Since 1993, the state has provided funds to the community college system to assist students in affording child care. The state Senate’s budget proposal would provide an additional $1.2 million in recurring funds to the program over the following two years.
However, more is required to make an impact on students with child care costs, according to Brenda Long, director of financial aid at Carteret Community College. Only three students received grants during the previous school year. Thirteen people were on the waiting list, and many more were likely unaware they could apply, she said.
Local grant administrators informed EdNC that the program requires more funds and broader eligibility and that communities need more child care cost investment to solve systemic supply challenges.
Childcare requirements for community college students are difficult to define. Colleges have no method of determining how many students do not participate in school due to child care cost concerns. When students drop out of college, most colleges do not inquire about childcare costs.
In 2020, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation surveyed a representative sample of 802 working parents with children under the age of five and discovered that 45% of respondents reported dropping out of college or training, or declining training, due to child care costs constraints.
“I’ve heard it time and time again — students who will say, ‘Kindra, if it wasn’t for this program, I would not be here,'” said Kindra Moore-Smith, who administers child care costs at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
This past year, the institution was able to assist 37 students in paying for child care costs, although the state program accounts for less than half of the college’s financing. Moore-Smith said the college has a waitlist of around 40 students.
“I know I’m probably overreaching,” Moore-Smith admitted. “It would be a dream for me (that) if you are a student parent and you have children, that you would automatically get funding.”
Multiple administrators spoke to EdNC about the scarcity of child care in their communities. In some cases, that made it harder for colleges to spend all of child care costs since the start of the pandemic.
The range of how much colleges spent in the 2021-22 school year for child care costs, the latest available data, is wide. Fayetteville Tech spent every penny of its allotment of $119,620. Sandhills Community College, on the other hand, spent $2,130 out of $54,905.
It is indeed necessary for students to be supported with their basic needs if college administrators wanted to minimize the rate of college students dropouts. Students with child care costs must receive significant assistance in order to keep their dreams alive.