Texas community college women aren’t getting the kind of birth control they want, UT report finds

Sami Sparber

Most Texas female community college students do not have access to their preferred method of birth control, according to a recent study conducted by UT’s Population Research Center.

The study found 54 percent of the state’s community college women are currently using condoms or the withdrawal method, even though 68 percent said they would prefer to use more effective methods like intrauterine devices and birth control pills, patches or shots. Only 30 percent of respondents are currently using more effective methods.

“Because female community college students who have a child while in college are 65 percent more likely to drop out than women who don’t, we wanted to measure if female community college students want to use effective methods of contraception,” said Kristine Hopkins, lead author of the report, in an email. “And, if they want to use effective methods, are they able to access them? In our study, we demonstrated that a large percentage of young community college students wanted to use effective contraceptive methods, but many weren’t able to access them.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, condoms and the withdrawal method are some of the least effective forms of birth control. In a single year, there is an 18 percent chance of unintended pregnancy for a couple using condoms and a 22 percent chance for couples using the withdrawal method.

High contraceptive costs or lack of insurance were the most common reasons respondents gave for not using their preferred more effective method, the report found. 

“This is particularly a problem for community college students; in our sample, we found that 38 percent were uninsured,” the report said. “This compares to results of a national survey in which just 4 percent of students attending primarily 4-year institutions were uninsured.”

The report said the PRC study is the first investigation of contraceptive preferences among low-income women in a community college setting. 

“It is important to study community college students because most studies on student sexual health focus on four-year college students,” said Hopkins, a PRC research assistant professor. “In addition, community college students experience several risk factors for unintended births. Many are between the ages of 18 and 24, which is the age group that has the highest rates of unintended pregnancy and birth; many are also lower-income and minority students, who are more likely to experience unintended births than higher income women and non-Latina white women.”

PRC researchers surveyed about 1,000 Texas community college women in Dallas, South Texas, West Texas and Houston in fall 2014 and spring 2015. 

Ariana Noshari is a participant in UT’s Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment program, meaning she takes one class per semester at UT while completing the rest of her coursework at Austin Community College. Students who successfully complete the program continue their undergraduate studies at UT full time and are on track for on-time graduation.

Although Noshari and most of her PACE peers have no problems getting the birth control they prefer, she said it is upsetting that community college women on lower-income campuses are not as fortunate.

“If someone wants to use more effective methods of birth control, they should be able to, no questions asked,” Noshari said. “It shouldn’t matter why they want it or what their economic status is.”