- A patchwork of state policies for a federal child care assistance program is a major reason why 13.2% of families receiving the aid did so for education and training compared to 78% who received the aid because they were working, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.
- In seven states, fewer than 2% of student-parents receive aid from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), while in just a handful of states more than 20% of student-parents receive funds, according to the report. In all, more than 823,000 families received subsidies through the fund in 2016.
- Nationally, 6% of CCDF recipients got the aid to support only education and training, with rates ranging from up to 20% in Vermont to fewer than 1% in Arizona. Meanwhile, 7% of recipients got the aid because they were working and attending school, though that figure was significantly higher in Virginia (65%) and Tennessee (31%) than among other states.
As colleges seek to broaden their enrollment and attract working adult learners, additional services like free or low-cost child care are becoming a bigger priority on campuses, particularly in light of research that shows the importance of such services to retention.
Yet postsecondary education plays a critical role for families seeking to achieve economic stability. To help these students succeed, colleges should consider how they are accommodating their limited time to spend on classes and coursework. Students who are parents of preschool-age children have about half the time — 10 hours daily — to eat, sleep, study and relax as do students without children, explains an Aspen Institute report released in November.
Both the Urban Institute and Aspen Institute reports call for changes to CCDF funding policies. Among them is allowing students' full-time status to meet work requirements for aid, something around two dozen states impose, according to the Aspen report. Other recommendations include making online programs eligible for aid, adding time to child care allotments for transportation and study, and prioritizing student-parents at on-campus child care facilities. More funding for the program is also recommended.
In an article late last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education pointed out that the viral videos of professors holding students' children, a seeming trend, "illustrate a systemic problem" of colleges struggling, and often failing, to address the needs of students who are also caregivers.
The University of Houston gained attention last year for helping more than two-thirds of its student-parents pay for child care under a federal program. Lansing Community College and Portland State University have received attention for their on-campus child care centers.
New York state may also offer free child care at community colleges. And the nonprofit Education Design Lab is partnering with four community colleges across the U.S. to develop ways to help single mothers complete college.