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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Priority registration for student parents and caregivers offered through new ‘virtual hub’

The Transfer and Reentry Center has partnered with the Women’s Resources and Research Center to provide priority registration for students who are parents or primary caregivers to adults

Students who provide primary care for their children or are pregnant, as well as students who are primary caregivers of adults, are now eligible for priority registration through the Transfer and Reentry Center’s partnership with the Women’s Resources and Research Center

“It was a natural partnership and, goodness, it’s been a really wonderful collaboration,” said Marissa Weiss, a transfer retention specialist. 

The application, which is offered yearly, is available through the Transfer and Reentry Center’s webpage

Those who become pregnant or are in the process of adopting or fostering a child while at the university are encouraged to reach out to Weiss. 

As part of the push to create more awareness and opportunities for student parents and caregivers, the university has launched a new webpage dedicated to pooling resources throughout the university.

  “We don’t have a Student Parent Resource Center like Berkeley, who has a robust one. We would love to have one,” Weiss said. “When we launched the student parent website, it says on there it’s a virtual hub because it’s almost like a virtual student parent center.”  

Juliene Obusan, a fourth-year global disease biology major, said she had to take time off from her undergraduate career at UC Davis‚ which she started in 2014, to care for her two children. 

“My advisor knew about me being a student parent because I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, and I had to withdraw from school because I got pregnant with my second baby,” Obusan said. “I never heard of any accommodations for student parents through my advisor.”

Weiss said she has had difficulty identifying student parents unless they claimed a dependent on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), information to which the institution has limited access, or unless they identified themselves as a single parent in their admissions questions. 

“We had to get some background information on the parents which is hard because student parents aren’t really tracked in a consistent manner,” Weiss said. “It’s not unique to UC Davis. It’s really a national issue.”

Weiss said caregivers are even harder to track because they don’t know what types of questions could be asked.

Eric Hanaway, a third-year astrophysics major and caregiver, said he was unaware of the priority registration option until recently. He said he only found about it when The California Aggie called for a request for comment by student parents and caregivers on this development. 

Weiss said she hopes more awareness about the new program will help students. 

Among the resources offered to student parents, the Women’s Resources and Research Center offers its “Student Parent Closet” program, providing free diapers and other supplies to student parents, though the pandemic has limited the availability of those resources. 

Obusan said that she had looked into the programming at the Early Childhood Lab, but because of its half-day programming, she would end up having to pay double the price to have a sitter watch her two daughters for the rest of the day. 

“It wouldn’t have worked for us because of the way I scheduled my classes,” Obusan said. “It was really hard to schedule my classes in clusters, so they were all over the place.”

Kelly Twibell Sanchez, the interim director of the Early Childhood Lab, said the lab currently serves up to 24 children for essential workers, but typically serves up to 84 children for half-day programming.

“One of the hopes that we have in partnering with [Weiss] in the future is to look at what we can do to make the Early Childhood Laboratory more accommodating, particularly to undergraduate student families, single parents [and] low-income parents,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said she hopes to open up full-time programming for the children of student parents in the future and that the Transfer and Reentry Center will partner to publicize the opportunity to student parents. 

“There’s research that shows the more time children spend time on campus, the more they identify that college or university is for them in the future,” Weiss said. “So in a weird way, it’s almost like doing recruitment to the very youngest people.” 

Obusan said she was often dependent on individual professors to provide accommodations, and mandatory synchronous lectures haven’t helped her.

“The synchronous lectures are a little harsh, especially the mandatory attendance,” Obusan said. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic and there’s a lot of things going on.” 

Before the pandemic, Obusan’s babysitter got sick and Obusan was told she could not bring the child into the classroom for a mandatory lecture or leave the classroom early to take care of her child. She was concerned about the impact this could have on her grade.

“I know there [are] not a lot of student parents on campus, but we also matter,” Obusan said.

When Hanaway’s mother had cancer removed from her stomach last month, he was unable to attend his finals. 

“Fortunately, my professors were able to just give me the grade I had without taking finals,” Hanaway said. 

Obusan said she would love it if there was a community of parents that she could connect with.

“I never realized that being a parent is very isolating,” Obusan said. “I’m never alone because I’m always with my kids, but it’s very isolating.” 

Recently, Sanchez piloted a workshop to provide student parents with early childhood development information and is working on a program to distribute play kits.

“I know that particularly when you are a student, housing space is limited,” Sanchez said. “So having a rotating kit of play materials for your child that you don’t have to store long-term can be appealing.” 

Sanchez said she would like to get the lab up to 80% capacity for Fall Quarter.

Obusan said she hopes that UC Davis will look into adjusting FAFSA fees for student parents who live off campus because the price for a family is much higher than it is for childless students who can have roommates.

“I think there’s a big discrepancy in prices that I think should be changed for student parents,” Obusan said.

Sanchez said the priority registration is intended to help student parents and caregivers manage their schedules. 

“Having that priority registration at least gives them a solid start to set up that important family schedule,” Sanchez said. “Hopefully [it] will take some stress off of parents as they juggle all their responsibilities.” 

Written by: Kathleen Quinn — campus@theaggie.org

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