Empowering Bright Futures: A First Look at The California Alliance for Student Parent Success’ Policy Agenda

The Education Trust–West and California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy are building The California Alliance for Student Parent Success (“The Alliance”) to support and empower student parents in higher education. As a preview to a more comprehensive policy agenda by The Alliance, this first look provides key strategies for policymakers to support student parent success.

As California’s higher education system shifts to better support today’s college students, particularly those who have been underserved, we must elevate the needs of student parents and their families. Student parents are more likely to be students of color, have greater financial need, and are less likely to complete a degree or certificate despite having higher GPAs than their non-parenting peers. To close equity gaps in higher education completion and attainment for multiple generations and to strengthen California’s economy, we must address the needs of the 400,000+ student parents enrolled in California’s colleges and the 3.9 million Californians who have children but no college degree. 

To support student parents and their families on the path to earning meaningful credentials and securing gainful employment, the California Alliance for Student Parent Success urges California policymakers and higher education leaders to work with us on the following four core strategies:

1. Increase the availability of affordable, quality wraparound services that support attendance and success

2. Strengthen financial aid programs and policies to make total college costs affordable

3. Advance student-parent–friendly institutional policies and practices that enable multiple generations to thrive

4. Collect and share data on student parents to better understand and improve their educational experience, well-being, and success

To establish equitable policies that best support student parents, especially those who are Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and are from other traditionally marginalized backgrounds, student parents must be consulted throughout the entire policy process, from generation through implementation.

The California Alliance for Student Parent Success is led by The Education Trust–West and California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy and with support from an Advisory Committee that will include student parents and field experts.

We extend gratitude to The Alliance’s funders – ECMC Foundation, Imaginable Futures, Michelson 20MM Foundation, and Tipping Point Community – for their generosity and unwavering support that makes this work a reality.


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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.