One reason you may be worried about an unplanned pregnancy is your desire to finish your education before having a child.
People may be telling you that it’s impossible to earn your high school diploma or college degree if you’re also a parent — a hurtful stereotype that contributes to a tragically high dropout rate among teen moms.
Please be reassured that not only is it possible to finish school, it’s actually one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. Not only will it improve your quality of life, it will also set a good example for your child about the importance of education for his or her own long-term success.
- You’ll have an easier time finding a good job. By 2020 (that’s next year!) 65% of all new jobs will require some form of education after high school.
- You’ll be able to earn more money to provide for your baby’s needs. High school graduates earn an average of $8,000 more per year than those who drop out, while college graduates earn $26,500 more per year.
Finishing your education as a parent starts with understanding your rights as a pregnant or parenting student and knowing where to turn for resources to help you accomplish your goals.
Know Your Rights as a Pregnant or Parenting Student
Title IX is a federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools that accept federal funding, and it applies to both high schools and colleges. This law makes it illegal for schools to discriminate against pregnant or parenting students and guarantees equal access to classes and activities if you become pregnant or have a child.
- If your school offers special accommodations, such as note taking or special seating, for students with other medical conditions, it must offer them to pregnant students.
- If the school offers online classes or tutoring to other students with temporary medical conditions, it must offer the same to pregnant or parenting students.
- Your school must excuse all absences due to pregnancy and childbirth. This includes allowing you to make up exams and assignments missed due to pregnancy or childbirth.
- Your school cannot ban you from participating in extracurricular activities because you are pregnant or have a child.
- Teachers and professors cannot show bias against you because you are pregnant or parenting.
- High school teachers and school officials cannot discourage you from continuing your education if you become pregnant. For example, they can’t tell you to drop out or that you can’t go to college if you have a baby.
- You cannot be forced to enter segregated programs for parenting or pregnant students.
- If you are a student-athlete, you cannot be kicked off the team for being pregnant or parenting. You may take time off if your doctor advises you to wait until after giving birth to resume playing your sport.
- Your school cannot make you change majors or degree programs if you are pregnant or parenting.
- If you live in campus housing, you cannot be kicked out because of your pregnancy. After giving birth you may be offered family-friendly housing where you can live with your baby while completing your studies.
- If you have an academic, athletic or need-based scholarship, your school may not revoke it due to your pregnancy or parenting status.
In addition to these requirements, your school must have a designated individual you can talk to confidentially if you feel that your rights have been violated.
Know Where to Find Help for Pregnant and Parenting Students
The good news is there are many options for balancing your academic and parental responsibilities, including child care services, help with tuition costs and other resources.
- If your income falls below the poverty line, you may qualify to place your child in a Head Start or Early Head Start program. Click on the Head Start Center Locator to find a program close to you.
- Early Head Start is a federally-funded program that serves pregnant women and children up to 3 years of age whose incomes fall below the poverty level. It promotes health, nutrition and safety, as well as early education services for your child from qualified teachers.
- Head Start serves children under 5 whose families have incomes below the poverty line. While Early Head Start serves children under 3, your child will transition into a regular Head Start preschool program between the ages of 3 and 5. Your child will participate in early education activities with qualified teachers to promote kindergarten readiness, along with screenings, nutritious meals and other services to support healthy development.
- Some schools offer on-campus child care for students who are also parents. In addition, you may have family members or friends who are able to care for your child while you’re attending class or studying.
- Ask if your school offers any distance education courses that you can complete online. This may allow you to finish your diploma or degree while spending less time on campus and more time with your child.
- If you’re concerned about tuition costs, there are a number of financial aid programs and grants available for low-income students and single parents. Depending on where you live, you may also apply for one of several scholarships for single moms!
There are many other generous local agencies that can help you find housing, food, clothing and other material necessities to support you and your baby while you’re going to school.
During your pregnancy, you may enroll in a free childbirth and parenting class to help you prepare for the challenges of balancing parenthood with other life activities. For example, First Steps at Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers gives you the opportunity to earn free baby care items while learning valuable information to help you care for your baby and yourself.
At Mosaic, we’ve seen first-hand that you can provide a healthy start for your baby and achieve your own goals in life!
Contact us for access to our free pregnancy services.