The SPARK Collaborative

Student-Parent Action through Research Knowledge

Rainbow of student parents with kids walking


We build evidence and make the case for policy change to support pregnant and parenting students and their families through data, research, lived/living expertise, and past learning, while developing future generations of leaders.

Context: A Large Share of
College Students
Are Parenting

The National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey: 2016 Undergraduate provides national statistics on student parent characteristics.

There are over 5.4 million student parents in the US.


of all undergraduates
have dependent children


of graduate students
have dependent children


of female undergraduates of color
have dependent children


of female graduate students of color
have dependent children

Student parents earn comparable grades as non-parenting peers but are much less likely to complete degrees.

Completing a college degree benefits parents and their children in the long term.

The Origin of SPARK:
Student-Parent Families
at the Center

Student-Parent Families at the Center Framework graphic

The Student-Parent Families at the Center project from the Urban Institute, Wellesley Centers for Women, and a Leadership Council of 45 stakeholders in the student parent space ignited the SPARK Collaborative. Imaginable Futures supported this work. The project mapped the many policy systems that student-parent families navigate in complex and intersectional ways, represented by the Student-Parent Families at the Center Framework. The Roadmap for Change to support Pregnant and Parenting Students describes opportunities to support pregnant and parenting students through practice, policy, research, and investment if stakeholders from across the system communicate, coordinate, and collaborate.

More about SPARK

Urban Institute logo
Pregnant Scholar logo

Policy tracking and analysis

Decades of student parent policy experience

Legal expertise, resources, and advocacy

Thank You: Our
Current Funders

Annie E. Casey Foundation logo

Supporting the SPARK Collaborative website development and communications

Ascendium Education logo

Funding Family-Friendly Rural and Tribal Campuses as part of the Building Evidence to Increase Rural Learner Success initiative

Urban Institute logo

Supporting SPARK Collaborative communications and development through a modest internal investment

Interested in joining this list? Check out some of the work we are developing
and/or contact us at StudentParentFramework@urban.org.

Join Us

Do you care about promoting education, career, and life opportunities for parents?

Do you think higher education should be a realistic pathway out of poverty?

Do you have ideas, experiences, or resources that can help make systems work better for families?

Become part of our network.

You can also email us at

Theresa Anderson, Autumn R. Green, and Jessica Lee are the current leaders of the SPARK Collaborative.

We are grateful for support from a wide range of thought partners, including members of the Student-Parent Families at the Center Leadership Council, Ryan Kelsey, Nathan Sick, Jessica Pelton, Tiffany Marra, Barbara Anderson, Heather Willoughby, Camilla Kraft, Shayne Spaulding, and many others.

More site features and resources coming soon.

© 2023 SPARK Collaborative