Early childhood and higher education systems can do more to support each other's goals and boost economic mobility for America's families, especially those in which students are also parents, a report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) finds.
The report, Bridging Systems for Family Economic Mobility: Postsecondary and Early Education Partnerships (43 pages, PDF), found that while both systems are making improvements, both could benefit from better integration. The higher education system, for example, is focused on increasing rates of degree attainment and improving equity in college access and outcomes, and that requires the inclusion of adult students with children, many of whom are students of color and many of whom need access to child care to complete their studies. Similarly, the early education system provides education and care to young children and promotes school readiness, even as it is working to improve child care quality, teacher training and pay, and family supports for the parents of children it serves.
According to IWPR, one in five college students are raising at least one child while they attend school. As many as two in five are single mothers, only 8 percent of whom graduate from a higher education institution within six years of enrolling.
To help the two systems connect at the programmatic, institutional, local, state, and federal levels, the report recommends that colleges and universities help student parents secure affordable child care through referrals, apply for funding from the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program, and partner with Head Start and state child care subsidy programs. It also recommends that early childhood education providers act as connections for education and training programs for students and that they partner with colleges and universities to boost the number of well-trained early childhood teachers.
"Better coordination across early education and higher education systems is a win-win-win-win strategy," said IWPR executive vice president Barbara Gault, "bringing benefits to families, improving quality in the early childhood system, promoting college completion, and strengthening community economic development."
(Photo credit: Steve Debenport)