Report: Single Mothers Enrolled in Higher Education Need Better Access to Campus-Based Child Care

By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Less than one-third of single mothers graduate with a degree or certificate within six years of enrolling in postsecondary education and more than half drop out — which can threaten their eligibility for financial aid and cause them to accrue loan debt without a credential to show for it, according to a new paper from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). And while access to quality child care has been shown to increase college completion for single parents, the report found that a majority of community college campuses do no offer the service to students.  

The report recommended that federal, state, and local governments make more funding available to establish child care centers on campuses, and target financial aid to students who are struggling to pay for child care, among other efforts.

Student-parents graduate with more debt than students without children because they often borrow to help pay for costs of child care. In fact, their average debt one year after earning a degree from a four-year institution was about 10 percent more than their counterparts without children, according to an August 2017 letter to the Senate education committee that NASFAA signed on to.

Access to child care on campus is oftentimes more affordable than other child care services, which averaged around $10,400 in 2016 for infants and $8,300 for 4-year-olds — about 33 percent and 26 percent, respectively, of the median income for working single mothers, the report said. The demand for this more affordable option, however, exceeds the supply. A 2016 survey revealed that the average waitlist for campus child care was 80 children, and only 44 percent of community colleges — down from 55 percent in 2003 — had care centers on their campuses.

The IWPR report emphasized that access to quality child care has shown to improve outcomes for single parents in college; a study conducted at Monroe Community College found that 71 percent of student-parents who utilized the child care services offered by the college remained in classes through the next fall, compared to 42 percent of single parents who did not take advantage of the child care. Further, the on-time graduation rates for those who used the child care were three times higher (28 percent) than those who did not (8 percent).

In addition to allocating more funds to establish child care centers on campuses and targeting financial aid to single mothers, the report recommended that states allow college enrollment to count toward the work requirements that would qualify someone for aid under the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF).

In the letter sent to the Senate, NASFAA and a group of other advocacy organizations argued that the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which is funded by the CCDF, “is an important resource for college students, yet restrictive state eligibility rules, and insufficient funding for the program overall, mean that students face difficulties in accessing them.”

“Many states impose rules for receiving CCDBG-funded child care assistance that complicate student parents’ ability to qualify, including work requirements while they are in school and limitations on the type of degree they can earn. In addition, student-parents in the 20 states with subsidy waiting lists are unlikely to receive child care assistance, and in 2012, only 15 percent of 14.2 million federally eligible children received child care assistance through the CCDBG or related government funding streams,” they wrote.

Instead, the groups pushed for funding in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program — the “only federal program dedicated solely to providing child care assistance for students in postsecondary settings” — which Trump evidently proposed to cut in his budget proposal. However, The Trump administration reversed its stance on the program when it requested $15.1 million to fund the program in its fiscal year 2019 budget.


Publication Date: 5/15/2018

Karen D | 5/15/2018 11:24:37 AM

My daughter was a single mom attending college, and at the University of Texas at Austin they have Child Development Centers where cost of care is based on a sliding scale, and the care is outstanding. She was very fortunate to be able to have her son enrolled there.

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