CUNY distributes $3 million to help student parents take summer courses

Barry Williams/New York Daily News/TNS
·2 min read

Parents who attend the City University of New York are getting some financial relief this summer thanks to a new $3 million fund dedicated exclusively to supporting New Yorkers taking college classes while raising kids.

The CUNY chancellor’s emergency relief fund — which has raised more than $10 million through philanthropic donations since the start of the pandemic — recently distributed $2.9 million to help roughly 3,500 student parents pay for extra courses this summer so they can finish their degrees more quickly, chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez said.

“The response has been phenomenal,” Matos Rodriguez said. “It’s important for student parents to be able to take a summer class to be able to keep their academic momentum going.”

More than 10% of CUNY students are raising kids while attending classes. They face some of the steepest obstacles to completing their degrees, Matos Rodriguez said, often “feeling pulled in 15 directions” between work, child-rearing and school.

The challenges facing student parents heightened during the pandemic, as kids were forced to stay home and there were fewer childcare options.

Summer can be a critical time for student parents to catch up on credits they may have missed in the previous year because of scheduling conflicts, or to lighten their academic loads for the coming school year, Matos Rodriguez said.

Penelope Rodriguez, 31, a marketing student at City Tech college in Brooklyn and mother of a 4-year-old with autism, was hoping to take an extra course this summer to earn her associate degree quicker, but wasn’t sure how she was going to pay for it.

But when she checked her student account recently, she found an extra $900 from the new chancellor’s fund disbursement — enough to cover the summer course.

“I felt very grateful,” said Rodriguez, who hopes to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree and start a nonprofit to help parents of kids with disabilities access services.

While Rodriguez acknowledges that being a student while being a mom can be challenging, she said her son is also the best reminder to keep pushing when things get tough.

“He is my motivation for everything I do,” Rodriguez said.