Backpacks and diaper bags: affording student life and parenthood

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Parent and student Harmoni Florence with her son MJ.

AUDIO: Full-time student and full-time parent.

Being a college student is already expensive, but imagining being a parent as well.

With the rising cost of tuition averaging $12,000 a year, housing, books, along with diapers, baby formula and more, it can be financially overwhelming.

For some it can seem impossible to live a balance like that. Yet there’s some that can make it work. Meet Harmoni Florence and Demario Arnold, two Michigan State University students balancing college and raising their son MJ.

The couple welcomed their child last fall. Even with a new family, finishing school was still a priority no matter what the cost.

“Dropping out was never an option. We just decided to just create a plan. Luckily, we both have skills where we can generate income on our own time.In addition, to having support from our families,” says Florence.

Florence has created income helping girls with their hair, as well starting a freelance makeup business. Her boyfriend, Arnold, also has multiple streams of income as well. Aside from being a sought-after photographer/videographer for the community, he is also skilled in hair-cutting.

“When our son arrived we just had to work twice as hard creating income. Making sure we are able to pay tuition, along with supplies for our son. A lot of stuff had changed, but we adjusted,” Florence added.

Assistant professor of finance from the Eli Broad College of Business at MSU, Huang Xing, explains that financial stress also can be possible.

“Most universities today like MSU offer financial support for students with families. There is also student housing made more affordable with families, as well additional financial assistance from the state if a family fall between a certain income bracket following under $40,000,” Xing said.

Florence explains that along with bringing more income, mastering the art of budgeting also help making the balance possible.

“Becoming very conscious of spending and income is something we really implement on balancing the financial challenge. Budgeting and understanding resources that make it possible for us, make it not so difficult to be able to afford to do both,” says Florence.

Xing mentioned that to balance being a student and parent, a student would have to generate almost twice as much of their own cost to attend school, to help support themselves as well their child. Luckily, it is not impossible to balance the cost using financial support such as aide, increasing income, support from family and budgeting/financial literacy.