New Report Sheds Lights on One Million Students in College who are Fathers

Kathy Lugo | June 16, 2023 | Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents, Press Releases

Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s new chartbook shows that Black, Native American, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander men in college are most likely to be balancing school and fatherhood

Washington, DC – ‘We Are Here Too’: Who are the 1 Million Fathers in College?, a new chartbook out today from Ascend at the Aspen Institute, presents the first comprehensive look at available data on the 15% of undergraduate students in the US today who are fathers. 

Ascend’s Postsecondary Success for Parents (PSP) Initiative focuses on ideas and solutions that promote the success of the one in five college students raising children. Although mothers make up the majority of student parents, nearly one in three student parents is a father, with fatherhood most likely among Black, Native American, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander men in college.

“The fathers we work with say time and time again that they want to provide for their families and they see a postsecondary credential as a way to unlock new opportunities for them to do so,” said David Croom, Associate Director for Postsecondary Success for Parents Initiative at Ascend. “If higher education institutions want to reverse declining enrollment among men and address equity gaps, they must gain a better understanding of what motivates and supports student fathers. As the first publication to synthesize everything that we know about this key population, this chartbook can be a useful starting place for institutional leaders, policymakers, and advocates.” 

Other findings on student fathers included in the new chartbook include:

  • Student fathers and student mothers experience college differently. While student mothers are more likely to be women of color and single, student fathers are most likely to be white and married. Student fathers are more likely than student mothers to have child care help and feel excited and stimulated by college, but are also more likely to stop out.
  • Black men are a distinct group among student fathers. Black student fathers are more likely to be single than married. Black student fathers have the highest rates of stopping out of college across race and gender and experience especially high levels of basic needs insecurity.
  • Knowing who student fathers are and why they enroll is crucial to improving equity in higher education. The lack of research and data on student fathers perpetuates a false perception – among both institutional leaders and prospective student fathers themselves – that college is not a place for fathers, limiting fathers’ enrollment and justifying colleges’ lack of support for student fathers.

“When choosing between school and work, working is, more times than not, the path taken,” said Christian Ortiz, an Ascend PSP Parent Advisor and student father enrolled at Hunter College in New York. “Yes, school is the hope of a stable future through the use of a degree, but it is hard to tell that to hungry children, or a partner that is relying on you to provide.”

Dr. Mike Muñoz, Superintendent-President of Long Beach Community College District and a former student father agrees: “When I started my higher education journey, I was a young, single father caring for my infant daughter. It was challenging to find the resources I needed as I juggled my work, school, and parenting, all while struggling with food and housing insecurities. Although I apply my own personal experiences to help guide my decisions today as the chief executive at a California community college, not all decision-makers have life experiences that give them understanding about unique groups of students. This report will assist policymakers and higher education leaders to utilize data to create support programs for a particular group of students that often goes unnoticed.”

Read the new chartbook and learn more about how to support the success of student parents at https://ascendstories.aspeninstitute.org/one-million-student-fathers-chartbook/index.html.

###

—–

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is a catalyst and convener for diverse leaders working across systems and sectors to build intergenerational family prosperity and well-being by intentionally focusing on children and the adults in their lives together. We believe in  the power of co-creation. We are a community of leaders – well-connected, well-prepared, and well-positioned – building political will that transforms hearts, minds, policies, and practices.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing communities at home and around the world. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

###

Contact: Kathy Lugo
Communications Officer
Ascend at the Aspen Institute
katherine.lugo@aspeninstitute.org

Related Posts

100 Ascend Fellows will join the Aspen community for two afternoons of conversations aimed at Building Well-Being for Children and Families and Prioritizing Joy and Human Thriving.
Press ReleasesJuly 25, 2023
Ascend at the Aspen Institute is excited to announce the launch of the 2023 Parent-Powered Solutions Fund, which will provide financial resources and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations and institutions focused on increasing postsecondary success among parents.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsJuly 20, 2023
A collection of different photos featuring Christian Ortiz, his daughter, and his mother
Reflections on the experiences, challenges, and joys that shape the life of student father and Ascend PSP Parent Advisor Christian Ortiz.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsJune 16, 2023
Cover of the digital chartbook, "We Are Here Too: Who Are the 1 Million Fathers in College?". A student father in a graduation cap and gown is seated with his son and daughter, smiling.
Among the one in five postsecondary students who are parents, there are close to 1.1 million student fathers. This chartbook synthesizes the available research on student fathers to help inform the field’s efforts to support the success of all student parents.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsJune 16, 2023
On May 9, members of the Ascend team had the opportunity to visit Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. Here are three takeaways from our site visit.
Ascend NetworkJune 14, 2023
We’ve selected four projects from the 2021 Class of Fellows that show impressive potential in both their scope and capacity to address timely issues. 
Ascend FellowshipMay 25, 2023
In an Inside Higher Ed article, David Croom and Generation Hope provide important perspective into why the student parent population is important for higher education institutions to prioritize.
Media MentionsMay 9, 2023
Photo of student parent Waukecha Wilkerson with her family at her graduation ceremony.
Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) released the second season of “1 in 5,” its highly rated podcast that explores the multifaceted lives of the one in five college students raising children.
Press ReleasesMay 3, 2023
Photo of Isis Patterson and her family
Growing up, Isis Patterson and her family were constantly operating in survival mode. School offered her the safety and security she lacked at home, so she took a liking to it. When she found out she was pregnant at 15, she kept herself immersed in her schoolwork, graduated with honors, and received a full-ride scholarship …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 10: Meet Isis Patterson Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsApril 25, 2023
1 in 5 Student Parent Podcast
As a child of immigrants, Lourdes saw the efforts her hard-working parents made to give her a memorable childhood, and how they always stressed the importance of education. Then, in high school, Lourdes became pregnant and the birth of her daughter inspired her aspirations for higher education, leading her to a career in nursing. As …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 9: Meet Lourdes Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsApril 17, 2023
Photo of Nicole Alkire Grady with her family in a park.
Nicole Alkire Grady always excelled in athletics and academics at Standing Rock High School in North Dakota. But being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse meant Nicole turned to dating, and eventually alcohol, to cope with the trauma. In high school, she became a mother and worked hard to graduate – leaning on the support …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 8: Meet Nicole Alkire Grady Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsApril 4, 2023
Photo of Generation Hope's Nicole Lynn Lewis with her five children
Today, Nicole Lynn Lewis is an accomplished author, CEO of Generation Hope, and mother of five. But she didn’t always feel a sense of stability and pride. When she arrived on campus with her three-month old daughter, she instantly felt out of place and didn’t know who to turn to for help. Her feelings of …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 7: Learn About Generation Hope Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsMarch 28, 2023
Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) released the second season of “1 in 5,” its highly rated podcast that explores the multifaceted lives of the one in five college students raising children.
Press ReleasesMarch 20, 2023
Dominique Baker and her family.
Dominique Baker married her high school sweetheart and planned to pursue a degree in social work, but her first semester in college proved to be both financially and mentally exhausting. As her family grew and Dominique took stock of the things she wanted for herself and her two children, she made the decision to leave …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 6: Meet Dominique Baker Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsMarch 19, 2023
Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute announced that eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) have joined its Black and Native Family Futures Fund.
Press ReleasesDecember 13, 2022