Grant will make child care more affordable, accessible for Blugolds raising young kids

| Judy Berthiaume

Life is about to get a little less stressful for Britney Rud, a UW-Eau Claire senior who is pursuing her education degree while also raising her young son, William.

UW-Eau Claire’s Children’s Nature Academy, where Will attends and his mother works, has received a grant of nearly $400,000 to help Blugolds like Rud — both a student and a parent — secure quality and more affordable child care for their young children.

Through the federal Child Care Means Parents in School program, UW-Eau Claire will receive $98,585 each year for four years, for a total of $394,340.

The CCAMPIS monies will help support UW-Eau Claire students who are the parents of infants and toddlers, allowing them to attend classes and be successful in their educational endeavors, says Lisa Coen, director of the Children’s Nature Academy.

“We are excited to receive funding to support Blugolds who are both students and the parents of very young children,” says Coen. “With these funds, we will provide child care at a reduced rate for qualifying families who have children enrolled in the program. These parents can then focus on their studies knowing that their children are in a quality child care program and that they will be charged rates they can better afford.

“The CCAMPIS program will help meet some of our students’ child care needs, which will help them succeed in college and give them more long-term financial security.”

Through the CCAMPIS initiative, Pell-eligible Blugolds can enroll their youngsters at the Children’s Nature Academy at a greatly reduced rate.

The new funding also will allow the CNA to offer student-parents more flexible schedules, supportive services for families, and access to educated and experienced early childhood professionals, Coen says.

That’s welcome news for Rud, a Mondovi native who is working toward her degree in unified early childhood special education.

“This will make it easier for me to afford quality child care for my son while I’m at class and work,” says Rud. “Another huge benefit is that students now will be given priority for openings in enrollment. There is high demand for child care so there are always waiting lists at the CNA and other quality child care providers in the area. It’s good know that student-parents will have first dibs here.”

With the grant dollars, CNA can offer students more flexibility in their schedules, allowing them to better balance their busy lives while maximizing time spent with their child, Coen says, noting that the academy will offer students a variety of scheduling options.

Both the lower rates and the new flexibility will make her life as a single parent less stressful, Rud says.

“Knowing I will have access to affordable, flexible, quality care will allow me to attend classes and work without worrying about child care for my son,” Rud says.

Coen says data shows that supporting students who are parents of young children does lead to higher graduation rates.

“Affordable, quality child care is crucial to the success of undergraduate students who are raising young children at the same time they are working to earn their degrees,” Coen says. “CCAMPIS has proven elsewhere to be a positive factor in retaining nontraditional and low-income students. It will help us offer more of our student-parents greater opportunities to earn their degrees.”  

Research shows that students with children are less likely to complete their degree within six years of enrolling, with only 33 percent of those students earning a degree or certificate in that timeframe, Coen says.

Family care demands are among the major reasons women take a break from or permanently leave school, Coen says, noting that child care is an even bigger challenge for single parents.

That is certainly true of Rud, a single parent who now is in her sixth year at UW-Eau Claire. It’s taken longer than she’d first hoped to graduate because she took fewer credits when Will was an infant.

However, with plans to student teach in fall 2019, she’s now on track to graduate next December.

Will has been attending the CNA since he was 6 weeks old, says Rud, who works part time at the academy.

The academy has been supportive, but it’s still challenging financially for Will to attend, she says.

“I love working here, and my son loves coming here,” Rud says. “I know he’s getting quality child care at a rate that’s more affordable than it would be if I wasn’t a student. But even with the student rate, affording child care here has been difficult.

“As a student employed by the university, I’m only allowed to work up to 25 hours a week. I haven't received child support from my son's father since June, and I have my son most of the time, so working another job isn't very feasible.”

In addition to the financial challenges, managing her time also isn’t easy as a student, parent and an employee, Rud says.

“I want to spend quality time with my son, but I want — and need — to finish my degree so that he and I can have a better future,” says Rud, who hopes to work in a child care setting like CNA or a 4K program. “To go to school, I need him in child care, but I also need to work to pay for the child care. I know my son is receiving great care here, which puts me a little more at ease. This new funding will help make it all easier to balance.”

CCAMPIS grants, the only ongoing source of federal funding geared directly toward expanding college student access to child care, are awarded directly to higher education institutions.

Grant funds can be used to establish or expand campus-based child care programs, help provide before- and after-school services for older children, and subsidize the costs of child care services for low-income students.

Many colleges and universities have used CCAMPIS funding to support and improve student parent success, Coen says. Data suggests that student parents at schools with CCAMPIS funding have higher retention and completion rates than students on average, and do well academically, she says.

For more information, contact Lisa Coen at coenlm@uwec.edu or 715-836-2178.

Photo caption: Britney Rud is working toward her education degree at the same time she is raising her son, William.