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Minnesota Department of Health

Why It Matters:

  • Women in Minnesota reporting an unintended pregnancy were less likely to report "some college" or "college or more” when asked about their future education goals. In addition, women reporting an unintended pregnancy were less likely to report middle and higher income brackets and more likely to report lower income brackets.1
  • Only 40 percent of teen moms finish high school.2
  • Less than two percent of teen mothers (those who have a baby before age 18) finish college by age 30.3
  • Young women who give birth while attending a community college are 65 percent less likely to complete their degree than women who do not have children during that time.4

Their Story

In October 2010, the HHS Office of Adolescent Health awarded the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) a three-year Pregnancy Assistance Fund Program grant to support expectant and parenting teens, women, fathers, and families. OAH awarded the Minnesota Department of Health a second PAF grant in 2013 for a four-year project to continue.

With its OAH PAF grant, the Minnesota Department of Health is assisting college-age expectant and parenting students ages 18 to 34 through the Student Parent Support Initiative. This initiative has three goals: 1) assist these students in achieving their education goals at institutions of higher education; 2) assist them in maintaining positive health and well-being for themselves and their children; and 3) help institutions of higher education to increase their capacity for serving this group of students.

Despite the importance of pursuing higher education in today’s job market, educational advancement for these students can be particularly challenging. In order to better serve them, MDH gave awards to nine institutions of higher education statewide to provide services for expectant or parenting students and their children. These institutions include a private university, tribal colleges, community and technical colleges, and state universities. With the award, each institution has created a Student Parent Center staffed by a full-time Program Coordinator who has expertise in higher education, including academic advising. In order to build the knowledge and skills of the Program Coordinators and meet program goals and outcomes, MDH provides training and webinars to coordinators. These resources cover topics such as speaking to students about health screenings, making referrals, and understanding intimate partner violence.

Students are referred to the centers by professors, registrar offices, the Department of Human Services offices, or through word of mouth. Upon meeting with the Program Coordinator, the student decides which services will best serve his or her needs. All services at the Student Parent Center are self-selected and voluntary, and often include academic advising, such as advice for expectant women on how to coordinate with professors about their leave from school. Some of the Student Parent Centers offer study nights during which student parents meet and study together. Services also include help in completing child care financial assistance forms and referrals to agencies to assist with housing needs.

The Centers also offer voluntary health screenings for expectant and parenting students. These include evidence-based screening protocols measuring factors such as drinking during pregnancy for women and men, drug use, and depression. If the scores indicate a need, the student is referred to additional assistance and resources.

When asked, student parent participants overwhelmingly rank social activities (community or campus family and child-friendly activities) as the most important service or activity provided by the Student Parent Support Initiative. Literature suggests that student parents’ social connectedness to the college/university, and to other college students, assists with their intent-to-persist in their studies.1 One student parent, a mother, shared that:

“The Student Parent Center provides education and resources that have helped me reduce stress at home. I love interacting with other college students and staff at events and lunches frequently. I talk with other students who face similar challenges in school and at home.”

Data collected from August 2014 through July 2015 show that a total of 926 expectant and parenting students participated in program activities. The total of number of children served was 1,405, and the total number of non-participant family members served was 257. Twenty nine percent of these students were referred to academic advising, 16 percent for tutoring services, and 8 percent for student leadership programs (including extracurricular groups such as student government and student parent groups on campus). Regarding vocational services, 11 percent were referred to employment services, 8 percent to job training opportunities, and 11 percent for career counseling services.6 In data collected from 2013-2014, 80 percent of students reported that participation in the program increased the likelihood of them completing their degree, while 86 percent reported an increased ability to make positive choices regarding their health and their children's health.

Currently, the Minnesota Department of Health is focusing on continuing to improve recruitment strategies for the Student Parent Support Initiative as well as developing strategies for program sustainability. One such strategy will include sharing program outcomes with potential new funders, including foundations, and institutions of higher education currently not funded by the Initiative.

Grantee Contact Information

Minnesota Department of Health
Elizabeth Gardner / elizabeth.gardner@state.mn.us
Student Parent Support Initiative / http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/cfh/program/studentparent/


1 Minnesota Department of Health, Student Parent Support Initiative. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/cfh/program/studentparent/.
2 National Conference of State Legislatures. (2013). Postcard: Teen pregnancy affects graduation rates. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/teen-pregnancy-affects-graduation-rates-postcard.aspx.
3 Shuger, L. (2012). Teen pregnancy & high school dropout: What communities can do to address these issues. Washington, D.C.: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and America's promise Alliance. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from https://www.americaspromise.org/sites/default/files/legacy/bodyfiles/teen-pregnancy-and-hs-dropout-print.pdf.
4 National Conference of State Legislatures. (2013). Postcard: Teen pregnancy affects graduation rates. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/teen-pregnancy-affects-graduation-rates-postcard.aspx.
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on December 8, 2016