Schools Supporting Students With Children the Best
What Makes a College Parenting-Friendly?
According to a 2017 report written by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, roughly 4.8 million college students in the U.S. -- over a quarter of the country's undergraduate population -- have at least one child claimed as a dependent. This figure has grown gradually over the past 20 years and suggests a continuing upward trend. Earning a college degree offers many perks, especially for students with children, such as higher salaries, more job opportunities, and access to health insurance. Procuring an undergraduate or graduate degree can also help graduates advance into more senior roles in their field.
Many students with children succeed at the collegiate level thanks in part to the institution they attend. Many factors help the most parenting-friendly colleges stand out, including the options listed below.
A large number of postsecondary institutions offer dedicated on-campus housing to single parents of married students with children. These housing units provide secure, family-friendly atmospheres and enable students with children to socialize with one another. If on-campus housing is unavailable, some schools provide resources for affordable off-campus housing areas that allow children.
To address the growing trend of students with young children, most colleges and universities provide some form of on- or off-campus childcare. In some cases, college childcare centers are associated with the school's department of education and staffed with licensed care providers. Children of students enrolled at a sponsoring institution often qualify for priority enrollment and discounts.
New Mother Services
Raising an infant can be particularly challenging for college students. Some schools try to mitigate these difficulties by offering private lactation rooms and diaper-changing stations where mothers can care for their infants in privacy.
Food Bank and Pantry Access
Due in part to rising tuition rates and a growing number of students living on a limited budget, nearby food pantries that receive items from food banks may distribute foodstuffs to students at no charge. Additionally, many on-campus food pantries are led by students. According to the College & University Food Bank Alliance, more than 200 U.S. schools have established food pantries.
Many colleges and universities offer institutional scholarships geared toward students with dependent children. In many cases, these scholarships award preference to single parents or student parents facing financial hardships. Scholarship funds can usually be used to cover the cost of books and supplies, fees, and other expenses. In some cases, funds may also be used to pay for on-campus childcare.
The above list serves as a good starting point, but students can also consider many other factors; read on to learn more about the most parenting-friendly colleges or universities in each state.
The Most Parenting-Friendly Colleges by State
To generate this list of the country's most parenting-friendly colleges, we surveyed individual schools based on the criteria above. Other factors that we considered include tuition and fees, cost of living, parking and transportation options, health insurance, and student-led clubs and organizations that emphasize child-raising and family life. We only evaluated fully accredited public and private nonprofit institutions that offer four-year undergraduate programs.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive. Although these selections represent the schools deemed most friendly to parents, many other institutions also offer ample resources and services -- including financial assistance, childcare, and on-campus family housing -- to student parents. Prospective learners should research each school to determine if it offers their desired resources.
Alabama: Auburn University
One of Alabama's two original flagship schools, Auburn emphasizes support for mothers with infant children. The main campus contains 14 private lactation rooms for breastfeeding students. Additionally, the school's department of nursing also helped launch the Tiger Babies Breastfeeding Support Tent -- a private enclosure for nursing available at home football games and other major campus events.
The Auburn University Early Learning Center offers childcare services for student parents. Individual classes for both three- and four-year-old children are available in the morning, and both ages combine for a mixed afternoon class. Most of the center's staff hold licensure in early childhood education or child development. The school's campus also hosts a food pantry that is open to all students, regardless of their financial need. Additional resources for students and their families are available through the Auburn Cares program.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Auburn's tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students are on par with national averages. The university's rates rose less than 3% between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years. PayScale notes the cost of living in Auburn is 8% lower than the national average.
Alaska: University of Alaska Anchorage
UAA is the flagship institution in the University of Alaska System. Single parents and other students with kids can apply for more than 800 institutional scholarships and grants, many of which are reserved for students with financial need. The university also offers financial assistance to help cover maternity clothes, food, and essentials for pregnant students and those with young children. Additional programs include low-cost insurance coverage for children of students and low-income families, pregnancy counseling, and adoption resources.
The school's main campus features several private lactation rooms, including rooms with reserved times and walk-in facilities. UAA also imposes a strict tobacco-free campus policy, minimizing health risks associated with secondhand smoke for pregnant women. Childcare services are not available on the university's campus but student parents seeking daycare facilities can access a list of options through thread -- an Alaska-based childcare referral network. Additionally, low-income students and their families can receive food assistance from the school's emergency food cache.
Arizona: University of Arizona
UA oversees a variety of online and on-campus degree pathways. The university's distance learning programs incorporate more than 30 bachelor's tracks, most of which feature fully online curricula and asynchronous delivery schedules. Flexible, self-paced formats can benefit students with kids -- particularly those with full- or part-time jobs. According to iPEDS, roughly 83% of the university's first-time undergraduates received some form of institutional financial aid in the 2016-17 school year.
UA offers lactation stations, breast pumps, and preventative services through its department of administration benefits at no extra cost to students. Learners with children may also qualify for daycare reimbursement through the Childcare Choice program. Eligible reimbursement recipients receive funds in their student accounts. Students with children can also obtain food from the campus pantry, which distributes goods twice per week.
The cost of living in Tucson -- the location of the school's main campus -- is 6% lower than the national average according to PayScale.
Arkansas: Arkansas State University
Located in the city of Jonesboro, A-State provides a wealth of resources for students with children and other nontraditional learners. These include The Village, which is an on-campus housing area of 191 units reserved for students with children, married students, graduate students, and learners who are 26 years or older. Students with kids can also receive academic and social support through the school's Nontraditional Student Organization, which publishes an online guide of childcare providers, medical facilities, and other local resources for student parents. Additionally, the student-run A-State Food Pantry has served hundreds of local households since opening in 2015.
The university's main campus features a private lactation room with comfortable chairs and refrigerators. To ensure privacy, the exact location of this room is not disclosed to the general student population, but breastfeeding students can obtain a key in the humanities and social sciences building where the room is located. Unmarried students with children may also qualify for the 1P Single Parent Scholarship Fund, which is open to all Arkansas residents who provide primary custody to at least one dependent child. According to iPEDS, roughly two-thirds of undergraduates at the school received some form of institutional aid during the 2016-17 school year.
Jonesboro is a highly affordable community, with a cost of living 16% below the national average.
California: Mills College
California contains more than 150 accredited colleges and universities, including more than 30 public institutions belonging to the University of California and California State systems. However, the California school that scored best in this ranking is Mills -- a private college based in Oakland. The school's undergraduate programs are reserved for female students, while graduate programs are coed. Fifty-nine percent of the college's undergraduate student body identify as students of color and 51% identify as LGBT+. Mills was also the first single-sex institution in the country to allow transgender students.
Established in 1926, the Mills College Children's School is the oldest on-campus laboratory school on the West Coast. Children of Mills students qualify for priority admission, and students may receive financial assistance to help cover childcare tuition. The school offers classes for infants/toddlers, preschoolers, transitional kindergartens, and elementary school-aged children. Additionally, the Underwood Family Housing facility is reserved for students with kids. The facility includes a communal play area, and it takes less than five minutes to walk from Underwood to the center of campus.
According to PayScale, the cost of living in Oakland exceeds the national average by nearly 50%. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the unemployment rate in Oakland was less than the national average as of January 2019, which benefits job-seeking students with children.
Colorado: Colorado State University
Located in Fort Collins, CSU features many amenities for students with children. These include the Aggie Village Family Apartments, which feature two-bedroom units, a playground area, and bus transportation to local elementary and middle schools. CSU also hosts three on-campus childcare centers -- the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program, CSU Early Childhood Center, and Sunshine House -- all of which offer financial assistance and scholarship funds. A total of 15 private lactation rooms are also available on campus.
Student parents at CSU can apply for a handful of institutional scholarships aimed at students with kids, including the Dream Scholarship and Pamela Zimdahl Scholarship awards for single parents. Students may also qualify for several external scholarships for women, such as the Live Your Dream Award for survivors of sex trafficking and their families and the United Way's Women Give Childcare Assistance Scholarship. CSU's Global Campus also offers institutional aid for online students.
Connecticut: Southern Connecticut State University
New Haven-based SCSU provides a variety of resources and support services for student parents. For example, students may apply for partial reimbursement of childcare and/or babysitting expenses for children ages 12 and younger. Additionally, the Care 4 Kids program provides aid for low-income students with childcare costs. The university also offers several on-campus lactation rooms, which include privacy curtains, storage spaces, and microwaves for sterilization. Students and faculty members advocate for nursing mothers through the university's Breastfeeding Champions program.
Learners at SCSU can apply for nearly 300 different institutional scholarships and grants. One of these awards -- the Emma and Henry Christmann Memorial Scholarship Fund -- targets single-parent undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, the university hosts Family Science Night events throughout New Haven.
Delaware: University of Delaware
UD is home to two state-of-the-art childcare facilities. The Early Learning Center on the school's Newark campus features 21 classrooms and nearly two acres of outdoor space. Additionally, for more than 80 years, UD has hosted a laboratory preschool. Student parents attending UD can apply for admission to either childcare provider. Undergraduates and graduate students with children may also secure living arrangements through the school's graduate school and family housing site.
UD is also a great choice for pregnant women and young mothers. The school's Women's Health Clinic boasts an entirely female staff and offers comprehensive women's health services, including pregnancy testing and counseling. The school's main campus also offers three dedicated lactation rooms for breastfeeding mothers.
Florida: University of Central Florida
In terms of on-campus enrollment, UCF is the largest public university in the state and among the largest in the U.S. The school offers more than 100 institutional scholarships to incoming students; a handful of these awards give preference to single parents, such as the Kendall Shaye Herndon Endowed Scholarship, the Phoenix Scholarship, and the Thomas and Lori Cleary Endowed Scholarship. Additionally, students enrolled in online programs at the university qualify for a substantial fee waiver.
Located on the school's Orlando campus, UCF's Creative School for Children offers daycare services for children between the ages of six months and five years. Current students with children taking at least six credits qualify for enrollment priority. The university also offers seven private lactation rooms on campus for breastfeeding mothers and a food pantry that provides food to students at no extra charge. UCF does not have on-campus family housing but maintains an extensive list of child-friendly off-campus properties. The school also holds an Orlando-area housing fair each year.
According to PayScale, the cost of living in Orlando is 5% lower than the national average. Additionally, according to iPEDS, 87% of new undergraduates at UCF received some form of financial aid during the 2016-17 school year.
Georgia: Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State -- the second-largest institution in the University System of Georgia -- supports at-risk students with kids through its Campus Awareness, Resource, and Empowerment (CARE) program. Case managers work with students to help address parenting needs (e.g., childcare and family medical care), secure financial assistance, and find employment opportunities. The program also provides services to endangered women with children, including temporary on-campus housing.
Kennesaw State offers two institutional scholarships for students with children: the Toby Hopper Endowed Scholarship for Single Mothers and the Dr. Mary Ursits Student Assistance Scholarship for single-parent undergraduates. The school's campus food pantry offers free food to enrolled students, and those receiving support from the CARE program may also qualify for free linens and personal care items. The Children and Family Programs at Kennesaw State also provide consultations and treatment for local children with behavioral disorders.
Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
The flagship institution of the University of Hawai'i System, UH Mānoa provides various support services and resources for students with children. These include the Student Parents at Manoa (SPAM) group, which provides access to childcare options, medical care, and counseling for pregnant students and students with children. The university women's health clinic also partners with a local Planned Parenthood facility to offer pregnancy testing and counseling. The school's campus features four dedicated lactation rooms.
SPAM also maintains a list of active scholarships for student parents. These include the Rose Scholarship for survivors of domestic violence, the Patsy T. Mink Education Foundation Scholarship for single mothers, and the Soroptimist Scholarship for low-income women supporting their families. The university operates an on-campus childcare center where 75% of spaces are reserved for children of full-time students. Dedicated family housing is available to students with kids, and the campus food pantry provides free food to any student with a valid school ID.
Honolulu is an expensive city, with an estimated cost of living that exceeds the national average by 88%. However, Honolulu's unemployment rates are substantially below average, and Hawai'i holds the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation, as of February 2019. More than 60% of the university's first-time undergraduates received some form of institutional aid during the 2016-17 academic year.
Idaho: Boise State University
Boise State -- the largest postsecondary institution in Idaho in terms of undergraduate enrollment -- offers many scholarships for student parents. These include four schoolwide awards, such as the Heidi Toomey - Single Mother Scholarship for women who are at least 28 years old and the Shirley Johnson Memorial Scholarship for single parents. Additionally, the school's college of health sciences and college of arts and sciences offer departmental scholarships for single parents.
Boise State offers four family housing areas for students enrolled in at least eight credits who have dependent children. The university also offers childcare services through a campus-based children's center for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Each childcare classroom boasts a low child-to-caretaker ratio, resulting in more individualized attention for young learners. Current Boise State students qualify for discounted monthly tuition and application fees. The campus boasts nine private lactation rooms, and a food pantry supplies dietitian-guided meals to students with a valid ID.
Boise is a fairly inexpensive city with a cost of living 8% lower than the national average, according to PayScale. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the Boise City-Nampa metro area has a relatively low unemployment rate. Because Boise is the state capital, students pursuing degrees related to political science or government may find plenty of related job opportunities.
Illinois: Southern Illinois University
SIU offers a number of resources for student parents and other nontraditional students. These include on-campus housing units for students with children, which offer after-school programs, transit services, onsite laundry, and a playground. The university also issues Family Identification Cards that grant student spouses and dependents access to the campus library, recreation facilities, and health and wellness services. An institutional scholarship for nontraditional students is also available.
Located on the university's main campus in Carbondale, the Rainbow's End Child Development Center offers full-time childcare services for local parents. Top preference is given to children of currently enrolled students. The campus features three public lactation rooms, along with four rooms that can be reserved in advance. Male and female students expecting children receive a free baby gift from the health promotion and wellness department. Those seeking food assistance can visit the Saluki Food Pantry on campus, which provides students with enough food to feed each member of their family for the next three days.
PayScale estimates the cost of living in Carbondale to be 6% lower than the national average, making SIU a relatively affordable option compared to schools based in more expensive Illinois cities, like Chicago. Students with alumni parents or legal guardians also receive a 20% tuition discount.
Indiana: Purdue University
Purdue supports student parents through its Span Plan Nontraditional Student Services program. These services include education and career-building family programs for undergraduates at the school's main campus in West Lafayette, as well as the Purdue Polytechnic campus in Lafayette. The university also offers childcare tuition assistance for students who cannot afford daycare or preschool. Student parents and other nontraditional learners, including those enrolled part time, can also apply for special scholarship opportunities.
The main Purdue campus houses 19 lactation rooms, including semi-private areas and rooms requiring a reservation. The school also has a food pantry open to all students. Purdue Village Apartments provides on-campus housing for students with dependent children, and four childcare centers exist on or near campus. In addition to on-campus programs, Purdue offers several online undergraduate and graduate programs. Most online pathways follow a fully self-paced schedule that may appeal to students with childcare obligations.
West Lafayette's cost of living is 4% lower than the national average, according to PayScale.
Iowa: Iowa State University
ISU provides access to many services through its Student Parent Resource Hub. Visitors can learn about the school's financial aid programs for students with children, including childcare assistance, food assistance, and bonus funding for expectant graduate students. The university also offers two institutional awards: the Hadley, Lee Scholarship and the John R. and Eloise Mountain Wright Scholarship. These awards grant preference to students with kids. The school's Margaret Sloss Women's Center also awards additional scholarship support to single mothers.
Students with dependent children can apply for housing at the Schilletter Village Apartments, which offer pet-friendly units, laundry facilities, and a playground area. ISU also hosts multiple on-campus childcare centers, each of which holds full accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Breastfeeding mothers enjoy full access to over 20 lactation rooms across campus, and many gender-inclusive restrooms feature diaper-changing stations. The campus food pantry distributes free food to ISU students who hold a valid school ID.
PayScale estimates that the cost of living in Ames -- which is home to ISU's main campus -- is 7% lower than the national average. Additionally, the city's unemployment rate hasn't exceeded 2% since August 2017. More than three-quarters of first-time undergraduates at ISU received some form of institutional aid during the 2016-17 school year.
Kansas: University of Kansas
With a main campus headquartered in Lawrence, KU remains a popular destination for students with children and other nontraditional learners. According to current estimates, 25% of the school's student body identifies as nontraditional. Each year, KU's student senate earmarks roughly $50,000 in childcare assistance grants for enrolled students with children under the age of five. Budget adjustments for students with childcare expenses are also available. Anyone who participates in the student senate receives free childcare during all group meetings and activities.
The university hosts two on-campus childcare centers: the Edna A. Hill Child Development Center and the Hilltop Child Development Center. Both centers offer tuition assistance to low-income families, and Hilltop gives enrollment priority to children of KU students. The school also offers a handful of institutional scholarships for nontraditional students, including awards that target student parents, such as the Peedee Brown Award and the Emerge Fund. KU's main campus features 14 private lactation rooms.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that Lawrence's unemployment rate in February 2019 was below the national average. Additionally, according to iPEDS, 67% of new undergraduates at KU received some form of institutional financial assistance during the 2016-17 academic year.
Kentucky: Eastern Kentucky University
EKU offers assistance to students with children through its Center for Student Parents. Additionally, the Eastern Scholar House provides housing on campus for students with kids -- single parents with primary custody receive top priority. Academic specialists also supply counseling services for student parents struggling to balance their academic and home lives. Support services include mental health and substance abuse counseling referrals and special support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
EKU's main campus -- in Richmond -- hosts two private computer labs reserved for student parents who need a quiet, kid-free space to study for exams and complete assignments. Additionally, the campus contains a family-friendly study space where parents can focus on their coursework while children play in a communal area. A handful of private lactation rooms are located throughout the main campus.
Lexington -- the closest major city to Richmond -- features a cost of living that is 4% lower than the national average. Ninety-eight percent of new undergraduates received some form of financial aid during the 2016-17 academic year.
Louisiana: Louisiana State University
LSU provides comprehensive case management services for expecting mothers enrolled at the university. Student health coordinators and the school's office of wellness and health promotion coordinate case management for individual learners. Pregnant students may also apply for disability services, if complications occur, and request a temporary medical parking pass. Seven private lactation rooms are located throughout the school's main campus.
The Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool (ECELP) serves LSU students with childcare needs. Children of current students receive priority enrollment. Part-time and full-time students receive tuition discounts, with additional financial assistance available. Enrollees also forgo the $75 reapplication fee after their first year of enrollment in ECELP. The Edward Gay Apartments offer family-friendly housing, and applicants with dependent children receive top priority. Individuals seeking food assistance can visit LSU's on-campus food pantry.
Baton Rouge is a relatively affordable place to live. PayScale estimates that the cost of living is 4% lower than the national average. According to iPeds, 95% of beginning undergraduates received some sort of financial aid during the 2016-17 academic year, and more than half received institutional scholarships and grants.
Maine: University of Maine
UMaine, located in Orono, operates as Maine's only research university. UMaine's Commuter and Nontraditional Student Programs incorporate a handful of resources for students with children, including a dedicated on-campus family room with a play area and a private lactation space. Students can also access on-campus childcare at UMaine's Children's Center and the Child Development Learning Center. The school's Nontraditional Student Association welcomes student parents and hosts family-friendly events throughout the academic year.
The University Park Family Housing complex features nearly 100 one- and two-bedroom, child-friendly apartments. Students with kids seeking financial assistance can apply for the Adult Degree Completion Scholarship, which is open to candidates returning to their studies after an absence of at least three years. Additionally, the student-led Black Bear Exchange provides a full food pantry and clothing swap.
Orono is a short drive to Maine's third-largest city, Bangor, which has recorded fairly low unemployment rates over the past two years. Additionally, 99% of new undergraduates during the 2016-17 school year received institutional scholarships and grants.
Maryland: University of Maryland, Baltimore
Located in the heart of Baltimore, the University of Maryland's flagship campus provides a variety of resources and services for students with children. These include discounted speech and language therapy evaluations, psychological evaluations for children and adolescents (offered at a sliding-scale fee rate), and additional child and family services through the university's Center for Healthy Families and Children's Developmental Clinic. Additionally, the UMD Parents Yahoo! Group is useful for physician referrals and babysitting requests. The university's student body includes more than 1,000 graduate students with children.
The university's Center for Young Children offers on-campus childcare, and children of currently enrolled students receive top enrollment priority. The Graduate Hills & Gardens complex features a playground area and is within walking distance of the main campus, representing an appealing housing option for graduate students with children. Multiple lactation rooms and diaper-changing stations are located throughout campus, and several summer camps are open to children of students.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Baltimore's unemployment rate of 3.5% in December 2018 was its lowest in more than a decade. As one of the country's largest metro areas, students seeking jobs can look forward to ample employment opportunities.
Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Amherst
UMass Amherst offers an innovative University Without Walls (UWW) program for students with kids and other nontraditional learners. UWW is a bachelor's degree completion pathway for students who have already earned at least 12 college-level credits. Students admitted into the program qualify for tuition discounts and may apply for several institutional scholarships. UWW students can choose from 13 areas of study or design their own major by completing on-campus, online, or blended coursework.
Affordable family housing near campus is available at the North Village Apartments. The school's Center for Early Education and Care provides childcare services for kids between the ages of 15 months and five years. Children of current UMass Amherst students receive top enrollment priority. Breastfeeding is welcome anywhere on campus, and dedicated lactation rooms and pumps are available to nursing mothers who prefer private settings. Local organizations for pregnant students and those with children include the Amherst Family Center, MotherWoman, and the Center for Women & Community.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Massachusetts had a statewide unemployment rate of 3.0% as of February 2019, which was considerably lower than the national average. About 80% of new undergraduates received institutional scholarships or grants during the 2016-17 school year.