A little relief for student parents

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Community colleges are helping student parents balance child care and college.

More than 4.8 million undergraduate students in the United States are parents, and many of them are enrolled at community colleges. In fact, 17 percent of community college students are single parents. A lack of affordable child care can lead some students to drop out.

The federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant has provided funding to help colleges and universities support or establish on-campus child care programs that help low-income parents pursue a postsecondary degree. The program is relatively small, funded at $15 million, but has made a big difference in the lives of some students.

Texas’ San Antonio College (SAC) just announced that it received more than $1.2 million to renew its CCAMPIS grant. That means that qualifying low-income SAC student parents will pay only $15-$20 a week for child care on campus, instead of the typical $160-$215 per week. Those SAC student parents are required to attend parenting workshops and they must volunteer in the Early Childhood Center for four hours.

“We want them to learn about their children to help them have better interaction with them,” Ellen Marshall, SAC chair of social work, sociology, early childhood studies, and history, said in a release.

“I can’t say enough how grateful I am for this program,” said Michael De La Cerda, a pre-nursing major whose daughter is enrolled at the Early Childhood Center. “It has allowed me to go to college and concentrate on my schooling and my grades. I never felt that my daughter has been in better care. And everybody here treats me like family.”

Funding for CCAMPIS, which is run by the U.S. Department of Education, may be eliminated in the 2018 federal budget, however, which could leave 5,000 student parents in the lurch. Already, fewer than half of community colleges have daycares on campus—and that number appears to be declining, according to a January 2017 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Those that do offer child care often have a waiting list.

But some two-year institutions are getting creative to help student parents get to graduation.

Frederick Community College (FCC) in Maryland just announced that it’s starting the Parents Lead program, designed specifically to help parents attend FCC and earn a degree. The cohort-based program is created for low-income parents of young children. It will provide specialized curriculum, advising services and funding to offset the costs of child care while parents attend evening classes. The first cohort will begin in the spring 2018 semester.

“We know our students who are parents have to balance demanding responsibilities at home, work and school, while also having to pay for child care while they complete their coursework,” President Elizabeth Burmaster said. Parents Lead, funded by the FCC Foundation, “is aimed at making it easier for parents to earn a degree to better themselves and their families.”

Parents Lead is designed primarily for students seeking an associate degree in general studies while also assisting those who wish to transfer into alternate degree and certificate programs. It uses a combination of online and evening classes that will allow students to complete a program in as few as five semesters. Additional financial aid is also available to assist with tuition and fees.

What does your college do to help student parents? Sound off at LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.