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Campus and Community

Cal Poly Joins Program to Support Students Who Are Parents

A graduate student and her child run on a field on campus.
Written By Cynthia Lambert

Cal Poly has been selected as one of nine colleges, universities and college systems in the U.S. to become part of a new college community of practice to support students who are parents. To support the work, Cal Poly will receive $60,000 over two years from the Urban Institute’s Data-to-Action Campaign for Parenting Students.

Staff and faculty in Cal Poly’s Students with Dependents Program and the School of Education will work to collect data on parenting students and use it to support students and their educational goals — especially those students who are single mothers. 

A graduating student smiles as she sits with fellow graduates. Her young child is on her lap.
Ashlee Hernandez, pictured with her son at Commencement, is also a graduate of the Higher Education Counseling and Student Affairs (HECSA) master's program.

“We are trying to find an accurate way to know the number of students with dependents on our campus and who they are,” said Courtney Moore, student services coordinator for the Students with Dependents Program within the Cal Poly’s Dean of Students office. 

There are currently about 100 students with dependents at the university, Moore said. The actual number may be far higher as students currently must contact the program and identify their status as student parents.

The result is that some students may not be receiving the services they may need to work toward completion of their degree, such as priority registration, financial resources, priority enrollment for childcare at the ASI Children’s Center, and other resources. Students with children can fill out an intake form and explore additional services on the Dean of Students website.

Moore and Tina Cheuk, assistant professor in the School of Education in the Bailey College of Science and Mathematics, will also work with Cal Poly’s Office of Institutional Research, Civil Rights and Compliance Office, and the Office of the Registrar to build best practices for data collection to improve and expand resources and programs. Their work may serve as a model for the rest of the 23-campus California State University system, which enrolls nearly 460,000 students.

Cheuk also co-leads an advisory committee, the CSU Student Parent Network, and serves on the advisory board of the California Alliance for Student Parent Success. The committee advised state leaders on the design of Assembly Bill 2881, which seeks to improve access to classes and information about basic needs resources for student parents, smoothing their path to graduation. The bill, signed into law in September of 2022, requires the CSU — as well as the 10-campus University of California with more than 295,000 students and California Community Colleges, which have 116 facilities and 2 million students — to offer priority registration to student parents. To do so, universities need to identify their enrolled student parents.

As a public scholar, Cheuk is gathering stories of student parents as part of a media campaign that centers the joy, resilience and thriving of pregnant and parenting students with the CSU. To learn more, visit the Student Parent Joy website.

To elevate the experience of student parents, Cheuk and the Student with Dependents Program will host a screening Tuesday, May 21, from 5:30-7 p.m. of “Raising Up,” a five-part short film series. The family-friendly event will also include dinner and discussion of childcare, mental health, housing needs and workforce development. This event is sponsored by the Bailey College of Science and Mathematics Inclusion and Equity Fund. Register on Cal Poly Now (Cal Poly community members) or at

Header image caption: Maya Valree, a 2023 master’s graduate of the Higher Education Counseling and Student Affairs (HECSA) program at the School of Education, is pictured with her daughter, who attended ASI Children's Center.

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