Shutdown In The Classroom
Career College Central summary:
How are actual college students affected by the government shutdown? The consequences of the shutdown on Head Start, WIC, and housing subsidies are impacting recipients who are parenting and working while also going to college. Many rely on programs hardest hit by the shutdown. Fifty-two percent of college students who live on their own are living below the poverty line. For the neediest college students, the government shutdown can force hard choices with higher-ed consequences.
Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin–Madison has a good bead on trends among nontraditional students and access to higher education. According to Goldrick-Rab’s stats, the proportion of unmarried parents in college has nearly doubled over the past 20 years, from 7 percent of the total undergraduate population to about 13 percent, and 36 percent of African-American female undergraduates are single mothers. The economic reality for all single parents struggling to get through college is tough: low wages, economic precarity, and a greater risk of dropping out.
The No. 1 concern for these parents is child care. When only half of all colleges provide any kind of child care services, student-parents are vulnerable to disruptions to programs like Head Start. New York’s PIX11 reported on Katimi Bouare, a mother of four who juggles housecleaning jobs and college courses to improve her job prospects—a schedule that becomes impossible for Bouare if Head Start closes. With one of the weakest family-policy safety nets of any industrialized nation, low-income single parents in the U.S. rely greatly on programs like Head Start, not only to augment a child’s development but to expand work and college options by freeing up a single parent’s scarcest resource: time.
According to a study by Child Care Aware of America, in 2011 the average annual cost of full-time day care for an infant in a center ranged from about $4,600 in Mississippi to nearly $15,000 in Massachusetts. Putting those statistics in the context of tuition shows what kinds of choices single parents in college must make. Child Care Aware also found that in most states, those same annual day care costs were higher than a year’s in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public college. For these college students, the effects of the college shutdown can force a decision between dropping out or, like Thomas, accruing more student loan debt to protect the educational investment they’ve already made.
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