Me and My Baby

Child Care

Are there assistance programs that can help me pay for campus childcare?

The burden of student debt is multiplied when you are taking care of a child. Fortunately, the number of campuses with child care facilities are increasing. Unfortunately, you have to compete and pay to enroll in them, along with the 26% of college students in the U.S. who have children. There are some ways to reduce child care expenses.

Campus child care centers are now commonplace as colleges cater to a diverse student and faculty population. According to the National Coalition for Campus Children's Centers, there are over 2,500 campus child care centers. Around a third are managed by an academic unit of the college, a third by student affairs programs, and the remainder are run by non-profit agencies, personnel offices, outside vendors or parent cooperatives.

Affording and getting a placement at a facility can be a major headache for a single student parent with child custody. Often, there are limited daycare spots which are first offered to faculty. Qualification for childcare aid varies from state to state and each has their own criteria such as course load and satisfactory academic performance.

Often, independent childcare must be financed with more loans and student parents end up with an average of 10% more debt by the end of their studies. Childcare tax credits are available for students and you do not have to be employed to qualify. Some public federal funding is available through the Childcare and Development Fund, the largest federal program dedicated to childcare services and quality.

Not all states recognize being in higher education as eligibility for low-income parents to qualify for childcare benefits. You will need to check with your state early childhood education agency or a local Child Care Resource and Referral organization. Childcare Aware of America can advise about your eligibility for benefits. Many subsidies have strict income guidelines, and generally apply only to children under 13.

Many colleges have support groups for students with children. Low-cost, on-campus child care is available at a number of colleges and some offer financial assistance. Federal grants are also offered to institutions to enable them to provide subsidized child care to students.

Flexible Spending Accounts are federal accounts administered through workplaces. They allow you to put aside up to $5,000 in pre-tax dollars towards child care expenses. Tax credits of up to $3,000 per child can also be claimed as expenses. Although this does not provide direct reimbursement, it can reduce your taxes.

You may be surprised to learn childcare benefits are more available in other countries. In the U.S., regulations and college provisions vary greatly so you'll need to do a bit of research to find out what applies to you.

Nothing you do for children is ever wasted - Garrison Keillor.

(Suzanne Hite is a former publications editor serving the technology services sector).


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