Virginia State University Now Offers Campus Housing To Young Children Whose Parents Are VSU Students.
The new initiative supports VSU’s ongoing commitment to ensuring student parents have the resources to succeed academically while providing for their families.
Virginia State University hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at University Apartments at Ettrick today to celebrate the university’s new student-parent housing program. The program provides special campus housing for six student parents (students who are also parents) and their young children. VSU leadership also met with officials from Generation Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting student parents, to discuss current and future initiatives on campus.
Additionally, VSU has added special child-friendly study rooms in the university library and a lactation station on campus for nursing mothers. It is making changing tables available in female and male bathrooms if they have the required space. Student-parent parking is also being developed for expecting mothers, and the goal is to have designated signage at every academic building. Thanks to a grant, VSU can also assist the student parents with childcare costs.
In recent years, VSU has ramped up its effort to ensure student parents have the necessary resources to achieve their academic goals while simultaneously providing for their families.
After conducting a campus-wide survey, the university identified that one of the significant challenges that student parents face is paying for childcare. So, last year, VSU Assistant Vice President of Student Success and Engagement Regina Barnett-Tyler applied for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant. In September 2022, the university was awarded $1.45 million by the U.S. Department of Education to provide student parents with childcare funding for four years.
"We did a survey to determine what services student parents needed, and affordable childcare was the top response," said Barnett-Tyler. "Since we've received the grant, it has just been a blessing for students, particularly low-income students, who don't have the resources to further their education."
Today, 13 VSU student parents are receiving funds to pay for childcare so they can focus on graduating.
Tonya Wright is a 42-year-old mother of two working on her second degree from VSU. Admittedly, Wright doesn't need childcare or housing for her family. However, she says VSU has been more than accommodating since she returned to school in 2019.
"They work with us a whole lot more," Wright said. "Sometimes I would have to bring my youngest daughter to class with me, and the university realized there needed to be more resources available to student parents."
Over the years, VSU has had discussions about doing more for its student-parent population. So, the university decided to join the second cohort of Generation Hope's FamilyU technical assistance program.
Last May, VSU established a Family Study Room in the library so student parents would have a place to bring their children when they weren't in class. The room gives parenting students a place to study and complete coursework while simultaneously keeping their children safe and occupied with books and coloring.
"We really want to create a sense of community," said Corey Poarch, VSU's Student Parent Fellow for Generation Hope. As a Student Parent Fellow, Poarch attends workshops organized by Generation Hope to advocate for other student parents at VSU. Poarch expressed his pride in the progress made by the university and its increased awareness of the unique needs of student parents.
"VSU is very open to adaptation and initiation," said Poarch. "To see things actually come to fruition on behalf of student parents, it feels good to inflict a positive change that will hopefully make things easier for them."
The university was able to unveil its new on-campus lactation station and changing tables inside the student union bathrooms during Generation Hope’s visit.
By continuing to develop new programs and partnering with Generation Hope, VSU hopes to inspire and motivate parents on the fence about going back to school.
"Now our mindset is trying to target student parents to make them see that there is hope and they don't have to put off their dreams of going to college because they have a kid," said Barnett-Tyler.
This new initiative supports the VSU Strategic Plan Priority One, which is to increase student opportunity and access to higher education.