Child Care Access Means Parents in School is one of several higher education programs that President Trump is proposing be eliminated in his first full budget, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. The $15 million program provides colleges and universities with funding to support or establish campus-based child care for student parents whose earnings are low enough to qualify them for federal Pell grants.
“This is a program that is absolutely essential for opening doors to higher education for student parents,” said Colin Seeberger, strategic campaigns adviser at Young Invincibles, an advocacy organization. “Cutting aid to student parents makes one wonder whether the administration understands the challenges that today’s students actually face.”
As the number of parents in college has grown from 3.2 million to 4.8 million in the last 20 years, resources for the campus child-care program have been stretched thin, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. Demand for child care is high, but the percentage of public institutions with centers on campus is dwindling. And without support from the federal government, advocates worry that student parents will be left in the lurch.
“It’s such a tiny portion of the education budget, but these kinds of supports are crucial, and we should be building on them,” said Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director at IWPR.
An institute survey of nearly 100 administrators at campus child-care centers found that 95 percent of centers at two- and four-year colleges maintained a waiting list with an average of 82 children. Barely half of four-year state colleges and universities provide child care, compared with 55 percent in 2003. The decline is steeper at community colleges, where only 44 percent of schools offer services, down from 53 percent 14 years ago, according to IWPR.
While most states have some form of child-care subsidies for low-income families, many of those programs have rules that make it difficult for college students to access care. Eleven states require students to be employed to be eligible for child-care subsidies, IWPR researchers found. Three of those states — Arizona, Kentucky and Washington — say parents must work at least 20 hours a week, which could make it more difficult for them to complete a degree on time.
Even if students are able to overcome those hurdles, the time it takes some states to approve applications can present more challenges. Ivy said she was accepted into Missouri’s child-care program at the end of her first semester in college, several months after she had applied. The state’s program is far more flexible than many others and welcomes parents attending school, but for Ivy, the time it took to enroll could have derailed her classes.