Student parents have responsibilities beyond those of traditional students. They must take care of their children while balancing rigorous coursework and facing financial pressures that incentivize early graduation.
UT should give priority registration to undergraduate students with children to accommodate their parental duties.
The current registration system for classes prioritizes students based on their degree progress. The closer they are to degree completion, the earlier they will get access. A student’s parental status is not considered during the registration process.
I asked Kendall Slagle, communications coordinator for UT’s Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, if the administration is working on giving priority registration to students who have children.
“The University supports all of our students and is committed to helping them however we can,” Slagle wrote in an email. “We will work with students and do all we can to assist them with any issue that comes up during the registration process.”
This one-size-fits-all system does not recognize the needs of student parents or the limitations they face. Aerospace engineering junior Jeremy Aubert struggled to get classes that can accommodate his parental duties.
“My daughter has volleyball practice Tuesday nights, my son has basketball games Wednesday nights, so I really need to get my discussion sections like Mondays or Thursdays to try and work around that,” Aubert said. “But it doesn’t always happen. My wife would have to leave work early to take the kids to their things.”
Unlike student parents who can share responsibilities with their partners, single parents dealing with custody arrangements, such as history and government senior Sean Salome, face a different set of problems. Salome must plan his daughter’s schedule with his former spouse, so the sooner he can secure his classes the smoother the process will be.
“If you’re waitlisted in a class or something, that does not help at all when it comes to going to the other parent and saying, ‘Hey, I can’t make a commitment here and here because I am still waiting on school,’” Salome said. “Sometimes that causes lost time (with the child) because the other parent can’t switch with me.”
Geophysics senior Eric Hiatt, a father of three, has priority registration because he’s a student with disabilities, not because he’s a parent.
“I don’t know how people do it (without priority registration),” Hiatt said. “Even with priority registration, my schedule every semester gets jumbled up, and then you have to figure out how to do the kids’ stuff and the doctor’s stuff and other types of recurring appointments and to work around that.”
Student parents everywhere are struggling to balance schoolwork and parental duties. An Institute for Women’s Policy Research report suggested student parents face a higher risk of leaving college without completing their degrees than students without children.
According to the report, “student parents operate under often crushing time demands, with more than 40 percent working full time or more and over half spending 30 hours per week on caregiving activities.”
It’s difficult for parents to graduate on time if they can’t get into the classes they need. This issue can cause additional financial pressure because the more time they spend in school, the less time they can spend working.
“When you are a parent, you don’t have time to stay in university,” Salome said. “You need to come in, do your studies and then get out so then you can get a job and continue providing for your family.”
UT must give student parents priority registration to alleviate the pressure of creating a schedule that works not just for them, but for their families as well.
Nguyen is a government senior from Vietnam.