Congress approves money to help low-income students with on-campus child care
By: Stephen Cone
Tiara Simmons was worried.
The full-time college student with a part-time job and a 6-year-old son was already stressed about balancing school, work and life. At 25, she gave up her dream of becoming a cosmetologist and dropped out of cosmetology school.
“The costs for school, and child care services were a burden enough, but the costs of just my peace and the stress I faced, I didn’t account for,” Simmons said. “Honestly I was all over the place, and I didn’t know how to handle it.”
After contemplating doing away with the program that helps people like Simmons, Congress voted to fund a program that will help low-income students by offering child care on campus. Congress has authorized $15 million for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program (CCAMPIS).
Over a year ago, funding for the childcare program was almost completely cut. Now, federal funding for the program has been tripled. According to Ed.gov, the 2017 funding allocation for the child care program was $14,982,678, while $15,881.50 was requested in 2018.
The program supports low-income parents obtaining a postsecondary education by offering campus-based child care services. Funds are used to establish child care programs, primarily serving the needs of low-income students enrolled at an institution.
As White House officials released the budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year, the program looks to be safe from budget cuts. The budget proposal had requested just over $15 million in funding for the program. WhiteHouse.gov released President Donald Trump’s budget proposal that states the details of the budget cuts and funding for the next fiscal year.
Lindsey Reichlin Cruise , a senior research associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, suggests that expanding the program is not enough, but a step in the right direction. She said the issue is that students rely on loans to pay tuition and cover living expenses, including child care. Although the program grants funding for improvement for the faculties and new teacher compensation schemes. There are not incentives in place to measure the impact of the children's health and learning outcome.
Also, the program does not guarantee child care service. Low-income students could spend years on the child care waiting list. While other parents who have no connection to the institution, but can pay full price, are serviced.
One solution to improve this issue is to use the funds to assist short support, drop-in child care facilities similar to those provided by fitness clubs and some retail stores like Ikea. Another suggestion is to lower the regulatory hurdles that make this type of care costly for an individual trying to go back to school and receive child care.
Finding a plausible solution might prove difficult as the demographic landscape of the current educational system does not look the same as it used to when the program was first introduced. Federal policy reporter Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Education reports that traditional first-time and full-time college students no longer make up the bulk of today’s undergraduates. Older students, transfer students, veterans and parents of undergraduate students make up a growing proportion of the current enrollment population.
The National Center for Education Statistics projects that colleges across the United States will see an enrollment increase of students over the age of 25, that averages to be an approximate 7.6 million students.
This growing demographic now comprises every one out of four college students. However, support from the federal government for low-income student-parents is still lacking, even as the need for the support continues to grow.
The demands of being a parent or single parent, is challenging.
Miesha Sims is a 24-year-old single mother raising her 5-year old-son, Trent. Sims attends Columbus State Community College as a full-time student and works 25 hours a week at Taco Bell.
She finds it difficult at times to manage the demands of a single mother, working full time and being a college student at the same time. The sacrifices she has to make sometimes seem immeasurable. For example, the time lost with her son she will never be able to get back because she was either busy studying or at work, she said.
“While the tradeoff is justified, in the moment it doesn’t seem worth it,” Sims said.
A typical day for she and her son is from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. This is Miesha's life Monday through Thursday and has been for the past two years. Although Sims enjoys going to school to obtain her associate’s degree in arts, she would love to spend more time with Trent.
“I would have loved to have a college daycare program at Columbus State,” Sims said.
A program like that would provide her with a major benefit because it would allow her to be able to attend classes, as well as having time to visit her son at the daycare facility.
Adding the cost and demands of child care to the already steep price for college tuition makes pursuing and obtaining a degree more challenging for single-parent students.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that the rate of college dropouts is higher among student-parents compared to those without children that are attending college to obtain a degree.
The average college population of female undergraduate students during the 2011-2012 school year.
No new information about the program has been released by the federal government since 2012. Data from individual institutions shows campus childcare helped to double and even triple student-parents’ degree-attainment rates.
While there is a still a long road to go to provide affordable child care services to low-income parents, the budget as of now for the college childcare program is $15 million. Not every university has access to such privileges, but students attending Wright State University have access.
The Wright State University Development Center - or Mini U - offers a variety of programs for children ages six weeks to 12 years old. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information can be found at wright.edu or by calling 937-775-4070.