Four days a week, before heading to classes at Spokane Falls Community College, Amanda Miller drops off her 2-year-old daughter at a day care center on campus.
As a single mother and college student who earns minimum wage tutoring her peers, Miller, 27, is grateful that she has access to affordable child care in a county where average rates rival university tuition. She said she’s paying just $150 for her daughter’s day care during the summer quarter.
“It would be hard for me if that went up,” said Miller, who plans to pursue a nursing degree after graduating from SFCC. “I pay a lot of the bills that two people would normally pay on my own … More bills, more struggle.”
Child Care Access Means Parents in School, or CCAMPIS, is a federal program that helps low-income parents, like Miller, pursue higher education. The program costs about $15 million and reaches about 5,000 students each year.
That money is doled out to colleges in the form of competitive grants, then used to create child care programs or make them more accessible to low-income students. Students who are eligible for Pell Grants are also eligible for CCAMPIS.
At SFCC and Spokane Community College, the program has slashed child care rates by up to 80 percent, said Patty Allen, the director of Spokane County’s Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
She said the program has enabled many parents to become “better students who stay in school longer.”
But 60 students at SFCC and Spokane Community College received letters this month indicating their child care rates could skyrocket. The colleges’ current four-year grant will expire at the end of September, and some worry about the fate of the program, which was placed on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.
More than a quarter of undergraduates in the United States, about 4.8 million students, have children, according to a 2014 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
And as the number of student-parents grew from 3.2 million over two decades, child care resources have been stretched thin, the study found. Less than half of all campuses have child care centers, and most have long waiting lists, it found.
The study also concluded that women are more likely to juggle college and parenthood. Single mothers accounted for 43 percent of student-parents, while only 11 percent were single fathers.
CCAMPIS was created by Congress in 1998 and expanded in 2001 under President George W. Bush, when funding peaked at $25 million. A bill introduced last year by Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts would raise the appropriation to $67 million.
Community Colleges of Spokane has received CCAMPIS funding since 2009, about $175,000 per year. Allen said the colleges reapplied for funding last month and should hear back in late August.
Allen said CCAMPIS is a cost-effective program that benefits both college students and their children. She noted it’s a sliver of the U.S. Department of Education’s $70 billion budget.
“In the scheme of things it’s minuscule compared to the Department of Education as a whole,” she said.
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