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A Baby and a Backpack: Juggling Life and School

This article appeared in a May 2016 issue of the  student newsletter.

Cloth diapers, homemade baby food, stroller rental … today’s parents are conscious consumers. They are constantly searching for good value.

But diapers aren’t the only thing on their minds. Parents are also concerned with saving money on college – for themselves and their children.

Today 26% of college students are parents, according to recent reports from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Photo by Dan Goodwin.

Finding Value

Dallas Community Colleges are an affordable option for parents who want to earn a certificate or degree. Tuition is a fraction of the cost of most four-year colleges and universities! And, should you decided to transfer later to a four-year school, the DCCCD CoreCurriculum is guaranteed to transfer to any Texas public university.  

So how affordable is affordable? 

Tuition rates at Dallas Community Colleges are (on average) 13 times less than the cost of a public four-year institution. For example, class tuition and fees total just $79 per credit hour for Dallas County residents, or $237 for the typical semester-long class. Now that’s a bargain!

Also, a majority of community college students receive some sort of financial aid. Grants, scholarships and student loans are available for both full-time and part-time students. Dallas Community Colleges also have payment plans, allowing you to pay your bill in installments rather than one lump sum.

Balancing School and Baby

Sometimes parents may worry that good value isn’t enough. There are obstacles besides cost that keep parents from building their skills and careers. 

Here are common barriers (and solutions):

1. Your Lack of Time. 

If you are like most parents, you are doing a million things, and often all at once. Thankfully Dallas Community Colleges know all about busy adults and offer extremely flexible class schedules. They have evening and weekend classes and offer mini semesters as well as “flex term” classes outside the regular semester schedule. 

One really popular option is taking classes online. This option allows parents to learn when their children go to bed, during lunch breaks or whenever it’s most convenient. Some community colleges, like Eastfield College, even offer child care services for students while they attend classes. 

2. Your Lack of Confidence. 

OK, so maybe you weren’t the best student in high school. Not to worry. Who you were then has little relevance to who you are today. Your values, interests and yes, your skills, have evolved. You’re more mature. You’re more motivated. You have a lot of great experience to draw upon. Recognize your own potential and get back in the classroom. College often ends up being a huge confidence builder. 

3. Your Lack of Transportation. 

Maybe you want to earn a college certificate or degree but just can’t get to the actual building. Try taking classes online, or consider using public transportation. North Lake College and El Centro College have a DART station right on campus, plus qualified El Centro students ride free.

4. Your Indecision. 

You know that you want to earn a degree in something; you just aren’t sure what that something is yet. Start by making an appointment with your community college’s Office of Career Services. They are there to help you figure out your interests and the types of careers that would suit you. DCCCD Career Services are open to prospective students, current students and college alumni.    

Nelda Alderete and her 13-year-old son, Junior Medellin, study together in the TRIO tutoring lab at Eastfield College. Photo by David Sanchez, The Et Cetera.

Advice From the Pros (Other Parents)

Are you a parent trying to balance school and college? Or maybe you are considering taking a college class but not sure you could handle it?  Find inspiration from those parents who have gone before you in this May 2016 news piece by Eastfield College, “Moms Make Time for Family, School and Work.” 

No one will tell you juggling the responsibilities of college and parenting is easy, but it is possible. And the rewards — career opportunities, earning potential and personal growth — can make a big difference for you and your family.