Juggling College and Child Care

Juggling College and Child Care

A recent article from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) delivered an eye-opening reality about another issue facing student parents – the cost of child care.

The article profiled a young mother, Andrea Fitch, whose parenting experience was both a joy and challenge for her husband and for her.  The high costs of basic essentials for their child – diapers, formula, strollers, car seats, and especially child care.

With both parents working full time, and the need for full-time childcare, they realized that their high school degrees provided access to limited career potential, and they agreed that she would also work toward her bachelor’s degree.

After a year of juggling her job, classes, and child care, Fitch was offered a scholarship that would pay for her remaining coursework toward the degree, but it required she attend school full time.

Losing her income and maintaining the same household expenses, she was able to access Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps), but still owed over $800 monthly for child care.  And although her education was fully paid for, she resorted to student loans in order to afford child care, along with helping her husband pay monthly expenses.  At graduation, she had a student loan debt of nearly $30,000, over half of which was due to child care costs.  (To read the article: http://www.iwpr.org/blog/2014/09/19/when-student-loans-are-the-only-way-to-pay-for-child-care/.)

Fitch’s story is likely repeated across the country, reminding us that the definition of “affordable” needs to be expanded.  Here’s what IWPR shared in explaining the “old” vs the “new” definition of affordability:

For individuals and families, college is “affordable” when:

  1. Students and their families are able to meet living expenses with a reasonable standard of living both during and after school enrollment. A reasonable standard of living would provide:
  • a level of income at a basic standard of self-sufficiency;
  • adequate time for school work, self-care, sleep, and care for family members; and
  • the opportunity to function without unhealthy levels of stress.
  1. Students can anticipate substantial economic and social gain after graduation compared with a future without college. Affordability will be improved if the economic outcomes are comparable across lines of gender, race, and ethnicity.

From a societal perspective, college is “affordable” if:

  1. Cost is not a significant barrier to individuals’ ability to attain postsecondary credentials;
  2. Public expenditures pay off over the long-term without creating excessive short-term fiscal strain. Likely long-term benefits from college include an array of macroeconomic benefits that arise from a more highly educated population, such as:
  • a greater likelihood that children of graduates will themselves attend college;
  • reductions in economic inequality, intergenerational poverty, social welfare spending, and health care expenditures; and
  • improved health, well-being, and civic engagement.
  1. Institutions of higher learning provide good value and efficiency.

Working with students to accurately assess financial need is essential, particularly students with dependent care obligations, parenting students, students of color, and students with limited resources.   And on-campus supports such as child care, assistance in obtaining public benefits (Earned Income Tax Credits, child care subsidies, and food stamps), single-parent housing, access to health care, and more targeted scholarships are options to assist students who face the challenges of maintaining a family or household.

During our Board Reunion last night, we were excited to announce a new initiative for INSPIRED DONORS, focused on creating a scholarship fund to support young women from Chrysalis After-School in achieving a college degree.  In this way, Chrysalis completes the circle for girls who participate in our elementary and middle-school programs, and our high school mentoring program, as they achieve their educational and life goals.  

Interested in becoming an INSPIRED DONOR? Email: ebemis@chrysalisfdn.org for more information.

We know what a difference an education makes in a girl’s life, and we need to assure she can achieve it.  Thank you for being a leader in this work.

To learn more about IPR’s research, go to the Student Parent Success Initiative: