U center for student-parents to celebrate expansion

The center’s officials will hold an open house from noon to 4 p.m. today.

Bryce Haugen

Housed in two small rooms in Appleby Hall, the General College’s Student Parent Higher Education for Low-Income People Center was “busting out of the seams,” Director Susan Warfield said.

So in August, those rooms turned into offices, and the center doubled in size, relocating to one room in the basement.

From noon to 4 p.m. today, center officials will hold an open house to celebrate the recent changes and to look to the program’s future. Warfield will offer a program update and General College Dean David Taylor will speak.

All student-parents are welcome to attend today’s event, Warfield said.

The center serves approximately 500 students with children, providing them a place to study, use computers and find support among their peers.

“These parents are exhausted all the time. They’re up studying after their kids are in bed,” Warfield said. “Since they’re doing a lot of nurturing of other people, we try to use our resources to nurture them.”

During weekly meetings at the center, student-parents exchange parenting advice and study tips. In recent years, attendance has increased from five or six participants per week to more than 30 participants per week, Warfield said.

The increased interest in the program made new facilities a necessity, Taylor said.

“As we looked at the expansion of the center, it became clear that, programmatically, they needed more space,” he said.

The new room includes a reception area, new computers, expanded study and lounging spaces, and a mural by local artist Maxine Bergh. The mural adorns the wall next to a larger new play area, where children of students can hang out if a parent is present.

The changes have increased staff productivity and created a more comfortable center that’s poised for growth, Warfield said.

“The study space is huge,” she said. “People are not going to hang out at a center if they come in and there’s not space for them.”

Although the General College has administered the program since it began in 1967, the center provides services to all University student-parents. More students come from the College of Liberal Arts than from any other University college, Warfield said.

She said that despite myths, student-parents have higher grade point averages on average than nonparents, according to the center’s research.

“These student-parents are working for the future of their children, which tends to increase their motivation,” she said.

Warfield said most program members are single mothers, but parents of all ages and types come to the center.

Second-year biology student Hawo Nur said the center helped her secure partial federal child-care funding for her five children.

“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I would be unable to pay for my education without this program.”

Senior Electra Rich, an English student, said she likes having a place to meet other student-parents.

“Something about having kids and trying to go to school with kids gives us common ground,” she said.