added.

Holguin also said childcare for a student in college can get expensive.

“It’s hard because you need someone to be able to take care of (your child) for long periods of time and late hours and not all childcare places are able to do that,” Holguin said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 25 percent of college students in 2012 were parents; equalling 7.7 million students in total.

While there were many challenges, Holguin was able to graduate in about three and a half years with a degree in Nursing and is now a registered nurse at Del Sol Medical Center here in El Paso.

However, “No Time for College” proves that not all student parents are able to achieve the same outcome that Holguin did.

On average, student parents typically have higher GPAs compared to their classmates with no children. Hachey said that while students who have high GPAs generally graduate on time and succeed in school, but their study shows that the notion of time poverty keeps student parents behind.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “52 percent of student parent’s dropout within six years of enrolling, compared to 32 percent of non-parents.” Hachey believes that statistic is due to a lack of childcare student parents have.

Many parents go to school or back to school to make more money for their family. Studies show a degree can increase one’s income by 68 percent. Parents also go to school to set a good example for the children, which is something Hachey finds a bit ironic.

“Children are a big motivator in (parents) going back to school and yet it’s pretty much the main reason that because of a lack of good childcare that they have a lack of success.”

As a mother of three-year-old twin boys, Hachey understands that taking care of children while working and going to school is difficult, which is why she hopes her study will help policymakers provide affordable childcare for student parents.

“I’m an early childhood professor. If I can get student parents to graduate, I’m already helping their children,” Hachey said.

Brianna may be reached at theprospector1@gmail.com.

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UTEP professor highlights the struggles of being a student parent