Many adult student learners (ASLs) face numerous challenges when it comes to successfully persisting to graduation. And “time poverty,” where they are often engaged in caregiving, working and going to school, can be a major deterrent.

This lack of discretionary time can especially impact student parents. “And when student parents feel that they aren’t meeting expectations, they may try to reduce the demands on their time, which too often means dropping out of school,” explained Kelsey Keyes, a former Boise State University librarian and associate professor.

She told New America’s Student Parent Spotlight Blog that “A survey found 42 percent of single parenting students said that their parenting responsibilities would make it likely or very likely that they would have to stop attending college. Other analysis indicates that 53 percent of parents, compared to 31 percent of nonparents, left college after six years without a degree. Attrition rates are even worse for low-income parenting students: they are 25 percent less likely to earn a degree than low-income students without children.”


Tune in to ASL Realities

Being aware of the realities associated with time poverty can help us better serve ASLs. Low-income mothers in particular, who don’t have access to the support structures that higher earners do, are prone to time pressures. Those who are chronically time poor can often find themselves boxed into a cycle of social and economic poverty, reported the BBC.

How else does time poverty impact people? Occupational therapist Nicole Villegas told the BBC that it can manifest as:

  • Poor sleep
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Delay in seeking medical care
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Decreased exercise
  • Less likely to complete college
  • Not carving out time to seek better employment
  • Lower levels of well-being

“Time poverty creates barriers for people who want to explore their interests outside of obligatory responsibilities like work or family care,” Villegas said. “When people live with time poverty, they often miss out on leisure activities that can support quality of life.”

Sources: New America Student Parent Spotlight Blog, 6/14/23; BBC’s Family Tree, 2/3/22

Find more information like this with our 50 Strategies to Support, Engage & Retain Adult Student Learners guide.