The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been awarded a federal grant worth more than $581,000 from the U.S. Department of Education that will help pay child care expenses for low-income students to help them complete their college education.
“The child care support provided by this grant will help our students who are parents and is another example of our institution’s commitment to student success,” Provost Ann Bain said. “This grant is particularly exciting because the baseline data to support the need for grant funds involved our faculty and our students, and the final grant submission was a collaboration between Dr. Daryl Rice and graduate student Cassie Jo Gehring.”
UA Little Rock received a Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) four-year grant of $581,128. The program supports the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services.
Funding will be available to students who are eligible to receive Pell Grants. Students receiving these grants typically come from households whose family incomes are less than $50,000 annually, though most Pell Grant money goes to students with a total family income below $20,000. At UA Little Rock, 39 percent of undergraduate students from the fall 2021 semester are Pell Grant recipients.
“The grant will allow us to pay support for child care to Pell-eligible students with children using established and licensed child care providers,” said Dr. Daryl Rice, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for student success. “The amount is based on a sliding scale. The program will also provide assistance in accessing child care support from other sources, such as the Arkansas Department of Health’s voucher program and child care provided by Early Start, Head Start, and the Little Rock School District.”
A priority will be given to single parents. Parents who are going to college face a tougher road than traditional college students and have lower student retention and graduation rates. Single mothers are particularly hard hit. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there are nearly 2.1 million single mothers in college today, many of whom are women of color.
Only 8 percent of single mothers who start college earn an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years, compared with about half of women who are not mothers. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research also shows that providing support for parents in college, such as free child care, financial assistance, and social skills training, would allow more student parents to graduate in less time.
During the spring 2021 semester, four Master of Public Administration (MPA) students in Dr. Kirk Leach’s social entrepreneurship course did background research for the grant, including a phone survey of local child care providers about capacity, prices, availability, and partnership opportunities with the university. The students include Andrea Neloms, Cassie Jo Gehring, Heather Reed, and Jenifer Tindle. Dr. Rice and Gehring wrote the final proposal and are co-principal investigators for the grant.
“Being a parent while a student myself, I thought of how difficult it must be for those who don’t have resources or support to advance themselves through higher education,” said Gehring, associate director of advancement services at UA Little Rock. “As a student at UA Little Rock, I have participated in many service-learning projects. I was inspired to think that the research I am doing as a student and my connections in my personal and professional life can come together to make a real-world change that will make a real impact for students who are looking to make a better life for themselves and their children.”
UA Little Rock previously had a child care center that closed down in 1993. A 2020 survey of UA Little Rock students, faculty, and staff found that 46 percent reported having primary responsibility for a child under 18. There is a current and anticipated demand for child care, specifically for children five and under. A third of respondents (33 percent) currently have a need for after school care for a child between the ages of 5-12.
Student respondents indicated that child care issues have had a direct impact on coursework and class attendance. More than a third of respondents reported that they have had to drop or withdraw from a class due to child care issues.
In addition to funding for child care, students accepted for the program will also have access to student success resources in the Office of Student Retention Initiatives, including success coaching, peer mentoring, and a licensed social worker.
“It isn’t often that a person’s educational career and professional career intersect,” said Heather Reed, director of Student Retention Initiatives and a MPA student who helped write the grant. “This is one opportunity where the research team for the Social Entrepreneurship MPA course with Dr. Leach led to the university being awarded a grant that will be put into direct action to support students. This is a humbling experience as a graduate student and professional to see theory to practice in action with the end result helping promote student success.”
The child care funding will be available to UA Little Rock students beginning in the spring 2022 semester. A full-time director will be hired to run the program in the Office of Student Retention Initiatives. All students who are eligible for the program will receive an email with more information later this semester. Students can also fill out this form or visit this website for more information.
If you’d like to donate to help support UA Little Rock students with child care needs, please donate via this link.
In the upper right photo, UA Little Rock has been awarded a federal grant worth more than $581,000 from the U.S. Department of Education that will help pay child care expenses for low-income students. Pictured, from left to right, are three of the UA Little Rock employees responsible for researching and writing the Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant: Heather Reed, Dr. Daryl Rice, and Cassie Jo Gehring. Photo by Angie Faller.