Babies bring so much joy, but they also tend to make everything more challenging. Despite this, many parents are motivated to continue their education, but can you bring a baby to college?
Balancing having a baby with college classes can be a struggle, but it does not preclude students from participating and excelling in college. Title IX offers many protections to pregnant and parenting students, and some institutions offer additional resources like childcare and family housing, but babies are not allowed in standard dorm housing.
Keep reading to learn more about pregnancy and parenting in college, tips for surviving college as a new parent, and resources that are available to pregnant students and students with children.
Can you bring babies to college?
Raising a baby while in college can be incredibly challenging, but it’s not as uncommon as you may think. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), 22% of all college undergraduates are parents. Out of these students, 70% are mothers, and 30% are fathers. Over forty percent of these student parents are single mothers.
Though raising a baby while in college is not unheard of, a parent’s college experience may look different than that of a non-parent student. Here are some aspects of college that may be different for students with babies:
- Housing – Student parents who are living with their babies will not be in the dorms. Some colleges offer family housing to students with children. These residencies are more like apartments and are better suited for family living. Unfortunately, not all colleges have this option, so many student parents are expected to live off-campus.
- Need for childcare – A large concern for students with little ones is childcare, which can be difficult to arrange and expensive. According to Child Trends, four-year colleges are most likely to provide on-campus childcare with 49% offering this service. Thirty-eight percent of two-year colleges offer on-site childcare. Less than one percent of for-profit colleges have childcare available.
- Scheduling – Students with babies have less free time and typically need to adhere to a tighter schedule. When signing up for classes, most parents need to consider their little one’s childcare availability, feeding sessions, and nap schedule. Some students may opt to take online courses which provide more flexibility. Going to school part-time may also be a good option for busy parents.
- Balancing school and family – Though all students have lives outside of class, parenting is especially demanding. Students with babies often have difficulty finding time for their schoolwork and balancing their many responsibilities.
Is it hard to go to college with a baby?
Being a college student requires a lot of energy, focus, and hard work, but so does being a parent. Going to college while you have a baby is extremely hard, but it is possible.
Here are some tips for balancing parenthood and schoolwork:
- Select a college or university that offers resources and support for student parents. Check out the Accredited Schools Online list of The Most Parenting-Friendly Colleges by State.
- Take online or hybrid classes. These classes allow you to work around your little one’s schedule and may eliminate the need to commute.
- Consider enrolling as a part-time student. Part-time students take fewer classes, which may allow them to continue their education with less of a time commitment.
- Let your professors know that you have a baby. Most professors understand the demand of parenting and may extend some grace when it comes to absences and deadlines.
- Review your course syllabus. Knowing what to expect in your classes will help you plan for important deadlines and tests.
- Create a study space and schedule. Whether you are studying on campus or at home, it is important to have a time and place where you can focus on your schoolwork. Though you may be able to do some work with your little one in your arms, this quiet time can be unpredictable.
- Connect with other parents at your school. Whether you are meeting other parents in class or through a student parent group, such as the Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention (SPARR) at UC Berkeley, building a community of people who share your experience can help you feel supported.
- Accept help. Whether it’s taking advantage of campus resources, letting a family member babysit, or accepting dinner from a friend, it’s important to know you are not in it alone.
College dropout rate due to pregnancy
According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, a student that becomes pregnant is between 1.67 and 2.13 times more likely to drop out than her peers.
What happens if you get pregnant in college?
Pregnancy has a massive impact on your life and can greatly affect your college experience.
Though having a baby can make college more challenging, it does not mean that you cannot participate and excel in college.
College pregnancy statistics
Research from Southern Illinois University Carbondale found that additional variables influenced a college student’s likelihood of progressing in college due to pregnancy.
Factors that may affect a college student’s likelihood of finishing their degree after becoming pregnant include:
- Age – Research showed that only 12.5% of 18-year-old pregnant students stayed in school, while 73.7% of pregnant 24-year-old students progressed.
- Ethnicity – Studies found that women of color were disproportionately affected by pregnancy in college.
Though pregnancy increases the rate of dropouts, IWPR found that student parents earn better grades than non-parent students, with 33% of student parents achieving GPAs over 3.5, compared to 31% of non-parent students.
Can colleges kick you out for being pregnant?
You cannot be kicked out of college for becoming pregnant. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex from education programs; this includes pregnant women and parents.
Additional rights for pregnant students include:
- Your institution must allow you to participate in classes and extracurricular activities despite being pregnant.
- You are allowed to decide whether you want to take advantage of special programs and classes provided by the institution.
- Your classes and extracurricular activities cannot require a doctor’s note for participation unless it is required for all students.
- Your institution must make accommodations when necessary, such as elevator or restroom access.
- Medically necessary absences due to pregnancy or childbirth must be excused.
- You must be able to return to your educational program following medical leave with the opportunity to make up for missed work.
- Pregnant students must be afforded the same services provided to other students with temporary medical conditions; this may include independent study and home tutoring.
- Your institution must protect you from harassment based on your pregnancy status.
It is important to note that schools run by religious organizations may be exempt from Title IX in scenarios relating to their religious beliefs, so pregnant students may not be protected at these institutions.
Can you live on campus in a dorm with a baby?
Pregnant students are allowed to live in the dorms until their baby is born.
After their little one arrives, student parents who will have the baby living with them are asked to find more appropriate housing for family living.
Some universities and colleges offer family housing options for students with children. Different from dorm rooms, these residences:
- are suitable for many different family living arrangements including married couples, domestic partners, couples with children, and single parents living with children;
- include multiple bedrooms and have additional amenities, such as full kitchens and laundry facilities; and
- have year-round contracts that families won’t be uprooted during the summertime.
Unfortunately, only about 8% of U.S. colleges provide family housing. If you are wondering which colleges offer family housing in your state, check out The Campus Family Housing Database by Wellesley Centers for Women.
Institutions that do not have family housing may assist parents in finding off-campus housing through their student resource centers.
Can you bring your baby to a college class?
Most universities and colleges do not have steadfast rules regarding babies and children in the classroom, as long as they are not left unattended. In many situations, whether you are able to bring your baby to class or not is based on your professor’s discretion.
Some professors will allow student parents to bring their little ones into the classroom in extenuating circumstances. This can be a great solution when your childcare plans fall through; however, it might not always be the best option.
Here are some scenarios to consider:
You should bring your baby to class:
- You have confirmed with your professor that it is okay to bring your baby.
- Your baby can be (relatively) non-disruptive for the duration of the class.
- Attendance is mandatory.
- You are unable to obtain notes or a recording of the lecture.
You should skip class if:
- You have not confirmed with your professor that it is okay to bring your baby, or they are reluctant to allow you to bring your baby.
- Your baby is likely to disrupt the class and prevent you and other students from learning.
- There are notes or a recording of the lecture available.
- Your class takes place in a laboratory setting or somewhere not suitable for children.
Are there any special benefits, grants, or scholarships available for pregnant women?
Parenthood during college can be extremely difficult. Luckily, there are resources that can help pregnant students and students with children.
Benefits, grants, and scholarships available to pregnant women include:
- Single Parent Alliance of America may help you find safe and affordable housing.
- CoAbode explores house sharing among single mothers and is a place to find community.
- Birthright International provides a multitude of services to expecting and new mothers, including finding housing and financial resources.
- Working Parent College Scholarship Award has given over $30,000 to working parents in college.
- Go Girl! Grant provides financial support to women who are bettering their lives.
- Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Scholarship for Mothers gives out five Education Support Awards annually for up to $5000 to low-income women who are furthering their education or training.
- Soroptimist Live Your Dreams Award has given $2.8 million in awards to 1700 women around the world that are their family’s primary earners and are furthering their education.
- Federal Student Aid can help students pay for college and acquire low-interest loans.
Check with your advisor to find out about financial aid and potential resources available at your institution.