Students often complain about not having enough time or being overwhelmed with work, but these burdens are nothing compared to those of a student who is also a parent. Student parents not only have to dedicate time and effort to schoolwork but must also focus on their child and family life.
Because of these additional struggles, State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, wants public Texas universities to provide an on-campus liaison specifically for student parents. With a liaison, they would be able to get the extra guidance they may need.
A position like this should be implemented on campus as a priority regardless of whether the bill passes. UT needs to provide student parents with specific guidance counselors who can help connect them to useful resources as well as better understand their scheduling needs.
Student parents require many resources the average student does not — child care, transportation services, extra healthcare services and different scheduling needs are only a few. History and government senior Sean Salome said student parents have more responsibilities than a regular student, and finds himself constantly having to manage his time between academics and being with his daughters. He also acknowledged this is even harder for single or divorced parents, who often may have to look after their children instead of focusing on classwork.
“Because I’m divorced, I have to be very strategic about when I get time with my daughters, and I can’t just give that up for school,” Salome said. “It’s really hard to sit there and decide, do I want to spend this time with my daughter or go to a networking opportunity offered by one of my classes? Students without kids just don’t have to worry about that.”
UT communications strategist Shilpa Bakre said in an email that the University does not currently have this position and there are not any concrete plans for the creation of a parent liaison. However, UT should make this proposal a priority as these parents, who are already stretched thin from classwork and home life, should not have to spend time conducting their own research on resources available to them. Instead, a liaison would act as source of information for student parents as well as a more direct connection to UT administration. If these liaisons met with administration two or three times a year and voiced the complaints and suggestions of parents on campus, administrators would be able to more effectively help and cater to the student parent community.
“I had to do a lot of the legwork myself, and it was so much back and forth,” Salome said. “A guidance counselor specifically for student parents would not only be an advocate, but help these students understand tricks that I had to find out by myself such as how to navigate classes and timing and the resources available on campus.”
For example, Salome said when he attended student orientation, he didn’t have time to partake in orientation activities and didn’t know of an alternative option. There were many resources he did not know existed until after finishing his first year at UT.
“Access to the knowledge of what’s available would be great for student parents,” Salome said. “UT needs to be aware that we are a part of the student body. This is a top university, and we work hard and deserve to be here.”
UT can better provide for student parents on campus by recognizing not all undergraduates share the same lifestyle and college experience. By creating the position of a liaison, student parents would be able to more easily access the guidance they seek and therefore feel better integrated into the UT community.
Nayak is a communication sciences and disorders freshman from Austin.