Editor’s note: Redactions to a source’s last name were made on Feb. 19, 2021, out of concerns for privacy and safety regarding their daughter
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the number of single mothers in postsecondary education more than doubled
between 1999 and 2012— as of 2012, 11 percent of undergraduate students are single parents.
The IWPR also states student mothers face many financial and time-related struggles, making it more challenging to graduate.
Erica Almaguer, director of the SF State Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC), said this is an issue at SF State today. According to the ECEC website, the center was created by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) in 1972 in order to assist students with proper and affordable childcare.
Almaguer has been the director of the ECEC for the past two years, but has worked at the center for over two decades. Almaguer started the job shortly after her son was born during her sophomore year at SF State and continues to work at the center because of her personal resonation
with student parents.
According to Almaguer, the cost of the ECEC for each family varies depending on family size, financial needs and how frequently they use the center throughout the semester.
26-year-old SF State student mother Astrid said her child care costs at the ECEC are about $5,000 with the help of financial aid. Astrid daughter began using the center as an infant when she transferred to SF State nearly two years ago.
Almaguer said many of the students who use the center come from a low-income background and she helps them apply for financial aid and scholarships. Almaguer said she also reaches out for outside grants every academic year to help sustain the parents the center serves.
“I’m always on the lookout to help those students that might need a little extra help,” Almaguer said. Although the ECEC strives to help student parents with affordable child care while parents pursue an academic career, Almaguer said that at times the center has to turn parents away or put them on a waitlist. According to Almaguer, like any other day care center, age limits apply.
Almaguer said the ECEC is divided into groups of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The infant age range is the most expensive because of the child to adult ratio. For example, according to the ECEC website, the ratio in the infant room is 1-3 with a total of six infants compared to
the preschooler classroom whose ratio is 1-8.
SF State alumna Ivannah Johnson’s two children used the ECEC during her time at SF State and even after her 2017 graduation.
Johnson said the ECEC was a big selling point for her to pursue her criminal justice career at SF State.
According to Johnson, the ECEC has been a huge help for her as a single mother since it’s the only childcare she’s ever used.
“When I came to tour SF State I made sure to get information about any [day care] they had on campus,” Johnson said. “[Almaguer] helped me with every aspect of my application process because she knew I really needed this [program].”
25-year-old SF State psychology student Joann Urbina is a single mother who does not have the advantage of using the ECEC on campus for her 8-year-old son.
According to Urbina, she uses outside after-school programs to keep her son occupied while she attends SF State and commutes to and from campus.
Urbina said when she finds herself struggling with child care, she brings her son to campus.
According to Urbina, her professors are always supportive and welcome him into the class environment.
“He loves coming to class with me,” Urbina said. “He tells me that when he grows up he wants to [come to college] here because there’s coffee shops and snacks everywhere.”
Urbina said she wants to continue studying for her family’s future.
“Sometimes I feel alone here as a parent and a student,” Urbina said. “I’m a first generation student and a mother at the same time and it’s really hard to find a balance in my life.”
23-year-old SF State student Maria Gutierrez also struggles to find a balance in her life as a student mother.
“How do I manage a human being that solely depends on me and then my goals and dreams [as well]?” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said that she found it extremely difficult to return to school and stay focused on her academic career after having a child.
“I remember my first day back to school I was crying in the Uber on my way to school,” Gutierrez said. “I would just sit in class and be thinking of how my son was doing and if everything was okay [with him].”
Additionally, Gutierrez said that she does not have the time to look for on-campus resources. As a commuter, she does not spend much time on campus as her home and source of childcare is less than an hour away.
According to Almaguer, the ECEC is a well-rounded child care facility helping parents, but also prioritizing the children of these parents.
Almaguer hopes the center helps its children to transition into kindergarten and helps parents with any problem that might surface with their child, as she feels an obligation to help student parents like her.
“We want to help [first time] parents navigate through any struggle that their child might face,” Almaguer said. “I see myself in every parent that comes in here…trying to balance it all.”