Child Care Assistance Helps College Students Graduate
Written in response to Georgia Budget & Policy’s recent “Boost Georgia’s Workforce with Affordable Child Care for Student Parents” report.
It is clear that Georgia students, universities, and employers need college graduation rates to rise. While there might not be one single approach to accomplish this, breaking down the complex problem reveals a diverse set of student needs, and solutions that are scalable and have been proven effective.
As indicated by the recent Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s report “Boost Georgia’s Workforce with Affordable Child Care for Student Parents,” our state can take steps now to invest in child care assistance for college parents which will help increase graduation rates and skill sets needed to meet workforce demands by 2025. And, we know this works because Quality Care for Children (QCC), after championing early childhood education initiatives for nearly 40 years, is leveraging its child care programs to help parents break the cycle of poverty and graduate college.
Why? Because child care works – for the child and their parents.
Let me explain.
Thankfully, there is a growing understanding and awareness about the importance of high-quality child care. With 90% of a child’s brain being “hardwired” before the age of five, their early learning experiences have a significant and long-term impact on their future success in school and beyond. In fact, at-risk children who don’t receive high-quality care are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school and 60 percent more likely to never attend college.
What is less often studied or discussed, however, is the impact that quality child care can have on their parents, specifically those enrolled in a full-time college degree program. Lack of affordable child care is a major barrier to college completion for low-income college students who cannot afford quality child care and are not eligible for Georgia’s state child care subsidy. Unfortunately, Georgia is one of only eight states where these parents are ineligible for the child care subsidy.
As you can imagine, many simply cannot afford to lose this subsidy so decide not to get a college degree. And of those that do go back to school, more than half end up leaving school without ever earning a degree. The student parents that are able to stay enrolled often struggle academically, financially, and in their ability to care for their children. The patchwork of informal and unreliable care that many of these student parents use can be a barrier to the parent’s college completion, and it also leaves their young children ill-prepared for success in school.
To address this issue, QCC has developed its two-generation Boost: Making College Possible Program that provides child care scholarships for full-time college student parents at Armstrong State University, Clayton State University, and Columbus State University. The organization also has plans to partner with Savannah State University in the coming year.
QCC helps the parents find a Quality Rated child care that exceeds state regulations for quality and pays the scholarship directly to the program. To date, QCC has funded more than 185 scholarships through its Boost program at these Georgia universities and 100 percent of the student parents have graduated or are on track to complete their college degree. How can you argue with odds like that? Additionally, many students’ grades have increased and they have become more involved in student groups and pre-professional associations.
The graduation rates and GPAs of these recipients speak for themselves, though we wanted to get beyond these statistics to hear about their daily challenges in balancing school, parenting, and finances. We spent this past semester speaking with Boost scholarship recipients and heard many stories that capture the challenges of being a full-time student parent without financial assistance for child care including:
- Having to choose between paying power bills and child care
- Driving two hours each morning and afternoon to drop off/pick up child from a relative
- Leaving a child with an undependable neighbor because they simply could not afford child care
- Selling plasma twice per week to pay for child care
- Deciding to drop out of nursing school because child care was too expensive with their family’s income
- Spending inadequate amount of time and effort on class assignments because of the time spent leaving to care for their child
For these students, the Boost scholarships have eliminated a significant barrier to excelling academically, graduating, and providing high-quality care for their children. The delivery system for these scholarships is largely in place at universities and it is simply a matter of changing the eligibility criteria for the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program and increasing funding to provide this two-generation support.
If Georgia is serious about preparing our future workforce and strengthening our state’s economy, as well as setting vulnerable children on a path to succeed in school, then the State, higher education institutions and private sector must be willing to invest in this proven, scalable solution for low-income college student parents. Let’s give Georgia’s student parents who are working to break the cycle of poverty the critical support they need and deserve that will enable them to complete college and set their children on a path to success.