Texas House member wants college campuses to have liaisons for students who are parents

Chad Lyle

College students who are also parents have a different set of priorities than other students. Because of this, a member of the Texas House of Representatives wants each public Texas university to provide an on-campus liaison to help student parents understand the resources available to them.

State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, filed House Bill 3003, which would mandate public universities in Texas have at least one faculty member acting as a counselor to students with children under 18. These liaisons would primarily advise students on resources offered by their university to assist with childcare, healthcare, transportation and other considerations for student parents.

Fatima Varner, human development and family sciences assistant professor, said she thinks creating the liaison position could be a good idea.

“I think anything that could centralize information and provide resources for students, including student parents, can be helpful,” Varner said. “Having a child can be disruptive for education and lower the likelihood that someone finishes school, and so having counseling that can help point people to resources might be something that can increase someone’s likelihood of being able to do well.”

UT currently has no designated counselor for student parents but a program the University would likely refer students to is the Child Development Center, which provides childcare to students and faculty. The
program’s director, Hara Cootes, said programs like this help student parents finish college.

“Regardless of legislation that may require a liaison, I think giving parents more access to resources through information is a great initiative,” Cootes said. “There’s been a lot of research that has shown that when student parents have access to campus programs they have higher graduation rates.”

Talarico introduced the bill as part of his legislative agenda focused on improving the environments that both public and higher education students learn in.

“Our current education system is heavily weighted toward academics, but as all of us know, there is so much more to educating our kids than just reading, writing and math,” Talarico said at a press conference. “This bipartisan agenda will help keep our students safe, healthy and ready to thrive inside and outside the classroom.”

Sherri Greenberg, a former state representative and a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said Talarico’s bill may receive pushback in the Legislature because, as of now, it is an unfunded mandate — meaning that the current version of the bill does not specify how it will be funded.

“Mandates are difficult — whether you are mandating a city, or a county or a school district without funding,” Greenberg said. “If (the bill) gets a hearing, it’ll have to have a fiscal note before they hear it. So the question is going to be: ‘What’s the cost of this going to be?’ … Is this something that could be done without an additional cost or burden? Could it be done with current resources?’”

Varner said, were the bill to pass, it could send a signal to student parents that their concerns are being accounted for.

“Just knowing that the support is there can be really helpful and make people feel more attached to school,” Varner said. “But having those material resources should be beneficial to
student parents.”


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