The first day of orientation to USC, I attended a seminar for “non-traditional” students defined primarily in terms older students, students with children, and married students. As I departed from the rest of the graduate students all in line to go to the same workshops, I departed from them walking alone into what was probably the smallest orientation I’ve been to all day with 10-13 graduate students...
I knew my experience as a “young” mother, graduate student, and professional worker would make my college experience a “little” different from other graduate students who did not bare the responsibilities of having a child and having to support a child. For the first time, I felt what it was like to be on the “other side” and experience graduate school with certain challenges.
Childcare. I went to an orientation for childcare at my institution to find out that childcare costs were $1800 per month, but wait, you get a subsidy for $800 per month.
Housing. I wanted to apply for family housing. However, costs still ranged from $800-$1300 per month with a few limited spots and all I remember hearing was “we don’t know how long the waiting list will be.”
Healthcare. I am fortunately covered through healthcare at my school and through wishful thinking, I asked my institution if they possibly had an affordable plan for students with children and the answer is “no.”
On top of everything else, I had to worry about the baring the costs of extended childcare, just so I can study later. My daily routine included going to school, going work, picking my child up, cooking for my child, taking him and bath, and putting him to sleep with a book. At about 10pm, I was able to study.
It’s hard enough to bare these responsibilities and it really is such a downer that the university that you go may not offer the aforementioned above. One must question how supportive universities are in general, because this applies across the university system.
What a supportive academic environment looks like is a university is one that:
1. Waives childcare cost.
2. Has guaranteed family housing or more spaces available for students with children.
3. Offers an affordable healthcare plan for students with children.
4. Offers more grants and scholarships for students with children.
These are basic needs that are not addressed and do not hold priority. Hence, I see how one may be adamant to continue higher education because they face real challenges that makes them choose one over the other-- Education or Family? A supportive academic environment would help students with families, not make it a challenge for them.
BUT there are ways and there are resources. With patience, knowledge and time, it’s about knowing and finding what’s out there. If you should ever question whether continuing higher education is worth it, it is. THERE IS HELP, maybe not from your particular academic institution, but THERE ARE RESOURCES. I work with immigrant parents and children and I could honestly say that my experiences and/or attempts to seek resources whether failed or succeed, I know where to direct them. My life experiences have been the most resourceful, first hand experience is powerful and beautiful thing. It’s one thing to read it, but to experience it is something that feel so different.
I’ve come to the conclusion that these issues are not met simply because there are not enough of us to voice the particular concerns. Whether it be at the transfer, undergraduate, or graduate student, our universities are in dyer need of a diversity to voice particular concerns.
Remember what you all represent. You bring something unique to the university. Embrace it, challenge it and make it your greatest strength.