Approximately one-quarter of undergraduate students are parents or guardians of dependent children. While having similar or higher GPAs, student-parents have lower rates of graduation than peers without children and often struggle with finances, childcare, and scheduling. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced many new stressors to our lives. In addition to the mental and physical health risks during the pandemic, college students experienced a change in delivery of classes to largely online and for parents of school age children, it has added challenges of supporting children at home in distance learning. This study used a feminist phenomenological approach to discover the lived experience of student-parents during the COVID-19 pandemic at a midsize upper Midwestern community college. Eight female student-parents were interviewed and six general themes and three unique subthemes were found. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the student-parents in the study struggled with finding enough time for their many roles and felt highly challenged by the adversity they faced, including high rates of mental distress. They had a range of access to social support from others in their lives, including childcare. The school had an impact on their success by faculty policies, the lack of availability for the tutoring center, and access to financial support. The experience with online classes was mixed. There was evidence of resilience, hope and motivation from all the participants. Recommendations from the findings included increased flexibility from faculty, alternate access to academic support, mental health and financial support outreach, and assistance for childcare. Support for student-parents has a two-generation impact and is vital for schools to prioritize as they aim for equity for all students.


Jinger Gustafason

Committee Member

Ginger Zierdt

Committee Member

Linda Seiford

Date of Degree




Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership





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In Copyright