Helping student-parents complete their college degrees means connecting them to the right resources at the right time.
The right resource at the right time
Going to college is hard enough. The early morning classes, late-night studying and prepping for tests that can seem endless. Now imagine doing all this, while raising children. In the United States today, nearly one in four college students today have children. These students understand all too well that a college degree can give them access to better jobs — jobs that can improve their family’s well-being, as well as serving as a role model for their children.
Yet because they are parents, significant time and financial demands make it difficult to persist in school. Income for a high percentage of these students falls below the federal poverty line, even when working 30 or more hours per week. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
- Some 40% of student-parents say they feel isolated on campus — a situation that’s been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic
- Approximately 50% of student-parents are students of color, adding additional barriers to their educational journey
- Students with children are 10 times less likely to graduate on time
Single mothers are the largest subset of the student-parent population, and for good reason. With a bachelor’s degree, they can earn $600,000+ more over their lifetime than if they only had a high school diploma. But this same group is more likely than any other group of women to start college, but not finish — with lack of childcare as the primary reason for their withdrawal.
It’s clear that student-parents have strong motivating factors for pursuing a college degree. But they need more support to keep them connected to school and services. That’s where Upswing comes in.
Student support that works for all students
Upswing is an integrated student services platform, specifically designed for online and non-traditional students. If a student lets us know they need help with academics or counseling, we can connect them — virtually — to a live person who can help. This platform is specifically designed to provide as close to an in-person experience as possible for the online student. Our virtual assistant, Ana, helps with due dates, reminders, or to reach out to see if a student is OK. Ana can also help connect students with counseling services. And finally, a round-the-clock network of academic coaches provide tutoring sessions in 400 different subjects.
Getting help to the students who need it most
Upswing works primarily with community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), online institutions, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Our suite of services has been optimized to better serve underrepresented groups, including student-parents.
According to the numbers, higher ed institutions spend more than $30 billion each year on student success. Yet these platforms are often difficult to discover, confusing to navigate, and disconnected from students’ everyday lives. This is especially true for non-traditional students such as student-parents, students of color, adult learners and working students — students who now make up the majority of all college students. And these students are particularly concentrated in minority-serving institutions, which often have fewer resources than their private institution counterparts to provide one-on-one support.
Upswing’s superpower is efficiently providing student engagement through Ana and connecting students to the right resource at the right time. They have proven to be a valued asset to institutions as well, serving as a nimble and responsive partner working to meet the needs of both the institution and the student.
Going to the head of the class
Perhaps more than any other group of students, student-parents have limited time to navigate the traditional demands of school, let alone track down helpful information on services that can support their success. Upswing provides an always-on resource that meets students where they’re at and connects them directly to their campus. The idea is to make students feel whole — that there’s someone who cares about them as they move toward their higher ed goals. During the pandemic, the demand among current users grew more than 300%.
Arletha McSwain, the Senior Educational Technologist at Bethune-Cookman University, an HBCU in Daytona Beach, Florida, has seen the impact firsthand. “Giving our students action items they can respond to is so important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s this aspect of Upswing we’re so excited about moving forward.”
Helping student-parents persist and remain on track to completion is a great example of the reason Upswing was created. Keeping these students connected — to their studies, their campus and their goals — is a win for them, their families and their communities. And that’s a win for us all.