8 Higher Education Institutions Partner to Support Black and Native Student Parents

December 13, 2022

Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Black and Native Family Futures Fund supports Historically Black and Tribal Colleges and Universities committed to improving success of parenting students

Brendan Creamer

Washington, DC, December 13, 2022 – Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute announced that eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) have joined its Black and Native Family Futures Fund. Ascend’s new capacity-building fund provides financial support and expert technical assistance to selected HBCU and TCU campuses that are committed to improving the success of their student parents. 

Each of the eight institutions will receive $75,000 and expert technical assistance to seed solutions for student parents on their campuses. Each institution’s work will be informed by the expertise of an enrolled student parent, who will play an advisory role in the project. 

“Supporting institutional change is a central focus of our expanded work to transform higher education with student parent success in mind,” said David Croom, associate director of Postsecondary Success for Parents at Ascend. “HBCUs and TCUs have long done more with less in supporting their student parents and this Fund aims to infuse resources and support into their efforts. We are excited to learn alongside them.”

The eight institutions partnering with Ascend for the launch of this Fund are:

  • Blackfeet Community College (Blackfeet Indian Reservation; Browning, MT) will implement a Native Student Parent Program that infuses Amskapi Piikani (Blackfeet) cultural traditions and language, with a special focus on mothers with young children. In addition to providing child care, food, and transportation assistance to participating students, the college will also engage local elders and Honorary Council Women as mentors when designing and implementing the program.
  • Bowie State University (Bowie, MD) will expand on its current student parent efforts by improving student parent data collection, changing institutional policy and practice, expanding child care and academic supports, and building social capital among student parents.  
  • Diné College (across the Navajo Nation; New Mexico and Arizona) will expand student parent supports from its main campus in Tsaile, AZ, to its campuses in Shiprock, NM, and Tuba City, AZ. These new efforts, called the Warrior Parent Success Initiatives, will focus on developing a student parent curriculum, encouraging student parents and their children to participate, and sustaining programmatic innovations through staff development and institutional policy. 
  • Grambling State University (Grambling, LA) will reopen their campus child development center, which closed in 2009 due to lack of sufficient funding. Taking a strong two-generation (2Gen) approach, the university will provide early literacy and developmentally appropriate science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) curriculum to children enrolled in the center, while also providing      wrap-around support services to their parents who are enrolled at the university. 
  • Jarvis Christian University (Hawkins, TX) will expand existing supports to all student parents enrolled at the university. Building on services provided over the last five years to student parents residing on campus, the university will address food insecurity for all enrolled student parents, in addition to establishing a mentor network, opening a dedicated resource center for student parents, creating an emergency child care assistance program, and enhancing supports by hiring a Student Parent Program Coordinator. 
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (Greensboro, NC) will implement an array of supports that may include a student parent support group, a referral system for non-academic needs, workshops on topics like financial literacy and parenting, creation of lactation spaces and Quiet Zones across campus, designated parking spaces for expectant mothers, government benefits application workshops, and a partnership with the campus food pantry and clothing closet to include children’s items. 
  • Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, AL) will focus on providing flexible class formats, customized support, student skills development, and emergency aid, while engaging faculty on family-friendly syllabi and classroom policies. A Student Parent Success Counselor will be designated to provide customized academic coaching to student parents with workshops on topics such as academic planning, time management, and self-empowerment. 
  • Stone Child College (Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation; Box Elder, MT) will expand current child care support and offer a variety of developmental activities, access to non-academic resources, and a case management approach to academic advising. The college will also offer parenting classes grounded in Chippewa Cree culture and workshops on such topics as financial literacy, time management, and healthy food preparation. 

With institutional cultures that are rooted in family, community, and holistic supports – HBCUs and TCUs are uniquely positioned to identify and address the needs of Black and Native student parents. That is why Ascend, with support from Lumina Foundation and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, created the Black and Native Family Futures Fund. 

“Student parents are at the center of any effort to achieve racial equity in higher education,” said Dr. Zainab Okolo, strategy officer at Lumina Foundation. “We are proud to work alongside Ascend and these eight innovative institutions, who are investing in the success of Black and Native student parents and in their institution’s future as well.”

“With Native students among the most likely to be parenting in college, Tribal Colleges and Universities are uniquely positioned to support student parents in a community, cultural, and place-based educational context with high-impact practices.” said Naomi Farabee, program officer at Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. “We look forward to seeing how Black and Native Family Futures Fund partners lead the way on supporting student parents, their families, and their communities.”

Since 2018, Ascend’s Postsecondary Success for Parents initiative has built a foundation for a national student parent movement. As it expands and deepens its work to accelerate  student parent success, Ascend aims to establish an imperative to increase attainment rates for parents in postsecondary systems, through use of solutions that are parent-informed, have potential to scale, and will lead to high-quality learning and family well-being. The Black and Native Family Futures Fund is central to this effort.

Learn more about the Black and Native Family Futures Fund from Ascend at the Aspen Institute.


Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s mission is to create a society where every family passes a legacy of prosperity and well-being from one generation to the next. In 2010, Executive Director and Aspen Institute Vice President Anne Mosle founded Ascend to spark and spread breakthroughs in the ways we think about and invest in leadership to foster the well-being of children and the adults in their lives, together. Ascend has since propelled a national movement to shift the odds back in favor of families. Through the visionary leadership of 120 Ascend Fellows, 130 Parent Leaders, and more than 480 Ascend Network Partners, two-generation (2Gen) approaches are now being advanced in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Guatemala, and Rwanda. Together, the leaders in this growing movement are transforming systems that serve 12 million families.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

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