Elevating Latino Parenting Students in Higher Education

Research BriefHealthy SchoolsJun 11 2024



Lorena and Renee share joint first authorship.

Hispanic students are the fastest growing group of students in higher education in the United States. They come from incredibly diverse backgrounds, and nearly one in five Latino undergraduate students in the United States are parents. Yet, this group of more than 600,000 Latino parenting students has received little attention in the academic literature or from higher education systems.

Understanding who Latino student parents are is a first step in supporting institutions of higher education to better serve them. Creating supportive environments for Hispanic parenting students in higher education is crucial for the economic mobility of Hispanic children, as 30 percent of all Latino children have parents with some college experience but no college degree. Thus, making college degrees attainable for Latino parents is likely to have two-generation impacts.

A note on language: Latino parenting students are a diverse group of people, and no one term universally captures their experiences and identities. Throughout this brief, we use varied terms to refer to this group of students with the goal of reflecting their diverse identities. We use “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably to respect the diverse identities of these populations. We also use “student parent” and “parenting student” interchangeably to refer to undergraduate students who are parenting or taking care of children while in school.

To better understand Latino student parents and colleges’ strategies to serve them, we took three approaches: 1) we analyzed the only source of nationally representative data on student parents: the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS); 2) we scanned the literature to learn from others’ research on Latino student parents; and 3) we interviewed staff at three colleges working to improve supports for student parents who serve majority Latino students. This brief shares what we learned from each of these approaches and closes with recommendations for the field.

Using Data to Understand Latino Student Parents: Who are Latino Parenting Students?

During the spring 2020 semester, according to the most current data, approximately 634,000 Latino student parents attended college as undergraduates.[1] This figure represents the number of Latino students with dependent children and likely underestimates the number of students with significant child caretaking responsibilities in roles like aunts, uncles, or siblings as well as more informal arrangements. Approximately 17.5 percent of Latino undergraduate students have dependent children, a rate not statistically significantly different from students not of Latino heritage (p=0.07). Latino student parents make up 20.2 percent of all student parents.

During the spring 2020 semester, approximately 634,000 Latino undergraduate student parents attended college.

A deeper dive into this population of 634,000 Latino parenting students reveals great diversity in their experiences (see Table 1). About three-quarters (78%) of Latino student parents are mothers, and just under one-quarter are fathers. More than half (58%) of Latino parenting students are unmarried, including single, divorced, widowed, or separated parents. The average age of Latino student parents is 32 years; 13 percent are under age 24; 29 percent are ages 24-29; 39 percent are in their thirties; and 19 percent are age 40 or older. Latino student parents tend to have young children, with more than half having a child age 5 or younger, including 28 percent with a child under age 3, and 25 percent with a child ages 3-5. About four in five Latino student parents have one or two children, with one child being the most common number of children. More than two-thirds of Hispanic parenting students have incomes less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

In terms of elements of Hispanic diversity, approximately three quarters (76%) of Latino parenting students were born in the United States, and 91 percent are U.S. citizens. Of the three-quarters who were born in the United States, more than half (approximately 55%) are at least the third generation to live in the United States. Latino student parents represent broad linguistic and Hispanic heritage backgrounds: 43 percent learned Spanish as their first language, while 39 percent learned English first, and 17 percent learned both Spanish and English equally. About half (49%) of Latino student parents have Mexican heritage.

Figure 1. Latino student parents have diverse characteristics in terms of nativity

Percentage of Latino student parents who have each characteristic

Figure 1. Latino student parents have diverse characteristics in terms of nativity

Source: Child Trends’ analysis using DataLab of data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2020 Undergraduate Students (NPSAS:UG).

Many Latino student parents are the first in their families to go to college: Approximately half (52%) have a parent with a high school diploma or less education, while 48 percent have parents with some education beyond high school (including vocational/technical training, an associate degree, some college but no degree, or a bachelor’s degree or more), including 16 percent who have a parent with a bachelor’s degree or more.

Figure 2. Latino student parents represent broad linguistic and Hispanic heritage backgrounds

Percentage of Latino student parents with each linguistic or heritage characteristic

Figure 2. Latino student parents represent broad linguistic and Hispanic heritage backgrounds

Note: * An equal mix of English and another language ; ** Another language

Source: Child Trends’ analysis using DataLab of data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2020 Undergraduate Students (NPSAS:UG).

Latino student parents are found at all types of postsecondary institutions, including public two-year schools, where 41 percent of Latino student parents are enrolled; public four-year schools (23%); private for-profit schools (14%); and private nonprofit four-year schools (9%). Latino student parents attend school across the country. Notably, about one quarter of Latino student parents attend school in the Far West (27%) and one quarter attend school in the Southwest (24%).

Table 1. Statistical portrait of Latino student parents

Table 1. Statistical portrait of Latino student parents

a Income from the 2017 calendar year was used to determine federal financial aid eligibility for the 2019-2020 academic year. Values for this variable were calculated using the 2017 HHS Poverty Guidelines (https://aspe.hhs.gov/2017-poverty-guidelines) and are based on family size (HSIZE) and total income (CINCOME). For dependent students, family size and income represent that of their parents. For independent students, family size and income represent the student’s own family size and income.

b Public schools that are primarily sub-baccalaureate institutions but offer at least one four-year degree are considered four-year schools here.

! Interpret data with caution. Estimate is unstable because the standard error represents more than 30 percent of the estimate.

Notes: Weighted sample sizes range from 606,729 Latino student parents for the income analysis to 634,141 Latino student parents for the age and Hispanic heritage analyses.

Source: Child Trends’ analysis using DataLab of data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2020 Undergraduate Students (NPSAS:UG).

What We Know About Latino Student Parents and Gaps in the Literature

Because the published literature about Hispanic parenting students is limited, we wove findings from multiple, distinct literature to capture Latino student parents’ intersectional experiences. This literature included small-scale, qualitative studies specifically on Latino parenting students; broader literature on Hispanic students’ experiences in higher education more generally; and works on experiences of parenting students of all races. Using this knowledge, we considered the following questions:

  • What strengths do Latino parenting students bring to higher education?
  • What barriers do Hispanic parenting students face in navigating higher education?

What strengths do Latino student parents bring to higher education?

Latino student parents’ roles as parents motivate them to pursue higher education to improve their family’s socioeconomic futures and provide them with hard-earned life skills beneficial in higher education.


Many students are motivated to pursue higher education in search of a better socioeconomic future. This is of course true for Latino students, who view education as a way to secure their future financially. Parents additionally view their families’ economic future as a motivating factor in pursuing higher education. Past research on Latina mothers, specifically, demonstrates that they value higher education as a mechanism for economic mobility, especially when thinking about the future of their children and families.

The literature on Latino students in higher education emphasizes family as a strong motivator for pursuing and succeeding in higher education through familism. Discussions of familism tend to focus on the family of origin but could also highlight the role of having children and becoming a parent as motivation to succeed in higher education. Student parents, including Latina moms and Black and Latino student fathers, report that their children are their motivation to go to school. In the words of a Latina student mom: “After my child was born, I realized I needed to go to school, have a degree, and more stability and school is going to get me there. So, being a mom became my driving force.” Familism values are typically conceptualized as older generations (e.g., parents and grandparents) imparting values to their children that socialize them to behave in ways that honor their family. This imparting of familism values can also explain how a student parent’s higher education pursuit can become a way to honor and value their family in a new way — through their desire to be a role model to their children and other family members. There are also documented two-generation payoffs: student parents’ successful pursuits of higher education are associated with gains in children’s future earnings as soon as early adulthood.

Problem-solving skills developed as parents

Parenting is hard, and parents develop skills along the way that are also useful in their pursuit of higher education, including multitasking, patience, communication, time management, adaptability, creativity, leadership, and crisis management. Student parents are also resourceful in seeking and giving support to others, particularly other student parents. Shared experiences as students who are also parents allow them to provide and seek supports (e.g., peer and family supports) that may not be available to students who are not parents. Student parents of all races and ethnicities are in a unique and advantageous place where they can practice these life skills on a regular basis with their children and partners and can easily transfer these skills to their higher education experiences.

What barriers do Latino student parents face in navigating higher education?

Hispanic student parents face numerous barriers navigating higher education institutions modelled hundreds of years ago to support student bodies that bear little resemblance to them: White, male students from well-off families whose primary responsibility is school. These barriers include financial strain, unsupportive campus climates, limited access to practical supports, and role strain (tension between roles as parents and students). This list of barriers is not comprehensive, and we do deal with hurdles that are more universal to the student parent experience, such as scheduling difficulties, a lack of time to take care of oneself, and child care.

Financial strain

While financial concerns can be a large barrier for all students, they are especially salient for student parents. Welcoming children into the world is exciting and rewarding but may also come with new challenges and expenses that can pose barriers for students navigating an expensive higher education system while providing  for their children and families. At the same time, our analysis finds that more than two thirds of Hispanic parenting students have incomes less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. As a result, Latino student parents face high rates of basic needs insecurity. About 85 percent of Latino single parents of young children who responded to the #RealCollege Survey 2020 experienced food insecurity, housing insecurity, or homelessness during the fall semester of 2019—before the pandemic.

Unsupportive campus climates

Latino student parents navigating higher education report unsupportive school climates and a lack of institutional resources to support their unique needs. Latino student parents, and mothers in particular, are in a unique position at the “intersectionality of ethnicity, generational status [e.g., generational position in the U.S.], social class, first generation status [e.g., first in family to go to college], and motherhood” while navigating systems that were designed specifically for young, single, dependent White students without significant responsibilities outside of school.

Familism is defined as the importance of close family relationships, obligations to the family, and the family serving as a referent.

There is a mismatch here. Even when Latino parenting students view their campuses supportive of “traditional students,” they can feel unsupported. Unsupportive institutional and racial climates can be defined as college spaces that do not support or create a safe place for students to learn. For student parents, an unsupportive environment can manifest as 1) a lack of understanding or flexibility from faculty; 2) a lack of child care or child-friendly spaces on college campuses; and 3) a lack of consideration of the challenging schedules of student parents through accommodations like priority registration. Further, Latino students more broadly (including those who are not parents) experience differences in access to campus resources and interactions with faculty and staff. For instance, students of color report that their faculty and administrators have pre-determined stereotypes that shape how they are treated. And, in some cases, Latino student parents, specifically, have reported perceiving and experiencing staff as obstacles, because they provided inaccurate information about classroom policies and campus-based services that support their academic success. Single Latino student parents who did not feel supported by their community college’s services were deterred from using them altogether, causing them to turn to family and community resources.

Limited access to practical supports

Many Latino student parents are either the first in their family to go to college (see Table 1 above) or the first in their family to go through the American education system. Both scenarios can limit the support their families can provide in the educational process, financially and practically. Families without a college graduate earn less money than families with more education, which can make it difficult to financially support a child going to college. Further, not having gone to college oneself or having gone to college in another country can make it difficult to understand the resources, time, and investment required to successfully pursue higher education. Perhaps because of these two factors, Latinos report higher levels of debt aversion than other racial and ethnic groups, which can make it hard to enter today’s costly higher education system and complete it without significant student loans. Latino students reported a desire not to take on debt specifically because of family concerns about debt (as opposed to more general concerns about debt).

Hispanic families are less likely to access supports through the social safety net than their peers with other racialized identities. And the immigrant status of Latino families may also play a role in student parents’ access to supports along their educational journeys. While 91 percent of Latino student parents are U.S. citizens (see Table 1 above), many students live in immigrant communities or immigrant families, including mixed status families, that face significant barriers to accessing supportive services. These barriers include a complex web of administrative barriers, eligibility criteria that vary from program to program and state to state, prorated benefits, and chilling effects. Below we provide examples of barriers from some of the largest parts of the social safety net for families with children: the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as federal financial aid. Other programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), have fewer barriers based on immigration status.

Mother holding daughter while studying

Administrative barriers and chilling effects. The United States’ social safety net is a complicated web of programs, each with their own eligibility criteria and application processes. It is notoriously difficult to navigate, and these difficulties are compounded when information is not available in an applicant’s primary language and sensitive information (e.g., Social Security numbers) is collected on application forms. Further, anti-immigrant policies, such as heightened immigration enforcement and proposed expansions of the federal public charge rule, can also deter immigrant families from accessing supports for which they are eligible for fear of jeopardizing their family’s future documentation status in the United States.

Ineligibility and prorated benefits. Beyond the difficulties of navigating the safety net, some families are not eligible for full benefits of programs based on their immigration status. For example, all members of a household must hold Social Security numbers for the family to be eligible for benefits from the EITC. If a student parent was born outside the United States or lives with a parent who was born outside the United States, their family may not receive any benefits from this important tax credit. Further, when it comes to financial aid, students who are undocumented immigrants themselves are excluded from eligibility for many financial aid programs, including federal and some state financial aid programs. And, SNAP benefits, which are determined at the household level (rather than the individual level), are prorated based on the number of citizen or qualified immigrant members.

Role strain

Student parents navigate the world not as students or parents but simultaneously as both, while also likely being partners, providers, and workers. Conflicting pressures from holding multiple roles can lead to great pressure, known as role strain, or even “role overload” in the context of parenting students. Student parents face multiple unrealistic expectations to be perfect students, perfect parents, and perfect children to their own parents. Faculty expect their students’ education to be their top priority and rarely consider that a student could be a parent. Meanwhile, families—and society—expect parenthood to be a parent’s top priority.

Role strain may be especially salient for Latino student parents, as familism emphasizes the importance of family and the centrality of motherhood to identity. Fifty-nine percent of respondents to a survey of student parents at a four-year Hispanic-Serving Institution reported that balancing school and family is a challenge.

Although familism is generally thought of as a positive mechanism through which Latino students generally find support and motivation to succeed in higher education, it can also serve as a “double whammy” for Latina student mothers. Some Latina student mothers feel pressured to prioritize being mothers and struggle to be students at the same time. This same trend is seen in research on gendered familism in the higher education experiences of Latino students more broadly, where Latina students were expected to provide for their families and serve as caretakers for siblings and other family members. In this case, family and culture could work against Latina student mothers’ pursuit of education. Some Latina student mothers have reported experiencing pressure from family to focus their energy on their role as a mother at the expense of their education. A young Latina student parent explained this feeling of “mom guilt” as follows: “There is guilt on the family side and student side because you want to be good at both things, but you have to prioritize and usually your child wins.” At the same time, Latina student mothers have also articulated a longer-term view of wanting to create better lives for their children as motivation for succeeding in higher education. Others have not found familism to play a large role in their educational pursuits.

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Fathers, on the other hand, face cultural pressure to provide financially for their children, in addition to being involved fathers. While earning a credential supports this goal in the long-term, it requires short-term sacrifices. And young men are less likely to enroll in college than young women regardless of parenting status. In 2020, 30 percent of Latino men ages 18-24 were enrolled in college, compared to 42 percent of Latina women.

Importantly, student parents’ identities are woven together like braids or “trenzas de identidades.” For Latina student mothers, in particular, their student, Latino, and mother identities are intertwined. Like a trenza (braid), student parents weave together their personal, professional, and communal identities, often making them feel stronger and more complete. At the same time, weaving together these and many other identities is fraught with complexity, tensions, and obstacles demonstrating the complexities of navigating being a student parent. This complexity and tension make it difficult for Latina student mothers to navigate higher education because they want to be good mothers and spend significant time with their children while also being good students. This is not an easy task when higher education is not always supportive of student parents.

Learning by Listening: Service Delivery Perspectives

To learn more about Latino student parents’ experiences, our team interviewed leaders from three communities serving Latino parenting students, including staff from three community colleges and one community partner that are part of the Expanding Opportunities for Young Families initiative (see text box for additional details on the initiative). Together, the three community colleges in Austin, Miami, and Santa Fe currently serve approximately 100 young Latino student parents (under age 30) through intensive student parent coaching efforts. Many more students are served through additional services such as family activities and events, parenting classes, changes to campus policies, and family-friendly spaces. Through these interviews, we gained an understanding of service delivery staff’s perspectives on their interactions with Latino parenting students.

About the Expanding Opportunities for Young Families Initiative

Expanding Opportunities for Young Families (EOYF) is a multiyear, two-generation initiative funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to support young parenting students and their children. The initiative is led by three sites (Austin, TX; Miami, FL; and Santa Fe, NM) that are collaborations between local community colleges and community partners that provide resources, advising, and wrap-around services to young parents (including financial, academic, and workforce supports, health care, and housing services). EOYF sites largely serve young parenting students of color, particularly Hispanic students.

The EOYF approach focuses on equity by giving young families what they need and want to enjoy full, healthy, and happy lives and to eliminate disparities in outcomes. EOYF sites center student voice and emphasize equity in program design and delivery by co-designing programs with young parents, striving to serve the young parents who most need support, and taking individualized approaches to meet students where they are.

Diversity of lived experiences

Latino student parents’ lived experiences were a prominent theme in discussions with EOYF program staff. Staff at the three sites emphasized Latino student parents’ diversity of experiences. Many Latino student parents were navigating educational experiences as a Latino student, a parent, and an immigrant, while others had families who had been in the United States for generations.

Students’ experiences with the immigration system significantly affected their interactions with program staff; their experiences made them reticent to trust staff and affected how they engaged with services offered by EOYF. Below are two examples of how these challenges unfolded:

“There’s like just lots of trauma that comes from having to immigrate here, right? And so, we definitely have to make sure that when we speak to them, we really try to be as sensitive and as empathetic right as possible.”  

“Students were hesitant to ever take money from [the program], whether it was child care scholarships or emergency funds because they had a fear of it going on to their [immigration] file and affect[ing] their ability to get the immigration status fixed.” 

Latino student parents’ lived experiences beyond the immigration system also came through in their interactions with site staff. The following example highlights the experience of a Latino student parent who is not a first-generation American but is a first-generation college student. This experience is still challenging but may look a bit different than if they were a first-generation Latino and college student at the same time.

“Those that are having difficulty, they tend to be in multi-generational households and… I think most of the students that we work with in general are first generation college students…and that includes our Hispanic students.” 


The central role of the family was another key theme of students’ experiences affecting service delivery. For instance, some students declined child care services because they preferred for family members to care for their children. Even in circumstances when students did use early care and education services, they still relied on family members for care outside standard child care hours (e.g., early mornings and evenings). Site staff noted that students who do not have local family support struggle with balancing school and work due to not having the extra support that family provides.

“In terms of receiving child care services, there is a bit of a fear of child care providers and feeling like the family unit is probably the best place for a child.” 

Site staff also shared that student parents appreciated site programming that involved their family members, including their children and other adults in their families. These findings reinforce the central role of family for Latino student parents that was highlighted in the Latino family literature more broadly.

“We do look at it as being open to the community for several reasons including that we offer some family activities with different community partners like a family story time.” 

Relationship building and trust

Because of students’ diverse life experiences, site staff highlighted that relationship building and trust are crucial to successfully serving student parents. Although site staff highlighted that service delivery was not always tailored just for Latino student parents, services were delivered (in strategic and impromptu ways) to cover the diverse lived experiences of student parents in the programs. No matter what services were being offered, they always centered on the student experience. For instance, some programs were more intentional about ensuring that program and service information was available in Spanish and English. The main goal of each EYOF site was to ensure that students received the help they needed to succeed.

“You gotta establish and build a connection and try to find out how we can best help them [students]… and wrap as many services around them and not just let them know because a lot of times when students come here and they don’t have status, a lot of people will just brush them off.”

“Being able to say …. here I’m going to give you this or I’m going to show you this service or this program or like showing students that you are in their corner…. staff have to do that a lot in order for a student to feel like OK, this person gets me OK I can trust them.”

Critical role of funding for service delivery

Site staff specifically highlighted limited funding as a challenge they face in delivering services to parenting students. They shared that additional funding to support students is crucial and wished they had more funding to help all student parents with their basic needs and challenges.

The need for funding is especially salient for Latino student parents because some are ineligible (due to their immigration status) for federal financial aid and other resources to support their higher education journey. Further, Latino students tend to be debt averse. Many of the real-life challenges that student parents face (e.g., housing, transportation, legal services, etc.) can be easily solved with additional funding resources.

“For me, not having enough money to help them with all their issues, I wish we had a pot of money at the college that was dedicated just to help them [all student parents regardless of background] with, you know, more housing, more emergency funds.”  

Student Perseverance and Resilience

Site staff noted throughout the interviews that Latino student parents were persistent and resilient. Staff across the three sites talked about the diverse ways that student parents overcome the challenges they face in pursuing higher education. They found it rewarding to share in students’ successes and to being able to help through the programming they offered students.

“I really enjoy getting to know these people on a human level and also understanding different perspectives I guess has been really incredibly rewarding and I’ve learned an incredible amount.” 

“For me, I love to see the like generational kind of impact and change that our programs are having on students…. hearing the parents talking about their kids and how their kids are being impacted by, you know, them being in school and just doing all these like great things that they’re doing.”

As Latino student parents face numerous barriers pursuing higher education, site staff work to support their success. Students bring their lived experiences to interactions with staff who must build relationships and earn their trust to effectively deliver services. For instance, students’ experiences as immigrants can create mistrust when offered services that could benefit them. Site staff admitted that their job of delivering services is not always easy. Often, they must provide support in creative ways that are “outside the box,” or they must acknowledge that they do not have the resources to support a student’s specific circumstances. Despite this reality of human services work, the students are resilient and remain motivated to pursue their education, which staff find rewarding.

Conclusion and Recommendations: How Can Colleges Support Latino Student Parents

The knowledge base on how to support Latino student parents is at a nascent stage. While many of the existing student parent initiatives are in states with high percentages of Latino students and Hispanic Serving Institutions, we found limited documentation of programs designed to support Latino parenting students specifically[2]—and almost no evidence on their effectiveness.

To develop policy and practice recommendations for higher education professionals, we combined what we learned from service providers in Austin, Miami, and Santa Fe with recommendations from the literature in which Latina student mothers made their own suggestions on how college campuses could better support them as Hispanic parenting students. We offer the following three recommendations for higher education institutions and service providers to better serve the 634,000 Latino student parents in college.

Recommendation 1: Higher education institutions and service providers must understand the diversity of Latino student parents’ lived experiences—as students, parents, family members, and community members, and often many of these at once—to better support their success in higher education.

Higher education institutions and service providers need to learn about student parents’ lived experiences to tailor policies, services, and spaces to support them. Colleges can gather information on their Latino student parents’ experiences and needs by conducting surveys (on current student parents and those who depart college without completing a credential) with questions designed for student parents or by building trusted one-on-one relationships with student parents. Any information on immigration status and other sensitive student parent demographics should be kept confidential.

Recommendation 2: Higher education institutions should design tailored supports for student parents, including Latino student parents, to offset the reality that most college campuses are not designed to successfully serve either of these populations. These can be supported with funding for institutions and/or funding for students.

At the institutional level, college campuses can create parent- and child-friendly infrastructure with investments of varying sizes. Infrastructure investments include lactation rooms, changing tables in bathrooms, parking designated for parents, and on-campus family-friendly housing. Some campuses have also designated family-friendly spaces on campus, such as study rooms that allow children, so parents can study on campus with their children.

Other tailored supports for student parents include affordable or free on-campus child care that aligns with students’ class schedules; student-parent mentoring and opportunities for connection with one another; and parenting education.

A supportive environment for student parents of all backgrounds can also be institutionalized through intentional policy decisions, such as supporting flexibility in deadlines, class schedules, and attendance policies, including the ability to bring children to class.

To complement institutional changes, student parents can be supported directly with scholarships, emergency aid, and other funding mechanisms that support their basic needs (e.g., housing, food, mental health) as they work toward graduation. Support for students should be made available to all students no matter their circumstances.

Many of these suggestions align with practices for supporting student parents across racial and ethnic groups and will benefit student parents broadly. Importantly, though, policies and practices can be co-designed with Latino students to ensure that they align with their unique cultural experiences. Once institutions understand who their Latino student parents are and identify their needs (see Recommendation 1), they will be able tailor services to more specifically meet their needs. Latino student parents can be valuable partners in tailoring services to meet their needs. Tailoring services can take many forms like offering services in Spanish, offering culturally relevant parenting education that considers Latino cultural-familial values, or implementing child care supports and arrangements that align with Latino student parents’ values around who watches their children. Services will vary based on the lived experiences of students being served. No matter the intervention, building trust through relationships will be critically important for students who may be hesitant to accept support for fear it may be used against them in the future.

States and higher education institutions can also tailor policies to be inclusive of Latino student parents’ lived experiences. In New Mexico, for instance, state financial aid is available to students who are state residents regardless of federal immigration status.

Recommendation 3:  Services need to embrace Latino student parents’ families—including their children, nuclear, and extended families—as an important source of support for their higher education journeys.

Higher education institutions and service providers should actively engage student parents’ families in programing and services. Intentionally including families could take the form of family engagement nights, holistic services that go beyond school (e.g., child care, housing, family health care services), and offering services at times and in formats and languages conducive to including families and extended family members. Building trusting relationships among institutions, service program providers, and families can help families feel safe participating in programs and services, especially when specific experiences, such as dealing with the immigration system, may make them hesitant to do so.


Our insights in this brief reflect the experiences, knowledge, and ideas shared during the past three years by young parents, EOYF site leads and staff, community college leaders, community partner organizations, and the Casey Foundation. We are especially grateful to EOYF leaders Rachel Kutcher, Nancy Dunlavy, Angelica Cancino de Sandoval, Cecy Tamez-Rodriguez, Lourdes Perez, and Stephanie Rivera Silva; and staff at enFAMiLIA, Inc., Antonieta Franco Rincon, Charmaine Dennis, and Isabel Padilla, for sharing their thoughts and experiences with us.

This research was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation. We are grateful for the support and reviews we received from Kristen Harper, Doré LaForett, Keiyitho Omonuwa, Zakia Redd, and Laney Taylor.

Suggested citation

Aceves, L., Ryberg, R., & O’Toole, D. (2024). Elevating Latino parenting students in higher education. Child Trends. DOI: 10.56417/1338g1435j


[1] According to the authors’ analysis of the 2020 NPSAS using DataLab. Data collection for the 2020 NPSAS that took place during Spring 2020 was impacted by the beginning of the COVID pandemic, which may affect data quality in ways that are still being investigated.

[2] One exception is the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council Parent/Child Program, which provides two-generation scholarships for parents and their children. (https://www.edexcelencia.org/programs-initiatives/growing-what-works-database/lulac-parentchild-program) and (https://www.alamo.edu/spc/parent-child-scholarship)