Being a Student and a Parent - Twenty-four, Seven

July 24, 2012

Unplanned Pregnancy

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A compelling profile on USA Today College of an Oklahoma State University (OSU) student who found herself pregnant during her junior year is an excellent reminder about the challenge of finishing college while caring for a child. It is also a reminder of the heroic efforts by students who rise to the challenge. Recent OSU journalism graduate Stephanie K. Taylor wrote about Courtney Webb, whose college plans and experience changed when she got pregnant.

Not only did it take Courtney an extra year to graduate, but "...unlike her peers, her college years were not spent just worrying about grades, looking for a job and making lasting memories with friends." In Courtney's words, "You have to be a mother, student, daughter, twenty-four seven." Courtney's perseverance, her honesty about how hard it is, and her advice for other young people is all remarkable. Although she encourages other young mothers to go to school while being a parent, she also encourages young women to wait before having children.

Courtney is clearly an extraordinary young woman and is also fortunate to have the support of her family, which meant she was able to graduate in May and hopes to go on to graduate school in the future. But her story is unfortunately not unique. Many students struggle to juggle their responsibilities as students and parents, and many of them end up putting college on hold for longer than Courtney did, dropping out entirely, or changing their educational goals.

While we support and applaud Courtney and many other young mothers and fathers who overcome the odds to complete college, let's also focus on prevention--that is, helping other students avoid this situation in the first place. Research shows that young adults are not as well-informed about pregnancy prevention as we might hope and that gaps in knowledge can put them at higher risk for unplanned pregnancy. On a less wonky note, students across the country tell us they appreciate getting information and having an opportunity to discuss topics including contraception and healthy relationships. This is especially true at community colleges, which are less likely to offer education and services to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

Here are a few things colleges can do to get started. Being either a successful college student or a young single parent is demanding enough. Let's commit to help students delay becoming parents until they're finished with school.

Authored by: Andrea Kane

Andrea Kane is the Vice President for Policy and Strategic Partnerships at The National Campaign.  She is responsible for The National Campaign’s public policy program, as well as forging strategic partnerships with a range of public and private sector organizations.  During her time at the Campaign, she has helped launch The National Campaign’s work with community colleges, youth in foster care, and with Latino communities.

From 2001 through 2008, she was also affiliated with the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families in various capacities. Before joining The National Campaign in 2001, Andrea served at the White House Domestic Policy Council as a special assistant to President Clinton. She has also worked at the National Governors’ Association, and at the state and local level in California, Texas, and Virginia.

She studied Government at Smith College, received a BA from Cornell University and an MPA from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

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