At 7:30 a.m., Noel Martin is waking up to start her day as a full-time student at El Paso Community College and prepare her 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, for day care at the YWCA.

After Charlotte is dropped off at 10 a.m., Martin returns home and logs into her virtual classes while simultaneously doing the never-ending job of housework: laundry, cleaning, and preparing meals before her boyfriend and daughter return home.

“Time management is the key,” Martin said about balancing motherhood and being a student. “You’ve got to do it all, you have many hats to wear. But when you’re a mom you’re expected to perform, face it every time. And, it’s hard. And then throwing school into it because you also need to be educated.”

Across the country, about one in five college students are parents, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a national research outlet based in Washington, D.C. The vast majority are mothers, said Lindsey Cruse, managing director of the IWPR’s student-parent success initiative. They’re also disproportionately single mothers and women of color, and are more likely to face issues like food and housing insecurity.

At El Paso Community College, half of its student population are parents.

Martin relies on day care services so she can focus on her studies. To afford those services, she receives financial help from EPCC through the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS) grant. Without that help, Martin said she would barely be able to afford day care, which would jeopardize her educational goals.

Many student parents, however, are not so lucky. The CCAMPIS grant can serve up to 100 families at EPCC — less than 1% of its student-parent population.

And despite the nearly 4 million student parents across the country, about 60% of community colleges lack child care programs, Cruse noted. Over the last two decades, she said, the number of colleges and universities offering child care to students has actually declined.

“The child care system in this country is essentially broken​​,” Cruse said. “That affects student parents because they depend on access to care for their kids while they’re in school or at work.”

Read the full article about the COVID child care crisis by Jewél Jackson and Victoria Rossi at The 74.