Helping student caregivers achieve success in their academic journey requires attention placed beyond the classroom.

How to help student caregivers achieve success at your institution

Helping caregivers in their academic journey requires attention placed beyond the classroom

Caregivers also are more likely to work than their non-caregiver counterparts. By offering online evening or weekend courses, institutions are removing some of the barriers that cause these students to either drop out completely or take time off during a semester.

Get Caregivers Career-Ready Through Technology

Often, caregivers will seek a college degree to obtain a higher-paying job to better care for their dependents. In response to this need, institutions can leverage technology designed to help outline clearer pathways to the workforce and connect student caregivers with the courses required to build the skills they need to be successful in securing an in-demand job after finishing their degree.

For example, automated badging and microcredentialing can give these learners multiple levels of skills assurance and insights into different career pathways. This also allows them to showcase their accumulated skills via a digital portfolio that sticks with them after graduation while fitting into their busy schedules. These offerings also provide student caregivers with a clear picture of their return on investment, which offers reassurance while they may be struggling to see the value of seeking a degree amid their many responsibilities at home.

Going Beyond Academic Assistance

Helping caregivers in their academic journey requires attention placed beyond the classroom. According to a recent study done by AARP, student caregivers are more likely to screen clinically significant for major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Institutions must prioritize mental health and ensure that wrap-around services are accessible both on and off campus.

Additionally, student caregivers reported feeling significantly less supported by their schools, and said they struggle with feeling out of place on their campuses. Diving into relevant data through quick surveys, institutions can create caregiver-focused groups that cater to the needs and wants of these students – even as an online group. Overall, the goal is to make sure that institutions are inclusive and not putting out that message that college is only a place for single, young people looking to have fun.

Remove Financial Barriers

Financial assistance is another significant barrier many caregivers face daily as inflation and economic challenges impact this group even harder. The same study by AARP noted that the pandemic caused severe financial challenges for students who were caregivers, including lost or decreased salaries from their off-campus and on-campus jobs, leading to a higher likelihood of experiencing housing and food insecurity. All these factors play into the fact that student caregivers are more likely to drop out if they face too many financial barriers to earning their degree.

Knowing this, advisors should ensure they’re providing student caregivers with greater access to financial resources that fit their specific situations. This may include scholarships for single mothers, work-study jobs, aid for families dealing with chronic illness, special grants, and other financial aid opportunities from federal and state governments.

The fact that student caregivers don’t operate the same as traditional students should be seen as an opportunity for institutions to re-evaluate how their academic and non-academic services are serving their entire diverse population. By recognizing and supporting their unique needs, institutions will better be able to put student caregivers on the pathway to success, improving the lives of caregivers and the people they care for.

As a mother of small children, a former financial aid recipient and someone who worked and went to school at the same time I can’t even imagine the impact of caregivers who are also working and going to school during a pandemic. 

3 ways to improve the non-traditional student experience

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