Community College of Philadelphia students who have young children will be better able to stay on the path to success and remain in college as a result of a new $1.5 million federal grant that will help them pay for child care.
Research shows that the lack of access to affordable, quality child care contributes to the number of moms and dads who drop out of college before degree or credential completion.
"They just don't come," said Dr. Claudia Curry, director of the College's Women's Outreach and Advocacy Center who is the project administrator for the grant. "Not having the funds to pay for child care means they can't go to school.
Issued through the U.S. Department of Education's CCAMPIS (Child Care Access Means Parents In School) program, the grant will provide up to $833 a month in stipends available to parents to help pay for child care costs. To qualify, the parent must be a student in good academic standing who is taking at least six credits and is eligible for a Pell Grant. Participants will be required to take two parenting workshops per semester on topics such as nutrition, financial literacy, academic support, stress management and work/life balance.
Nationally, more than two in five female community college students with young children say the demands of caring for their children likely will cause them to drop out, according to the 2016 Community College Survey of Student Engagement conducted by the University of Texas.
However, data indicate that parents supported through the CCAMPIS program tend to graduate at the same rate as all college students. Without help, parents are half as likely to graduate as non-parents, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin.
The research reflects the College's past experience with the grant, Curry said. From 2002 to 2010, Community College of Philadelphia received CCAMPIS funding. "When our child care grant ended," Curry said, "the student-parent dropout rate impacted the bottom line. With this grant, we anticipate that more students will be able to complete their goals."
The College will hire a child care specialist to assist with program administration. Besides recruiting parents, the specialist will vet child care centers for quality and negotiate payment rates. The stipend will be paid to the child care provider, not the parent. Parents can enroll their children at the Community College of Philadelphia Child Development Center on Main Campus, or they can choose qualified day care centers close to campus or their homes.
Curry knows from personal experience how important quality affordable child care can be to a struggling single parent. After her marriage broke up and she had to support her daughter on one paycheck, she wound up losing that job. "I know what it is like not to have enough money for child care," she said.
For single parents, the lack of a college degree has lifelong consequences. Sixty percent of all single mothers without a high school diploma live in poverty, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research's 2016 analysis of U.S. Census data. With an associate degree, the percentage drops to 23.3 percent and to 13.4 percent with a bachelor's degree.
The four-year CCAMPIS grant, for $375,000 a year, runs through the spring of 2022.