City University of New York colleges secured nearly $6 million in federal grant funds this year that will benefit schools’ Early Childhood Centers (ECCs) and the student-parents who rely on their services.
At Bronx Community College, where more than half of all students work while attending classes and 55% have a child under the age of 5, the grant funds will enable the ECC to stay open until 10 p.m., meaning it will care for some 40 children per academic year whose parents take classes at night and currently must arrange for child care off campus.
“Early Childhood Centers provide services that are indispensable to thousands of CUNY student-parents who would otherwise find it far more difficult to continue pursuing their educational goals,” said Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “This additional funding enables more New Yorkers to stay in college and build a better future for themselves and their young families.”
Bronx Community College’s ECC provides music, yoga and other activities that children don’t always get at child care centers off campus, along with counseling and other resources for parents. “Before I knew about the Early Childhood Center, I had to travel to drop my daughter off at daycare, come to school and then go back. To know there’s a center available to me right here on campus makes it all so much easier,” said Natalie Evans, who leaves her 3-year-old Charlee at BCC’s center on weekdays while she pursues an associate degree in Public Health. “I tell people all the time that this is more than just a child care center,” Evans added. “It’s like a really big, informative, supportive family.”
The U.S. Department of Education awards the grants through its Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program to support on-campus child care services primarily serving the needs of low-income students. CUNY colleges have been awarded funds since the grant program began in 1999, but the $5,976,180 secured this year marks a high point in both the amount of funding obtained for the child care centers and the number of CUNY schools to benefit.
New four-year awards were given to six CUNY schools, bringing to nine the number of University colleges that receive program funds. Newly awarded colleges include Brooklyn College, Baruch College, Bronx Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Kingsborough Community College and Lehman College. Medgar Evers College, New York City College of Technology and Borough of Manhattan Community College received four-year awards in 2017. Among other benefits, the funds will help add services, subsidize child enrollments and extend their hours of operation, benefiting adult learners who take evening classes.
LaGuardia Community College, for example, will increase the number of children who can be enrolled in its ECC by 20%, from 219 to at least 263, and the center will be able to offer emotional and mental health support services for parents. “I could not imagine dropping off my son somewhere, and then coming to LaGuardia,” said LaGuardia student Tracy Mingo, a 35-year-old single mom. “Here, it’s a one-stop shop. Knowing my son is nearby gives me so much comfort.”
At Kingsborough Community College, the new grant will enable more than 90% of student-parents who utilize the Child Development Center to pay as little as $1 per week for child care while they attend classes. KBCC also plans to bring academic advising, financial aid and career counseling directly into the Child Development Center, making it easier for student-parents to access those supports and, ultimately, to stay in school.
“All the services available on campus will be available right here,” said Heather Brown, director of the Child Development Center, which cares for upwards of 60 children per semester and operates some 80.5 hours per week. “For a lot of parents, this will be a game changer.”
There are 16 Early Childhood Centers that serve 17 CUNY campuses, providing daytime, evening and weekend child care and Pre-K for All, as well as mental health support services for parents and subsidies for parents who qualify. The centers are available to all CUNY students, and serve about 1,600 children annually. Experienced and certified educators conduct the programs, and all University child care programs are licensed and evaluated by New York City Department of Health.
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 24 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.