In 2016, there were 4.8 million undergraduate students raising children—nearly one out of every four undergraduates—and they face a unique set of pressures compared to other undergraduate students. Balancing parenting responsibilities with studies presents these students with challenges on both their time and money. For instance, in the United States, just over a quarter of single student parents, and only 39 percent of married student parents, earn a degree from an institute of higher education within six years of enrolling. While, on average, 60% of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree graduate in six years. Only 15% of low-income student-parents reported receiving child care subsidies to help with the high cost of child care. Providing high-quality child care to low-income student parents is a critical aspect of growing retention and completion rates for student parents.
The need for child care on college campuses, especially for student parents, is vast. Research from the Institute on Women’s Policy Research found declining numbers of child care centers in higher education institutions over the past 10 years. Further, 95% of campuses with a quality child care option have a waiting list. Access to affordable child care benefits both student parents and their children, by fostering quality early childhood development and offering opportunities for parents to succeed on campus.
Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) is the single federal program targeted entirely at meeting the child care needs of student parents. It is a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Education that provides campus-based child care services to encourage low-income student parents to participate in post-secondary education. Higher education institutions that apply for and receive these grants can use the funding to provide a wide variety of child care related services to support student parents. These services can include giving child care subsidies for parents to use at the child care provider of their choice, offering child care either at their own institution or contracting out into the greater community, providing supplies and equipment for child care centers, and targeting a variety of child care needs of the institution and community.
These services supplement the main goal of the program: to provide a variety of child care options to best suit the needs of low-income student parents. To be eligible, higher education institutions must have a minimum of $250,000 in federal Pell grants awarded to students in the previous fiscal year. The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to help them access postsecondary education. Low-income parents who are eligible to receive these Pell grants can access the CCAMPIS funding. Funding for CCAMPIS increased from $12 million to $50 million in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, the program’s first major expansion since 1998. This increase in funding allowed the Department of Education to give out 196 awards in FY 2018, more than doubling the number of awards given in FY 2017. This increase allowed the Department of Education to change eligibility for higher education institutions from those that receive a minimum of $350,000 in Pell grants to a minimum of $250,000 and serve an estimated additional 7,600 student parents.
There is bipartisan congressional interest in furthering the reach of CCAMPIS. In May 2019, Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Don Young (R-AK), and Kim Schrier (D-WA) introduced the CCAMPIS Reauthorization Act to increase CCAMPIS funding from $50 million to $200 million annually through the year 2025. In addition to expanding funds for the program, the CCAMPIS Reauthorization Act proposes mechanisms like technical assistance to assist higher education institutions in applying for grants, offers opportunities for bonus payments for top performing grantees, and includes a requirement for an annual report from the Department of Education to summarize the impact and supply additional data about the CCAMPIS program which would be publicly available. These additional investments and resources would increase CCAMPIS’s visibility and provide valuable information about its profound impact on supporting student parents.
Increasing awareness and funding for the CCAMPIS program can empower and support student parents so they can continue to pursue postsecondary education and help their children learn and grow.