Helping students who are parents juggle school and kids
Author: Kurt Bedell
Posted: March 28, 2019

As a brand new PSU student who had just arrived in Portland, School of Social Work student Angelica Acosta, MSW ‘19, credits the resources from Services for Students with Children in making all the difference in smoothly and seamlessly integrating her teenage son into her own educational journey.  

“I was thrilled to find resources available not just for me as a student but also for my son,” Acosta says. “The family-friendly study spaces — where my son and I could spend time together while I was studying — were among the most valuable to me.  It would have been incredibly difficult for me to achieve my educational goals without the financial, emotional and community support I received from the Services for Students with Children.”


For many Portland State students, balancing the competing priorities of class time, commuting and homework can be tough.  But for those who are also parents to young kids, the burden can feel extra overwhelming. Thanks to resources and programs provided by Services for Students with Children (SSWC), student parents can access a whole suite of personalized services that can make juggling studies and caring for kids easier, from child care subsidies to on-campus care to individualized support.  And with the brand new Baby Vikings Flexible Childcare Center opening this spring, flexible, on-demand infant child care will available on-campus from the SSWC for the first time ever.

Services for Students with Children estimates that well over 20% of PSU students are also parents.  And as any parent to a small child knows, finding affordable, high-quality day care for kids can be expensive.  “For a lot of our students, the cost of child care is a lot more than their tuition and housing costs put together,” says Lisa Wittorff, director of the SSWC.  Providing lots of flexible child care options, including both subsidies and on-campus child care options, have been two of the SSWC’s key priorities.

SSWC got its start back in 1989 as part of a state subsidy program but today is funded entirely via student fees paid by every PSU student.  The center has won national recognition for the resources and comprehensive set of programs it offers to student parents on the PSU campus.

Today, SSWC offers a variety of programs supporting student parents and their children, including:

  • The Jim Sells Child Care Assistance Program – This financial assistance program offers subsidies that pay for on or off campus child care, including non-licensed child care to PSU student families that meet certain income guidelines.  The program can pay up to 50% of the cost of child care, depending on the student's financial need.
  • Little Vikings Flexible Childcare Center — Now entering its fifth year, Little Vikings provides flexible, drop-in care for children of students, staff and faculty at PSU ages 6 weeks to 12 years. It’s perfect for occasional child care needs and is located inside Epler Hall on the west side of the PSU campus.
  • Family Friendly Study Spaces — Located in academic buildings all over campus, these secure rooms provide a spot where children can play while their PSU student parents can study.  Located in high use areas like the Millar Library and Smith Memorial Student Union, these rooms have toys for the kids, technology for the student parents, a hospitality area with refreshments and, of course, lots of comfortable seating.  The newest space is in the new Karl Miller Center and is decorated in a cool outer space theme!
  • Lactation Spaces — Providing a quiet, secure and fully equipped space for new moms to pump breastmilk or breastfeed with their babies, these 13 lactation spaces located in buildings all over campus provide a welcome respite for new moms.
  • Baby Vikings Flexible Childcare Center — Opening in spring 2019, the brand-new Baby Vikings Flexible Childcare Center will cater to infants and babies ages 6 weeks to 24 months. It will almost double PSU’s on-campus infant child care capacity. Located in the Smith Memorial Student Union, this new center will have four full-time childcare spaces and four spaces reserved for short-term or drop in care.

SSWC also hosts a rich program of events year round, including Winter Wonder, a popular adopt-a-family program allows student families to be matched with sponsors among PSU employees, and Bring Your Kids to Campus Day, a campus-wide celebration inviting students, staff, faculty, and their children to explore hosted activities that entertain and inform about what happens on a university campus every day.

Visit the Services for Students with Children website for more information on the many programs and services offered to every PSU student parent.