Concordia University Student Parent Centre wants to ensure Concordia’s student-parents are supported
Judging by a recent opinion piece written by Sophie Lamontagne in La Presse, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports aren’t on the same page.
According to Lamontagne, the chair of the Student Parents Support Committee of UQAM, the university is not adopting the Ministry of Education’s definition of full-time student when it comes to student-parents.
The ministry considers a part-time student who is enrolled in a minimum of 20 hours of class per month and is at least 20 weeks pregnant, is a single parent with a child aged 12 or younger or lives with a child younger than six as a full-time student. However, individual universities are able to determine their own definitions of full-time student status.
Such is the case at Concordia, where any student-parent taking six credits per semester in addition to being either 20 weeks pregnant, single with a child under the age of 12 or married with a six-year-old or younger qualifies as a full-time student.
Due to the more lenient criteria for full-time student status, student-parents at Concordia who fulfill this criteria are eligible for bursaries, scholarships and a reduced-fare OPUS card.
Sumaiya Gangat, the coordinator of the Concordia University Student Parent Centre (CUSP), said finances and access to childcare are primary challenges faced by student-parents. Despite a limited budget, Gangat said the CUSP supports student-parents through annual giveaways of Christmas gifts, second-hand items and backpacks with school supplies, which are funded by the campus bookstore.
According to Concordia’s Undergraduate Calendar, each credit represents a minimum of 45 hours of coursework, meaning parenting students with six credits per semester will be completing nearly 70 hours of coursework per month. Gangat said she encourages student-parents “to talk to their teachers at the start of the semester.”
Gangat said CUSP, which is currently staffed by only three employees, also offers to accompany the student to explain their situation to the teacher.
CUSP, Gangar added, is especially useful for international student-parents. “They meet people here and develop a connection that lasts a lifetime […] they come here because they feel comfortable, they feel a sense of belonging,” Gangar said.
The centre has a play area for children, a computer lab, a fully-equipped kitchen and nursery, although it does not offer childcare.
Currently, there is a waitlist for Concordia’s campus daycares: Centre de la Petite Enfance Concordia downtown, which has 80 spots, and Centre de la Petite Enfance P’tits Profs at the Loyola campus, which has only 12. The centres are available to all full-time staff and students, but financial assistance is offered only through the Ministry of Family and Children, not through the university directly. Gangat said she believes the support of faculty and other students is necessary for student-parents to thrive.
Gangat said CUSP is currently looking for volunteer tutors and baby-sitters, and will provide the volunteers with CPR and first aid training.
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin