Student Parent Support Fund

Student Profile

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Span Plan’s new support fund aims to reduce financial burden on student parents

Purdue sophomore Carlos Ortega gets about three hours of sleep each night. It’s the only time left for the father of two, who spends his days taking a full course load in aeronautical engineering technology and his nights working full-time at Subaru.

While he struggles to balance his competing priorities, Ortega says his main motivation is his family. Although he’s sacrificing time with them now, he’s driven to graduate and find a good job in his field so he can spend more time with his wife and children in the future.

student parents

Carlos Ortega, his wife and their two children

But time isn’t the only challenge faced by the Ortega family. With only one income, on top of the cost of tuition and fuel needed to drive to and from campus, the family struggles to make ends meet. It’s situations like these that prompted Span Plan Nontraditional Student Services to create a Student Parent Support Fund, which aims to offset financial burdens experienced by Purdue’s student parent population.

“I have had several students in my office concerned about being able to have enough money to make it to the end of the semester because of the costs associated with caring for children, and my heart went out to them,” says Erin Britton, assistant director of Span Plan, whose personal experiences and interactions with Purdue students provided the main impetus for establishing the fund. “I also had a very difficult time paying for childcare during my master’s and PhD programs.”

Britton says several of Purdue’s peer institutions have similar “critical need funds” to support students at risk of suffering academically due to financial need, and she was fortunate enough to be the recipient of such a fund at her previous institution.

“It really, really helped,” Britton says.

Although Purdue calculates the estimated cost of attendance at a higher rate for students with children, this usually means such students accrue additional student loan debt. The additional costs of providing for children often doubles or triples student parents’ debt load, which can be difficult to manage once students graduate and enter the workforce.

Many individuals raised these types of concerns during Purdue’s participation in the Family Friendly Campus Toolkit (FFCT) initiative, aimed at identifying the needs of student parents and areas for improvement. As one of eight schools nationwide to pilot the program, Purdue convened a task force of staff, faculty and students to explore issues affecting student parents. In Spring 2016, the task force distributed a survey to Purdue students to evaluate their perceptions of existing parent services, and also held focus groups. Childcare accessibility and associated costs were some of the top issues mentioned in both survey results and focus groups.

By establishing the Student Parent Support Fund, Span Plan aims to reduce students’ financial worries so they can focus more energy on their academic and personal success. Director Peggy Favorite says Span Plan will provide root funding, but is also accepting donations to grow the initiative. The organization hopes to raise at least $25,000 to endow the fund, which would enable Span Plan to assist student parents for years to come. This will be the main focus of Span Plan’s campaign for this year’s Purdue Day of Giving.

“In addition to the various costs associated with going to college, Purdue’s student parents face other financial challenges, such as the rising costs of childcare,” Favorite says. “While we know we can’t completely eliminate the costs associated with caring for children, we hope to alleviate some of the strain.”

Favorite says the fund will be awarded in $1,000 increments, up to twice a year per eligible student. Ortega—who also participated in Span Plan’s Lunchtime Learning sessions and sought daycare recommendations from Span Plan staff—says this type of financial support would have a tremendous impact on his pursuit of a degree.

“When I was young, my parents were working a lot and really didn’t get to spend a lot of time with me,” Ortega says. “I want to spend more time with my kids and wife, which is why I’m so motivated to finish my degree in four years instead of going part-time. Any financial help toward that goal would be greatly appreciated by me, and any other students who are also raising families at the same time.”

Individuals who would like to contribute to Span Plan’s Student Parent Support Fund may find more information on the program’s website.

To learn more about other student support programs, visit the Student Success Programs website.

Writer: Andrea Thomas, communications director for Student Success Programs, 765-496-3754, thomas78@purdue.edu

Last updated: March 2, 2017


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