With the addition of a summer session, Sinclair Community College’s Early Childhood Education Center now offers year-round childcare that’s affordable to struggling student-parents who might otherwise drop out of school.
“It allows students to stay in school year-round so they persist and graduate at a faster pace. We know if you take time off of school, sometimes it’s hard to get back started,” said Kim Kramer, vice president of Mini University, Inc., which operates the center at Sinclair.
The new summer option means Sinclair student Madison Gray won’t fret about who’s available to care for her 1-year-old son Calvin while she’s at work or attending Sinclair classes.
“We were going to struggle with having two to three family members having to watch him and taking him to different people at different times,” she said. “Just having him at one place with the same teachers is really nice and we won’t have to worry.”
About one in five community college students are parents — most women, said Phyllis Adams, chair of Sinclair’s Education Department.
“There are so many students that if they didn’t have access to childcare, they couldn’t attend college,” Adams said. “For some of our students, just getting financial aid for their classes is not enough. If they didn’t have the services of the preschool, then they wouldn’t be able to attend college.”
The expanded services are covered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. A nearly $1 million Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant provides childcare subsidies to Pell-eligible students enrolled in at least six credit hours per semester, according to Sinclair.
It’s the first summer session offered at the Early Childhood Education Center since it was established in 1973, Adams said. This spring also marked the first year that the center has served infants and toddlers.
Credit: Jim Noelker
Credit: Jim Noelker
Kramer said the competitive U.S. Education Department grant serves about 30 students a term.
The summer session helped Gray, who works fulltime at Dayton Children’s Hospital as a medical assistant in the cardiology clinic, continue studies uninterrupted toward an associate’s degree in public health.
“Once I found out that they are open in the summer, it made it easier for me and my husband to figure out daycare,” she said.
Gray said Calvin has responded to his care at the Early Childhood Education Center.
“Just going to one place and seeing the same people, same teachers and playing with other kids is really helpful,” she said “He was kind of struggling with sleeping and different things … He used to have to be held when he’s sleeping but now he’s in the crib.”
Gray said the teachers are welcoming and encouraging now helping Calvin, who turned 1 yesterday, learn to crawl.
“I really enjoy it and I think Calvin really enjoys it as well,” she said.
The federal grant can pay for up to $900 monthly for childcare tuition at that ranges at the center from $1,130 a month for children ages 4-5 to $1,320 monthly for an infant.
Adams said 85%-90% of Sinclair student-parents are eligible for the federal grant. Tuition is fully funded for most after layering other available assistance, which can include state Kindergarten Prep scholarships, local Preschool Promise tuition assistance and other public funding.
Approximately 22% of all Ohio undergraduate students are parents and almost half of those are single mothers, according to a 2019 Institute on Women’s Policy Research analysis of federal data.
Studies by the policy group also reveal that nearly two-thirds of student-parents live at or near the poverty level and 36% of working students don’t have access to paid sick leave.
But single mothers who persist and get an associate’s degree are 35% less likely to live in poverty and earn nearly $300,000 more over their lifetimes and contribute more in taxes than if they had only a high school diploma, according to the policy group’s report.
Amid a prolonged public health crisis, Sinclair’s new summer childcare session will help student-parents remain settled, Adams said.
“The pandemic has presented numerous challenges for students as they try to balance work, family, and education,” she said. “The grant funding and expanded services are additional resources to help eligible students achieve better stability.”
Kyle Pacheco is studying at Sinclair while on active duty in the Air Force serving at Wright Patterson Air Force Base while his wife, Aileen, takes online classes through a military spouse’s program through Texas A&M University.
With their daughter, 4, in the preschool program and 20-month-old son in the toddler’s program, Pacheco said he’s able to continue work and the couple didn’t have to put their educations on hold over for childcare.
“It would have been more strenuous on us financially,” he said. “I’m just dedicated to my education so I could better my family situation. With the daycare, I was able … to continue taking summer classes.”
Pacheco said the Early Childhood Education Center offers their children a clean, positive, friendly atmosphere to learn alongside other children taught by committed teachers.
“They are really dedicated to helping us out and our children as well,” he said.
About the Author