UA Little Rock Launches New Program to Provide Child Care Funding for Low-Income Students

Shanna Parker

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has launched a new program to help university students find and afford quality child care so they can complete their college education.

The Child Care Connections program is two-fold. First, it will provide child care funding for eligible students though a federal grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Second, the program helps connect student parents with the resources and support they need to finish college.

Child care funding will be available to UA Little Rock 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, about 39 percent of undergraduate students are Pell Grant recipients.

The Child Care Connections child care funding is provided by a Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) four-year grant of $581,128 from the U.S. Department of Education. The program supports the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services.

“With the Child Care Connections program, UA Little Rock will be able to provide a unique service for students by helping provide child care coverage,” said Shanna Parker, director of Child Care Connections. “UA Little Rock is only the second university in Arkansas to receive a CCAMPIS grant, so students will receive something that other colleges won’t be able to provide. Eligible students will be able to focus more on their education knowing that their child is being cared for while they attend school.”

The program also provides assistance for students who don’t qualify for the federal child care funding. Parker will provide consultations to help students navigate child care services in central Arkansas. They can also provide wrap-around services to help student parents get the support they need to be successful in school and in life. These include referrals to the Care Team, student support specialists, success coaching, tutoring, and other campus and community resources.

“We want students to understand that we can provide many services to help them succeed in school,” Parker said. “We want to nurture the entire family by providing the resources they need. We can connect them with a student success coach to help them stay in school and connect them with other resources on campus. We won’t make the choices for students, but we will guide them and give them the tools necessary to do what is best for their families. We will exhaust all avenues to help them.”

A priority for the child care funding 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.

Shamari Burnett, a junior psychology major, is applying for the program to help keep her 1-year-old son at the great daycare center he currently attends.

“As a new single mom and full-time college student, it’s hard because I want to make sure he’s getting great care while I spend a lot of time studying,” Burnett said. “When I first heard about the program starting last semester, I was excited because it’s just what I needed! The cost started to get really expensive, and I was debating on taking him out of the daycare he currently attends, but I decided to wait and apply for Child Care Connections. I’m always looking for ways to save money while working towards my career and educational goals.”

Johna Rocha, a UA Little Rock student who plans to apply for the Child Care Connections program, said this program could help provide her with peace of mind while she is attending classes to complete her nursing degree.

“Because of COVID, child care has become scarce, inconsistent, and it is also extremely expensive,” Rocha said. “I have two children who need care while I am in class, and I am scrambling every week to find someone to watch them. I want quality care for my children so that I can fully engage in class and create a better life for them by finishing my degree. Good child care is vital for me to do that.”

Students may fill out an application for child care funding via this link.

State-licensed child care providers who maintain general liability insurance and agree to a Memorandum of Agreement can participate in the CCAMPIS program. UA Little Rock will host two virtual sessions for child care providers interested in being a part of the program from 7-7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 7.

For more information, contact Shanna Parker at childcare@ualr.edu or 501-916-5648.

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