When child care fell through for a student at Baylor University, she took her baby to class with her. And when the baby started fussing, her professor held the baby for the entire hour-long lecture:
The Today show ended up picking up the video, because people love stories about college faculty helping out their students who are also parents. When a professor of history at the University of Louisville kept kids busy while their mom took his final exam, it ended up on BuzzFeed.
But these stories put a heartwarming spin on a huge, real problem millions of college students face: the struggle to find reliable child care. About 26 percent of college students in the US have kids. And for those student parents, most of them mothers, child care that's too expensive or that falls through frequently is a huge obstacle to eventually earning a college degree.
For students, the easiest and most affordable option is an on-campus child care center. But as the number of student parents enrolled in higher education climbed over the past decade, the share of college campuses offering child care was falling:
Fewer than half of all community colleges offer child care, and even colleges that do offer it often have long waiting lists, according to a 2011 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The group estimated that taking care of all college students' kids would require 1.1 million day care spots, and that colleges currently offer less than 5 percent of that.
Student parents are more likely to be poor, and more likely to be people of color, than college students without kids. Struggling to find reliable, affordable child care is just one more hurdle they have to face to stay in college. Surveys of community college students in Michigan, New York, and Ohio all found large majorities of students saying child care was crucial for their academic success.
Student parents often don't get much media attention. They generally don't attend the selective colleges the media covers most, and they don't fit the popular (and inaccurate) stereotype of a college student as an 18-year-old whose biggest concerns are Greek life or social justice activism. And most of them need a more permanent solution than a friendly professor who's willing to play babysitter for an hour-long class.