Over the age of 25. Commuter. Part-time student. Financially independent. Parent. These traits are becoming more prominent on college campuses as the number of non-traditional students grows.
In 2013, only about one-third of college students fit the traditional student mold according to a report published in the Washington Post. The increase in the number of adult students means that colleges need to develop new programs in order to accommodate their unique needs, as non-traditional students, especially students with young children, face different challenges than the “typical” student.
What Millersville University is doing to accommodate non-traditional students with children is not widely known, but some services do exist to help this unique group balance their busy family life and school work.
For nursing mothers in need of privacy, Millersville University Health Services provides a lactation room. The room is available to any student and is located on the second floor of the Witmer Building. The lactation room is open during the same hours as Health Services, Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The room offers nursing mothers a cozy environment complete with a rocking chair, foot stool, bed and changing table. The lactation room is further equipped with a small refrigerator so mothers can store milk until they are done classes.
“We just try to be as accommodating as we can,” said Carol Stigelman, Administrative Assistant at Health Services.
Mothers are required to bring their own breast pumps due to the expense, and several electrical outlets are in the room for that purpose.
According to Stigelman, only around five women have used the lactation room since it was made available to mothers on campus two years ago, because some mothers choose to take a semester off after the birth of their child.
Other services are also provided through Health Services that may be beneficial to expecting parents. Representatives from Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services are available on campus Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. The agency offers pregnancy counselling and free pregnancy tests for students; Health Services charges $5 for tests.
While Health Services works to provide Millersville student parents with a variety of supportive programs, other needs, such as child care, are not being fulfilled as completely.
Until 2009, a child care center was located on campus to provide services for faculty and students, while acting as a training aid for education students.
The Elizabeth Jenkins Early Childhood Center, now called the Jenkins School, opened in 1970 and offered a variety of programs to benefit children and parents.
In 1978, the curriculum was changed to provide an evening care program, parent workshops, an after school program and a Saturday program.
The Jenkins School was under control of Millersville University until 1998. The program was managed by Student Services, Inc. from 1999 to 2002, and then the Jenkins School created its own Executive Board of Directors to run the school. During the construction of the new Stayer Hall, the child care center lost its lease with the university and moved off campus to their new location in Holy Spirit Lutheran Church at 3131 Columbia Ave.
The Jenkins School no longer has any direct connection with the university.
“We do accept students that need a placement for their observations and such, and will work with the university in that way. We may or may not have children with parents working at the university in some capacity, but there is no special offer for Millersville employees or students with children… We are certainly open to having those children join our program,” said Holli Winick Viau, the director of the Jenkins School.
Despite the absence of a daycare on campus, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women has a designated child care committee. According to the bylaws of the commission, the committee is to “examine the feasibility of low-cost day care for University employees and students.”
Students with children can also utilize university programs that are not specifically designed for parents.
The Counseling Center does not offer any specific counseling programs for students with children, but does deal with all issues that any student would have. Parent students who are feeling overwhelmed can reach out to the Counseling Center and receive help.
Although there is not currently an organization that specifically targets students with children, in the past there was a non-traditional student organization that offered adult students a way to get information about campus that other students may learn from their social groups. However, the organization no longer exists.
“[The] model for normal student organizations doesn’t often mesh well with the needs and desires of the adult population, because time is your (their) most precious commodity. More so than the non-traditional student who is looking to fill time, these people are looking to conserve time, and so sitting at a student organization meeting and planning activities that are social interaction activities doesn’t have the same appeal to them. So that organization hasn’t really flourished and has been dormant for some time. It is something that I would love to see revived but unfortunately it is an uphill battle to do that,” said Rita Miller, the Associate Director of Housing and Residential Programs who also acts as an advisor for undeclared non-traditional adult students.