Off-campus groups offer resources to pregnant, parenting UT-Austin students

Julia Jones

Around 500 pregnant or parenting college-aged students walked through the doors of the Austin Pregnancy Resource Center last year seeking assistance, and executive director Lori DeVillez said she hopes more students look to them this year. She founded the organization 13 years ago after noticing that struggling UT students had nowhere near campus to get help.

“With the enrollment at UT at 50,000 students, I would assume there’s some need for this,” DeVillez said. “We want (parents) to know that there are resources.”

Organizations like DeVillez’s are the main source of assistance pregnant and parenting students receive while at UT since the school itself has limited resources and high demand.

Located on the Rio Grande block of 28th Street, APRC offers clothing and  resource support, as well as referrals for adoption, prenatal care and shelters that provide food, housing and protection from abusive situations. They also have a mentoring program to teach young parents life skills, such as how to budget and eat healthy. Although APRC is not a medical facility, they offer limited sonograms to help parents understand their child’s development.

“What we want to do is everything we can,” DeVillez said. “It is a scary time and we understand that, but they’re not alone, which is what most of them feel.”

UT’s Child Development Centers offer child care every weekday for children aged six weeks to five years, but space is so limited that parents sometimes have to wait three years to get their children into the program. Individual colleges at UT have options for parenting students, with some graduate programs offering semester-long extensions for new parents.

University Health Services does not provide pregnancy or parenting resources to students directly, but they offer women’s health care, pregnancy tests and a healthcare professional so students can discuss their options. UT’s Human Resources Department provides 16 quiet lactation rooms open to students around campus, most equipped with breast pumps.

To alleviate the cost of pregnancy and parenthood for UT students, Texas Students for Life kicked off a yearly scholarship program for pregnant or parenting students last year, awarding $1,000 to a UT couple who had recently had a child. They are currently working toward installing baby changing stations inside all men’s and women’s restrooms.

While APRC is a faith-based organization, DeVillez said they do not promote any one religion but instead focus on providing parents and children with the resources they need. Government senior Ashley Vaughan, a UT student involved in Young Conservatives of Texas, volunteers at the center and said her ideological affiliation and APRC’s religious affiliation do not deter people from seeking their help.

“I think that those are things that can start conversations, but they don’t limit in any way the help we provide,” Vaughan said. “If more people would come here, the more they’d realize that there’s just a heart here to help students.”

As for resources further from campus, both APRC and TSFL refer students to the St. John Paul II Life Center on W. 38th Street because it offers holistic medical care.

Alicia Torres, TSFL president, said she wants to open up TSFL as a student support system for people who are struggling with the stresses of pregnancy.

“We know that the number one feeling that people have when they find out they’re pregnant is just fear,” Torres said. “They’re afraid of losing everything. I think there are so many people telling girls, ‘If you get pregnant, you can’t do this thing, you can’t get a job, you can’t graduate,’ and that’s just not true. You can do everything, and I want to help you get there.”