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The role of pregnancy prevention in college completion


​Sixty-one percent of women who have children after enrolling in a community college don’t graduate, according to a new report from the Make It Personal: College Completion (MIPCC) project.

The project, led by the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, involved six two-year colleges working to educate students, faculty and staff about the impact of unplanned pregnancies. Over the course of three years, students became more aware of how to prevent pregnancy and how an unplanned pregnancy would affect them.

While there has been a drop in the number of teen pregnancies over the past two decades, unplanned pregnancy is on the rise among 20–24-year-olds, according to the report. Students dealing with the challenges of parenting have more difficulty persisting and completing their educational goals, particularly if they are single parents.

“Students who are single parents often have less support to juggle their various roles and responsibilities,” the report states.

But while 82 percent of students understood that having a child while attending college would make it difficult to finish, many students reported that they did not have enough knowledge to keep pregnancy from occurring.

Prevention strategies

The report outlines three low- or no-cost approaches for college faculty and staff to begin conversations about preventing unplanned pregnancy. Building dialogue about pregnancy prevention and healthy relationships into credit courses, such as English and sociology, is one approach.

Faculty and staff at MIPCC colleges redesigned course curricula and created templates for each redesigned course, allowing them to be replicable at other colleges. Objectives included helping students “understand how unplanned pregnancy can affect college completion” and getting students familiar with campus and community resources, as well as online resources.

At Montgomery College in Maryland, information about postponing pregnancy was integrated into more than 20 different courses. A professor at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota restructured her developmental psychology courses to include “multigenerational perspectives on the effects of unplanned pregnancy.”

And at Palo Alto College in Texas, a communications instructor had students write sample press releases promoting National Campaign resources. Students voted on the best press release, and it was sent to local high school newspapers for distribution.

Another prevention strategy in the report is to integrate pregnancy prevention dialogue into orientation and first-year experience courses that many community colleges currently offer. The third approach offered is to provide online resources about pregnancy prevention alongside other student services links.

Students get involved

On-campus events and activities also were designed to build broader awareness of the issue. The report highlighted these activities, many of which were spearheaded by students at MIPCC colleges.

Sociology students at Georgia’s Chattahoochee Technical College held two campus-wide events to distribute information and watch videos created by students.

At Mesa Community College in Arizona, student leaders in the Phi Theta Kappa chapter launched Project HOPE (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Education) and also reached out to students through multiple campus events. Project HOPE reached 1,700 students and 700 community members in one semester.

Student leaders at Georgia Perimeter College held discussions on the topic while watching episodes of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant.”

Seeing results

Students who participated in the MIPCC project were surveyed pre– and post-course to assess changes in “knowledge, attitudes and behavioral intent.” The 143 students in the program’s first phase were surveyed in fall 2010.

“Within just one semester of course work, students showed statistically significant gains in knowledge and changes in behavioral intent around the use of contraception,” the report says.

In the Phase II surveys, which were administered in fall 2011 and spring 2012, most students said that it was “very important to avoid a pregnancy ‘right now’ and that a pregnancy would make it harder for them to achieve their educational goals.” Many of those 367 students had a goal of getting a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

After the course, the students were “considerably more aware of how to prevent pregnancy, more aware of how an unplanned pregnancy could make it harder to complete college, more committed to avoiding this situation, and better equipped with resources to help them do so,” according to the report.