About Risers

Why Risers?

The demographics of students in higher education are evolving. Today's postsecondary students are older, more financially independent, and more likely to be raising children than ever before. Student parents are often overlooked, despite making up nearly a quarter of the student body, with many colleges unaware of the number of student parents enrolled. Current systems and structures prioritize “traditional” students—18 year olds, arriving directly from high school.

This is a lost opportunity. Student parents are a vital and valuable part of the postsecondary system. They are exceptionally motivated to succeed, for both themselves and their children. This is why we call them Risers. Risers are resilient and resourceful, and they outperform students without children. With the right support, they can realize their incredible potential.

By acknowledging the existence of Risers, understanding their unique needs and strengths, and actively seeking to improve the likelihood of their completion, we can ensure the success of student parents and create a path for families that leads to increased economic mobility, improved well-being, and overall better outcomes for parents and their children.

Raising Dreams

From the filmmakers behind First Generation and Unlikely comes the short film Raising Dreams, an intimate portrait of two student parents on their postsecondary journey. This documentary featurette uncovers the challenges and triumphs as well as the need for innovative solutions to ensure parents have the support to complete their degrees.

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Learn about the realities and resourcefulness of Risers.

Student Parents: Who are they?

Of the 17 million students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs across the US, nearly 1 in 4 are student parents.

Source: IWPR, 2019

A vast portion of the 36 million adults with some college credit but no degree are student parents.

Source: NSCRC, 2019

Only 13% of student parents will graduate within six years.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2011

70% of student parents are mothers. 43% are single mothers.

Source: IWPR, 2019

29% of student parents have taken 1-5 breaks from college.

Source: PERG, 2016

The median age of student parents is 32.

Source: IWPR, 2019

25% of student parents are enrolled exclusively online vs. 7% of all students.

Source: GAO, 2019

A large portion of the 16 million students enrolled in trade schools, vocational training programs, and bootcamps or alternative college pathways are student parents.

Source: NCES, 2019

Supporting student parents drives economic mobility:

Parents who complete their degree double their income.

Source: Ascend at the Aspen Institute, 2020

A $1,000 increase in family income results in up to a 27% increase in child cognitive development.

Source: Cooper and Stewart, 2017 for LSE

Single mothers who complete a bachelor’s degree are predicted to earn over $610K more over their lifetimes than those with a high school diploma.

Source: IWPR, 2018

But they face many barriers:

Parents of preschool-aged children only have 10 hours a day—after paid work, housework, and child care—to fit in sleeping, eating, leisure activities, studying, and college courses.

Source: Wladis et al, 2018 for CUNY

In a recent study, student parents who used on-campus child care were 3x as likely to complete college. However, the current supply of on-campus child care only meets 5% of the need.

Source: IWPR, 2017,
Wladis et al, 2018 for CUNY

Student parents are less likely to qualify for state and federal financial aid — and tuition assistance can threaten eligibility for government benefits such as low-income support programs.

Source: USDA, 2020,
Young Invincibles, 2018

Parenting stress in postsecondary education is strongly correlated with significant and persistent health concerns.

Source: Scharp and Hall, 2017

Student parents deserve more.You can help!