Students with children face many difficulties, from working full-time to support their families to having limited time slots to fill with classes. The Hiersteiner Child Development Center (HCDC) may be a valuable resource to relieve some of the stress student parents face.
THE STRUGGLES OF STUDENT PARENTS
Student parents attain degrees at a far lower rate than students without children, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) — only 27 percent of single student adult parents attain a degree or certificate within six years of enrollment, compared to 56 percent of non-parent students.
These statistics may be due to a few major challenges that student parents face. Full-time student and stay-at-home mom, Brittany Caudillo, has two children, ages four and six. Her biggest struggles include tuition prices, missing class to care for her children and selecting classes based around her children’s schedules.
“I absolutely think student parents face more struggles than [a] non-parent student, for the simple fact that we have children to consider,” Caudillo said. “You place their needs before yours. I have to make sure that I pick morning classes so that I can be home in time to get them off the school bus. I’m not a working mom, so I rely on financial aid to help me. And, when one or both of my children are sick, I have no other option but to miss class for the day and try to catch myself up before the next class period.”
CHILDCARE RESOURCES AT THE COLLEGE
Although Caudillo’s children are now enrolled in school, she only recently learned of a resource that could have assisted in their earlier childcare — the Hiersteiner Child Development Center.
“I didn’t realize there was childcare at the college,” Caudillo said. “That could have helped me! Because I wasn’t aware of it, I [would] specifically make my class schedule around my children so I could attend class without the hassle of trying to find a reliable sitter.”
The center’s purpose is to provide childcare for student parents on campus. The HCDC is located on the west side of campus, near the Horticulture Center and the Police Academy. All students attending the college are eligible for childcare at the center; so are all employees and the community at large.
According to the college’s website, “the center provides child education and care on a part- or full-time basis, with toddler early learning and preschool programs offered in the morning and afternoon.”
The center is not only designed to encourage educational progress in children, though; the HCDC’s handbook explained the social and emotional goals the center hopes to achieve.
According to the handbook, “The Center staff believes primarily that we can facilitate the development of self-esteem within each child we serve through our expression of respect, acceptance and comfort for them.”
With Caudillo’s students in school, she no longer has use for childcare; the struggle of framing her class schedule around her children’s timetable, though, prevails.
“My schedule this semester is fairly easy and I’m out of class by 11:50 every day,” Caudillo said. “But, the moment I come home, I have to try to get as much cleaning and errands done as possible, figure out dinner and drive my children to their soccer practices. Some days, none of this gets done because I’m studying for an upcoming test and I utilized my few hours alone before things become chaotic in my house.”
The days when school work leaves no time for familial obligations are, according to Caudillo, the hardest.
“That’s when I feel the most overwhelmed: when no house chores are done or no dinner is made,” Caudillo said. “Then I begin to feel like I’m failing as a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I just can’t focus on my homework because I’m helping my daughter with hers. She’s struggling in [school] right now and I feel like I’m to blame because I’m juggling my schoolwork, the household chores, her schoolwork and everything in between.”
For student parents who face Caudillo’s struggles and are searching for reliable childcare, the HCDC could be a useful resource. There are fees involved at the center, as well as regular tuition, but there is financial assistance available.
In addition to the Child Care Assistance grants already offered at the HCDC, the center recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which will provide scholarships to pay for a significant amount of childcare costs. Additionally, a program entitled Early Head Start assists eligible families with children ages one year to two-and-a-half years. Claire Ehney, manager, Hiersteiner Child Development Center discussed these programs.
“I am excited to [announce] that we just received the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS),” Ehney said. “The grant is on a sliding scale and will pay between 75 percent to 95 percent of the tuition. In addition to the CCAMPIS grant, there is also a Child Care Assistance grant [which can be applied for at the beginning of each semester]. So, there are scholarships available to help pay the cost of childcare at HCDC for student parents [at the college].”
Tuition depends on the parent’s affiliation with the college (student, employee or non-affiliated), the age of the child and the type of care (semester with or without extensions, or year-round).
Fees include a nonrefundable application fee and a deposit, as well as schedule change costs, early/late fees for early arrival at or late departure from the center and late payment fees.
Staff at the HCDC consists of licensed educators as well as trained personnel and on-call substitutes. College students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Associate of Science Degree Program attend the HCDC in order to complete laboratory work observing and interacting with children.
Whether using childcare or not, being a student parent can be demanding. For Caudillo, accepting imperfections has become an important part of dealing with the stress of raising children and going to school.
“I have convinced myself that it’s okay if my house isn’t clean for two or three days at a time, because at this point my education is more important,” Caudillo said. “I’m trying to become a radiologist, and my career will be extremely beneficial to my children and I in the long run. I’m struggling now so they can be proud of me later.”