Georgia State student Ashley Stroud prepares for a busy day every morning: classes, work, and a 10-year-old son.
“My biggest struggle would be getting enough sleep. My son and I have to get up around 5:30 A.M. to be out of the house at 6:45 A.M. to get him to school on time. After dropping him off, I’ll head to my classes. I may have to go to work after class depending on the day, but if not, then I’ll pick him up from school and home for lunch and to help him with his homework,” she said.
And then, the evenings are for football practice, dinner, and getting ready for bed.
“After that, I have to stay up to do things around the house and then do my homework. All of my days are busy,” Stroud said.
For many students, dropping out of college was not an option, even with the new responsibility of a child.
Georgia State student Carol Palmer said almost one year ago, she made the decision to keep going, no matter how busy the days continuously get.
“My daughter is nine months right now, but when I was pregnant, I knew that not finishing school wasn’t an option for me. I made it too far to stop, my daughter was born on December 22, and I was back in school two weeks later. I’m blessed enough to have such a strong support system that helps out with my daughter while I’m at school,” Palmer said.
But that doesn’t make the days any shorter. Palmer’s day starts at 6:45 A.M. and often doesn’t end until 9 P.M.
“It’s a long day of going to work and school, then coming home, feeding her and getting her ready for bed. With this all being before doing my homework, it’s a bit overwhelming. Because by this time, I am really tired. My daughter is also teething right now, so she wakes up every morning at 2:30 A.M. and falls back asleep around 3:15 A.M.,” Palmer said. “So I’m always really tired trying to make it through the day with maybe four and a half hours of sleep, at the most, each night.”
Georgia State senior Breanna Boyd is the mother of a 7-month-old girl and agreed that she feels she’s come too far to stop now.
“In the beginning, I had a fear of not graduating on time. My motivation is my child. When there are times I want to give up, I know that I can’t because I want to secure my daughter’s future,” Boyd said.
Stroud took a slightly different route when it came to her schooling, but she still prevailed and ended up right here at Georgia State.
“When my son was born, I didn’t really think too much about finishing school. I stopped going for a while, not because of my son, but because I had just lost interest in it as other things became more important to me,” Stroud said. “I stayed out for about two years, but decided to go back after realizing that as a single mother, I wanted better for my son and me.”
Georgia State is one of the most diverse institutions in the nation. According to College Factual, 20.6 percent of the student body is 18-19 years old, 22.6 percent of students are between 20 and 21 years old, and 22.9 percent are between 22 and 24 years old. The university has offered second chances to non-traditional students for years, and despite new moms being a part of that group, there are minimal resources on campus to support a mother’s lifestyle.
Students are often left to online connecting websites, like Urbansitter, which lists Georgia State students offering babysitting services to other members of the university community.
“Georgia State does offer a childcare service,” Boyd said, “But it’s not that big of a help considering how much it costs. It would cost me $1,100 a month to enroll my baby into the daycare at Georgia State, which would require me to get another full-time job.”
Both Stroud and Palmer admitted they weren’t aware of any Georgia State services targeting moms on campus.
Stacey French-Lee, Director of the College of Education and Human Development’s Child Development program said the university’s Lanette L. Suttles Child Development Center provides care for the children of faculty, staff and students. The center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and accommodates children from 3 months old to pre-K.
But French-Lee said that often isn’t an option for many students, as scholarship funds are not enough for all the applicants.
“It can be expensive, [close to] $1,000 per month,” she said. “That’s why we have scholarship funds available, but they don’t reduce everybody’s tuition. The most anyone can get is $3,000 per year.”
She said that while the program tried to keep a mixed range of students and faculty bringing in their children, students can’t often afford it.
“We try to keep it a mixed range, but faculty and staff can probably afford it more often than students who don’t work,” she said.
Plus, there is a waiting list that often drags out to two years, with only 89-92 available spaces per semester, French-Lee explained.
The College of Education recently conducted a feasibility study which looked into the likelihood of expanding the child care program, but a major holdback proved to be financial.
“One simple expansion that we looked into is $7 million” French-Lee said. “So it would take a lot of money to do that. There’s not a lot of spaces Downtown, and really it’s a financial struggle.”
Georgia State also recently lost its Planned Parenthood Southeast office, which gave way to the space for university offices. PPS is planning on relocating to East Atlanta, where they said they’d be able to accommodate more of the population, and would be located towards more highways, interstates, and patient populated neighborhoods.
Planned Parenthood provided a plethora of services including reproductive health care, cancer screenings, birth control for those needing it, and medical abortion services.
The Georgia State Student Health Center, located in the same building as the University Commons, provides similar services to students, such as STD-screening and birth control.
The campus saw its existing providers as fit for students and allowed Planned Parenthood to relocate, according to Luttrell.