Date of Award

Fall 12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Laura Smithers

Committee Member

Peter Anderson


Twenty-two percent of United States undergraduate students are parents (Cruse, et al., 2020). Referred to as student-parents, they are most likely to have low-incomes and attend community colleges (Cruse, et al., 2019; Gault et al., 2014). They tend to reduce their course loads and drop out of college due to work-life balance challenges even though they typically have better grade point averages than their non-parent peers (Cruse et al., 2019; Manze, et al., 2021; Peterson, 2016).

The problem to be addressed was how community college instructors, leaders, and legislators can support low-income student-parents’ persistence toward a postsecondary credential. There is a gap in the research about how the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic is impacting this large student population. Before the Pandemic, low-income student-parents already had financial insecurities with food, housing, and childcare (Baker-Smith et al., 2020). Now there are many more obstacles with school closures, lay-offs, and lack of childcare (Cruse et al., 2020).

This qualitative, phenomenological study focuses on the phenomenon of student-parents’ experiences at a community college during Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. Using reflective lifeworld research guided by van Manen’s (2016) hermeneutic phenomenology thematic analysis (Vagle, 2018), I discovered four themes: (a) Student-Parents Postsecondary Credential Completion Often Interrupted, (b) Student-Parents Need Mental Health Support, and (c) Student-Parents Need More Financial Support and Education, and (d) Instructor Interaction, Support Services, and Course Delivery Methods are Essential to Student-Parents’ Postsecondary Persistence. Recommendations include how community college leaders can help increase persistence through a family friendly campus, childcare options, mental health support, flexible class schedules, and additional support services. Suggestions for legislators include reducing barriers to obtain and maintain social services funding assistance.