Author Bianca Ramirez calling for child care at the UTSA Downtown Campus. Courtesy photo.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 4.8 million students are attending college while raising children at the same time. Of these 4.8 million students who are also parents, 71% are women and an estimated 43% are single mothers.

For student parents who are going to school to improve career and employment opportunities, lack of available and affordable child care creates further barriers for families who are already under-resourced or at risk.

A majority of the student parents who are in college and are struggling with a lack of child care are low-income families, primarily minorities who are black and Hispanic. Although minority graduation rates have improved somewhat over the past few years, they still tend to lag behind white students in attaining degrees.

2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education showed that 72% of students graduating with masters’ degrees were white, followed by 12% black students and only 7% Hispanic students.

Since its beginning, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has provided educational access and opportunity for historically underserved students. UTSA is credentialed by the Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with 67% of its 28,628 students from under-represented groups, of whom Hispanics are 48%, the largest proportion. It is also on the path to Tier One status as a research institution and graduation rates will matter in this quest.

“Lack of quality child care is the third greatest barrier to completing a degree,” according to a study by the University of Washington’s Graduate and Professional Student Senate. Student parents at UTSA struggle to balance full schedules of academics, work, and parenting, and child care can be a make-it-or-break-it factor in determining their success.

Author Bianca Ramirez protesting for child care to be offered at the UTSA downtown campus.
Author Bianca Ramirez protesting for child care to be offered at the UTSA downtown campus.

Ironically, the UTSA Downtown Campus does not offer child care even though it was initially founded to attract working professionals who could go to classes at night, many of whom are parents or single parents. The UTSA Main Campus off state Highway Loop 1604 does offer child care during the day, though it caters predominantly to undergraduates, most of whom do not have children.

Neither school offers evening child care, which is historically more expensive and harder to obtain. UTSA Main Campus’ child care is located too far away from the downtown campus to be a viable option for downtown students.

In order to raise awareness of the issue, an advocacy rally for bringing child care to the UTSA Downtown Campus will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 10 from 3-5 p.m. at the UTSA Downtown Campus’ Bill Miller Plaza, 501 W. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. For more information about the rally, email

Student parents at the UTSA Downtown Campus recognize their high need for on-campus child care in order to be able to attend classes and avoid dropping out of school. Many parents on this campus struggle with the exacerbated stress that comes from being faced with the choice of bringing their children to class or having to miss class because of a lack of child care.

In programs like social work where attendance is mandatory, missing classes can force dropping out of the program.

I know this problem well as a single parent juggling school, an internship, a job, advocacy, campus leadership positions, a run-down car, and a wonderful three-year-old son. I have experienced this problem constantly during the two years I’ve been enrolled in the UTSA graduate social work program, and it has driven me to advocacy so that it can be resolved for future classes of students, even though after graduation this spring I personally will not benefit from it directly.

I started with a petition that I presented in my classes, which more than 500 people signed, followed by an online petition, which garnered an additional 430-plus signatures. I’ve also advocated for this heavily on social media, even using my meager resources to pay for targeted ads bringing the issue to the attention of more students, faculty, and staff.

There is also the issue of inequality. In this election year, it’s not hard to think back to the American colonists, whose wedge with Great Britain was over “taxation without representation” and caused the initial dumping of tea into the Boston Harbor – the original “tea party.”

At UTSA, downtown students pay the same amount in fees as main campus students, despite there being a disparity in services such as child care. So, essentially downtown students’ fees go towards main campus child care which they are unable to easily access.

Bianca Ramirez and her three-year-old son, Isaiah. Courtesy photo.
Bianca Ramirez and her 3-year-old son, Isaiah. Courtesy photo.

As UTSA continues its quest toward the highly-sought Tier One status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, graduation rates will enter the equation more prominently. Literature and personal experience from talking with other students both indicate that lack of access to child care is a reason why students are forced to drop out of school for “just this semester” at first, after which it is harder to return.

On-campus child care would give student parents a peace of mind and allow them to devote more time to school work and class attendance. It will also assist with increasing graduation retention rates among populations such as single parents who are likely to drop out of college due to lack of child care resources. Child care is one of the most effective ways colleges and universities can help their student parents earn a degree.

Student parents deserve the opportunity to attend their classes without the stress and struggles that a lack of child care can bring. Student parents need to graduate and the barrier that a lack of child care presents is hindering their future goals and success.

*Top image: Author Bianca Ramirez calls for child care at the UTSA Downtown Campus. Courtesy photo.

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Bianca Ramirez is a current graduate student in the UTSA Master's of Social Work program, graduating with straight A’s. She is also a single parent with a full-time internship, and the vice president...