Decades ago, going to college was a rite of passage; a time to spread your wings, and probably your first time out on your own. Often times a “student” fit into one mold; 18-23, single, no kids and no exterior responsibilities. Fast forward to the current college model, where the average age of a college student is 27 and you’ll see a dramatic shift in the student body. In New York City, most colleges are urban commuter colleges with limited space for an actual campus; and students who fit college into their lives outside of their jobs and families.
In this commuter college model you’ll find more and more moms, some single moms and some not, but all trying to better their lives for the sake of their child(ren). It is an enormous feat for a young mom to obtain any type of college degree before she is thirty. This is even more difficult when she has to find childcare and be able to afford it, so when a program fits her needs financially, it should also give her peace of mind.
A few weeks ago a classmate of mine, Candice, approached me about a dilemma she was having with her three year old son. Candice wanted to voice the issue but wasn’t sure where to do so; when she heard about my Virtues from Motherhood blog she asked for my help. Candice was concerned that the little ones from the child care center no longer had access to an elevator, because the ones in the general building have been out of service all semester. When she drops her son off at the start of her day he then troops through campus up and down flights of stairs to get to his classroom on the third floor. “It’s just not fair you know, they’re students too” she said to me when I met with her in the campus bookstore cafe. Candice had gone to SGA and voiced her concerns and was told the elevators were under contract and slated to be fixed; but when? Candice is taking 19 credits this semester, a busy schedule indeed, and she’s crossed paths with her son and his class while moving from one room to another. This means that these little City Tech students are mingling with students of the general population, in elevators and on stairs, which presents a potential hazard for them. This is troubling for Candice as she worries that he’ll slip, trip, or fall when moving around the staircases of a busy college campus.
Candice’s worries are not the only ones college moms face. With the elevators out of service other moms, some pregnant, have to lug their child and their strollers up the stairs. Why? Because campus policy forbids them from leaving them in the lobby of the general building. Even moms-to-be have their fair share of worries too. Alexander, an expecting mom, constantly has to protect her belly in the crowded elevators and common spaces. She tried to get permission to use the disability elevators if she provided a note from her obstetrician, but was denied.
Candice and Alexander’s stories made me think back to my college journey which started in 2008. I got pregnant with my daughter, Ava, during my first semester and when I got placed on bed rest in spring 2009 the college would not accept my medical leave and I failed my courses, ultimately getting me academically dismissed. When I did go back to school I was unable to access the child care because of silly technicalities, and my advisor even told me to drop my courses and come back when my daughter was older.
All of these issues we face might seem insignificant to the average student; but to a student who is also a mom, it weighs on us. While there have been great advances in making college accessible to parents, we still have a ways to go with creating an environment that is accepting of moms and not just tolerant.