Childcare can cost more than college tuition: Sinclair offering way to cut costs

Parents who attend Sinclair Community College could be eligible for help paying for child care under a new program.

While higher education can be the key to earning a family-sustaining wage, parents with young children often struggle to balance school, work and child care.

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Parents — particularly single parents — are more likely to drop out of college than non-parents, and then not only are challenged to find living-wage employment but also often have student debt on top of family expenses.

The child care program is aimed at reducing barriers student-parents face finishing their degrees by subsidizing child care as well as adding a staff member to help parents connect to other resources.

The community college based in downtown Dayton announced this week it had received a $900,000 grant from U.S. Department of Education. The federal grant is highly competitive and the college had previously been awarded funds through the program.

While there is a child care at the preschool on Sinclair’s main campus, this grant gives students with incomes low enough to qualify for Pell grants a significant discount, who will pay no more than 50 percent of total cost. Sinclair students must be Pell-eligible, registered for six credit hours, and be in good academic standing. The subsidies can also be used at the Montgomery County Mini University, which also cares for infants.

Nearly 40 percent of all women in community college are mothers and more than half of student mothers in community college are raising children without the support of a partner, according to a report by Institute for Women’s Policy Research. About 29 percent of all student parents at community colleges are fathers, two in five of whom are single parents.

There are other child care programs including the state’s publicly-funded program. Families become eligible if they have an income below 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and can remain eligible until incomes below greater than 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, according to Ohio Jobs and Family Services. For a family of three, that’s $2,252 gross income a month to first become eligible.

“Many parents find it difficult to go back to school because of a lack of accessible and high-quality child-care service,” said Steve Johnson, Sinclair president. “By providing an on-campus child-care center we are able to eliminate a major accessibility gap for our student-parents.”

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Students who get the subsidies will also work with a “Student Success Coach” who will make referrals to campus and community resources, helping the students solve issues from challenges paying utility bills to falling behind on a class.

“We look at this support coach as a person who is going to help them get to finish line,” said Phyllis Adams, chair of the Early Childhood Education Center at Sinclair Community College.

Adams, who herself was once a parent and student, said it helps that the children can attend a half day or full day, giving time for parents to not just attend class but to have their children cared for while they study and do homework.

She said while the grant refers to the program as child care, it is a five-star preschool so the children of Sinclair’s students also benefit by getting high quality early childhood education.

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“We feel they are getting a great head start,” Adams said.

Students who apply for child care help with the program will get assistance seeing if they qualify for other programs including other child care assistance.

Shannon Jones, executive director for Groundwork Ohio, which advocates on early childhood issues, said the average child care cost for a single parent in Ohio with two children who did not get state subsidies is about $17,000.

“It is actually way more expensive than the cost of college education in many instances. It just makes it impossible for families to be able to continue on with their education,” Jones said.

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If a parent has delays getting a degree because they can’t afford child care, Jones said it also means lost career time and experience that has a cumulative affect on how much they can earn for their family.

“It has a long term repercussions over what a single parent earns over their lifetime,” she said.

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