FSU’s Childcare & Early Learning Program awarded $5M grant to assist parents earning degrees

FSU's Childcare & Early Learning Program provides a high-quality care and educational environment for young children that promotes lifelong learning and supports the academic and professional success of students, faculty, and staff.
FSU's Childcare & Early Learning Programs provide a high-quality care and educational environment for young children that promotes lifelong learning and supports the academic and professional success of students, faculty, and staff.

Florida State University’s Childcare & Early Learning Program will soon offer more support to parents pursuing a degree.

The FSU Childcare & Early Learning Program will receive $5,413,600 from the U.S. Department of Education over the next four years to increase the retention and graduation rates of low-income students with children by providing accessible, affordable, high-quality childcare at the program’s center. The funding is part of the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant, which supports the participation of student parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based childcare services.

“This grant will help us expand our services and continuity of care for children,” said Shannon Staten, executive director of University Housing and FSU’s Childcare & Early Learning Program. “We are excited to provide higher support for students who have children throughout their FSU college experience. The staff and faculty at the center are excited for the future of childcare on campus.”

FSU’s Childcare and Early Learning Program has received the CCAMPIS grant since 2001, when it established the Infant and Toddler Child Development Center to serve children under the age of two. Previously, the maximum award of the grant was capped at 1% of the total Pell grant funds awarded to an institution. This year, however, the U.S. Department of Education increased the cap to 3%, allowing campus-based childcare centers to expand services to student parents.

“Student parents are a unique population on university campuses and often face many barriers to successfully completing their degrees,” said Tiffany Karnisky, director of operations for FSU’s Childcare & Early Learning Program. “We were fortunate to develop a partnership with Institutional Research to gather some preliminary data on the numbers of student parents on campus. With this grant, our goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the specific needs of the student parent population and help remove some of those barriers through financial assistance and support services. Our goal is to see our student parents stay in school and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.”

The increased funding is a major win for student parents as it allows the program to expand its ability to meet their needs. With these funds, the program will be able to pay 100% of childcare fees for student parents with children enrolled in the program. This funding will also enable the program to pay a portion of childcare tuition for siblings enrolled either in another childcare center in the community or an after-school program.

FSU medical student Cylena Stewart’s 5-year-old son is flourishing in kindergarten after graduating from FSU’s Childcare & Early Learning Program.

“The FSU Childcare Center and the CCAMPIS grant have given me the ability to focus on my graduate studies while knowing that my kiddos — now five years old and one year old — are safe, loved, and learning,” Stewart said. “My son recently graduated from FSU Childcare and is thriving in kindergarten. As a student, the grant has helped relieve the huge financial burden of childcare, especially during COVID. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

The program is exploring its ability to assist student parents on their waiting list and the greater student body with funding to pay for childcare services in the community. The program currently prioritizes enrollment for student parents in the program. Under the priorities of the grant the program will give priority enrollment to single student parents, who face more challenges in completing their degrees. Part-time and full-time students are both eligible.

Doctoral student John Paul Fraites said the grant offers additional benefits that would normally be out-of-pocket expenses.

“While we were doing our initial search for daycare, we learned about the CCAMPIS grant, and that grant funds could help pay for childcare supplies,” Fraites said. “In addition to the proximity of the daycare to our jobs and classes and the reviews we received about the quality care at the daycare, the CCAMPIS grant for FSU students was a major determining factor in applying.”

The funding also allows the program to hire six additional full-time faculty teachers to continue increasing enrollment for infants and toddlers and to provide continuity of care for children and support to student parents.

FSU’s Childcare & Early Learning Program will begin assessing the needs of student parents and providing services on campus and in the community, such as free health screenings for children, counseling and informational sessions about services, such as Medicaid and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

To learn more about FSU’s Childcare and Early Learning Program, visit childcare.fsu.edu.