Lack of Support for Parenting Students

Many students who attend universities across Canada have either faced the dilemma themselves or watched friends struggle with the choice between attaining a university education and having children. Since university students are mature individuals in their child-bearing years, it would make sense that Canadian university campuses would assist young people in their struggle by allowing them to have both an education and a family. Although many universities in Canada offer some resources, most do not offer all that is necessary. The University of Toronto greatly surpasses every other Canadian university, both through the resources available and through the general awareness of these resources amongst the student body. The majority of universities in Canada offer distance education, evening classes, on-campus daycare and rarely even one baby change table on campus. However, no university in the country offers the number of resources that the University of Toronto provides.

The University of Toronto needs to be credited on their excellent service and their acknowledgement of the needs of pregnant women and parenting students. Pregnancy counseling is available for adoption and birth options as well as counseling for struggling parents. There is on-campus housing for families attending university, with priority to single parents. There are numerous on-campus daycare facilities as well as child co-ops with student discounts and subsidies available. The university provides a babysitter referral service for parents with needs which extend beyond that of the on-campus daycares. Loans, bursaries and scholarships are provided specifically for parenting students and are clearly made known to those who are eligible. Students are also allowed to take academic leave for a semester, there are private designated areas for women to breast feed on campus and parenting students are given priority in work study positions. An on campus food and clothing bank exists for students in need and residence services help students find affordable or subsidized off-campus housing. Almost all buildings are wheelchair and stroller accessible. Flexible class times as well as evening and weekend classes and distance education via internet make courses easy for parenting students. Also, paid pregnancy and maternity leave is offered for both male and female full time and part time staff with full benefits.

All of this is made known through the Family Care Office which is a central hub that provides information about these resources to staff and students. Although many other schools offer some of these services, no school has taken parenting students into consideration as much as the University of Toronto. Other universities could learn from the example set by the University of Toronto so that women do not have to make the decision between pursuing an education and having children. Canadian universities need to send the message that one’s education is not over with pregnancy, and that women can indeed succeed in university with or without children. In order for this to be possible however Canadian universities need to fulfill their responsibilities to the hundreds of thousands of young parents in need. This would improve not only the level of education among young mothers and fathers in Canada, but would also allow these young people the same opportunity for success as those without children. In a modern and educated society such as that of the university community, it is vastly immature to ignore the procreative rights of students or to suppress the equality of women by forcing them to choose between motherhood and education.

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