The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

Loading Recent Classifieds...

The Job Of Being a Parent While In School

Alyssa Mangeri, a student-parent at Bucks. Photo by Christian Grosso.

It was 2003, and Alyssa Mangeri was a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. It’s a time of life when most people are keeping up with the latest trends, figuring out who to ask out for prom, and studying with friends.    

But Alyssa’s experience was different. She had just dropped out of school and was studying for the GED. She was forced to make this drastic change because she just had a baby. 

“I found out I was pregnant and sort of took it as a call to duty. It was now my responsibility to make sure that I raised a proper child and a contributing member of society. So, I dropped out of high school, got my GED that summer and then started my first year of college,” she said. 

And she isn’t alone. Take Emilee Alexander, who has a 10-year-old daughter. And Mackenzie Schatzan, who took a few semesters off a few years ago to give birth to her daughter. 

Alyssa, Emilee and Mackenzie are among the many students nationwide who have taken on the tough task of being a parent while in school. Around the U.S., it is estimated that over 22 percent of all undergraduates are parents, according to a 2016 report from the National Center for Education Statistics. These students have to juggle the needs of their children and the demands of a college education.  

But the challenge isn’t for everyone, as statistics show that nearly 52 percent of student parents drop out of college before earning a degree, per a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. 

All three of these women nearly fell victim to the statistics when they dropped out due to the added stresses. But in one way or another, they all made their way back to college. In Mangeri’s case, she decided to enlist in the military shortly after dropping out, which took her around the country, and gave her an idea of what she wanted out of life. And now, 20 years later, she has returned to college as a psychology major, escaping the plight that many dropouts experience. 

Samantha Gross, the Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Bucks, did her graduate school research on parenting students. She explains the multitude of issues these students face.  

“Nationally, the three biggest obstacles for parenting students are access to quality, affordable childcare, basic needs insecurity, and time poverty. Time poverty is a concept that sees time as a resource; parenting students have more demands on their time,” she said.  

Kyrsten Accardi-Howard, a psychology major at Alvernia University, is one of those who struggles with time poverty, especially since she has five children. “Scheduling classes with kids is very hard. Especially classes that are only offered once a year and at one time. Kids take up a lot of time so juggling that can be hard and has caused me to graduate much slower than I would have due to the order some classes are offered verse when they’re needed.”   

As for Schatzan, the lack of childcare has hindered her ability to study. “I don’t usually have anyone available to help watch my baby while I study or do homework so I can only really set aside time when my child is asleep, which sometimes isn’t enough.” 

Her situation is made worse by an ongoing shortage of childcare workers made worse by the COVID pandemic. In 2022, there was a shortage of 8.7 million slots in daycares in the US, according to Rasmussen University. This has led to a 32 percent rise in average childcare costs in the US between 2019 and 2023, meaning the average family now spends $987 per month on childcare in Pennsylvania. 

But despite the odds stacked against them, these women still returned to school. For students like Alexander, the thought of them being ‘too old’ for college held them back from enrolling. But over time, she found this to be untrue.  

“I decided to coach my daughter’s soccer team and loved it. This got me thinking about going back to school to switch careers from nursing to teaching. Once COVID hit, I took all the neighborhood kids and created a classroom to help them continue their education as they were too young to be able to maneuver Canvas/Zoom by themselves. When I truly thought about it, I realized I could have my own classroom by 35- which is definitely not too old. This solidified my decision to go back to school to become a teacher.”   

And schools around the country have taken notice of this by providing resources for parenting students. Here at Bucks, Gross said that the school has “a pre-school on the Newtown campus.  All students are eligible to apply for help from the emergency fund and use the food pantries.  There are food pantries on all campuses.”  

Alexander has surely been appreciative of the resources the school offers. “Abigal and Lauren in the Academic Support Center are so supportive of me and my goals and seem genuinely happy when I accomplish my goals.” 

But there’s still more the school could do. Schatzan recommended a wider variety of Saturday classes. 

Much of this support wasn’t the norm as recently as two decades ago, when being a parent in school was stigmatized. “Back when I had my daughter 20 years ago, being a parent wasn’t accepted; it was viewed as a negative for someone so young to have a child while still in school. But I think now as we’ve developed as a society it’s become more accepted, so services are available to people now that weren’t available to people like me,” says Mangeri. 

 These experienced mothers were asked a hypothetical question; What would you do if you met an 18-year-old student who just had a baby?  

Schatzan said that they need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices while in school and having a baby. You have to sometimes sacrifice sleep and self-care. The goal is to provide a better life for you and your family, and this path will help you achieve that goal so don’t give up when it gets hard, because it will get hard.”   

“Keep going to school, you don’t have to know what you want to do right now but keep going. It’s worth it for their future and for yours. Don’t be a statistic. Be a survivor of your circumstances not a victim,” says Accardi-Howard.   

And Mangeri says not to lose focus. “Your child is important. You now have a new job and the title of parent, and you need to be a good example. But take priority in yourself and show yourself love. Because your child will see that and be motivated to do better for themselves.”