Reducing a financial burden for student parents

By Larry Hlavenka

A New Jersey college establishes tuition-free early childhood education initiative

Bergen Community College will offer tuition-free enrollment at its on-campus early learning facility – the Child Development Center – for the children of 25 student-parents.  This comes just weeks after the college announced plans to erase $5 million of debt for 2,000 of its students.

“In today’s environment, colleges must focus on holistic approaches to serving students,” Bergen President Eric M. Friedman said. “Colleges must examine the barriers students face in completing their degrees – including challenges related to housing, health and wellness and childcare. By taking this approach of supporting ‘the whole student,’ rather than just addressing scholastic needs, we exponentially increase their opportunities to become successful.”

The college notified the more than 500 eligible student-parents about this opportunity earlier this month.

Combined, the college will use $153,000 in federal funding from two sources to sponsor the tuition-free enrollments. The first, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan, will cover 10 of the spots, with the U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant program funding the other 15.

Without the federal assistance secured by the college, student-parents pay $180 per week for a child to enroll at the center.

Each semester, the preschool offers early childhood education for 45 children ages two- to five-years-old. The center has educated more than 1,100 since its inception in 1982.

Center enrollees include the children of college faculty, staff and students and those from the greater Bergen County region. As a laboratory school, the center provides an on-campus observation, demonstration, field and workforce training site for Bergen students, who use the center to fulfill their course requirements relating to child development.

Led by certified teachers, the center features two classrooms that support both hands-on play and the development of academic concepts in math, science, social studies, language arts and the creative arts. Children also have access to computers, an outdoor play area and learning resources such as a community garden.

This post originally appeared here.

Larry Hlavenka

is executive director of public relations, community and cultural affairs at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey.