Courtney Hultgren is the assistant director at the Hilltop Child Development Center at the University of Kansas (KU). Having served as a teacher and operations manager at Hilltop before becoming assistant director, Courtney understands that childcare, which can cost as much per month as rent or a mortgage, is a central concern for many college students who are also parents.
For Courtney, many of her responsibilities at Hilltop are enrollment-centric: she gives tours to student-parents seeking childcare, helps student-parents fill out applications, and discusses financial options based on student-parents’ financial qualifications. One relatively recent option available to KU students is Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS), a federally-funded grant program meant to provide subsidized childcare for eligible student-parents.
In the past, if student-parents were unable to get financial assistance for childcare while they attended college classes, they might have had to withdraw from school. With CCAMPIS, Courtney says, student-parents are less likely to have to choose between going to college and paying for childcare. Hilltop, which offers full-day care, flexible scheduling, and meals, uses a sliding scale fee system that can lower the childcare costs for students, faculty, and staff. Looking forward, Courtney is excited about what CCAMPIS can do for student-parents. “Graduation rates are one thing we are trying to track. We have seen an increase in attendance, but we are waiting to see data about student-parents graduating and moving on to their careers.”
In addition to standard childcare services, student-parents participating in CCAMPIS are required to attend parent workshops. Workshops are held during convenient times for parents and provided childcare plus a meal. The focus of the workshops is improving parent-child relationships and healthy childrearing practices. Student-parents can choose from different topics throughout the semester to suit their needs (e.g., sleep training, problem behaviors). In addition, student-parents also have access to child behavioral consultants on staff at Hilltop to address the family’s specific needs. As Courtney summarized, “Workshops are a family experience that student-parents can take home and put into practice…We make it as easy as possible to attend.”
While CCAMPIS is new to the KU student-parent community, Courtney says that she is already seeing the positive benefits. She shared an anecdote about one family who came to Hilltop seeking childcare was able to join CCAMPIS just as it was implemented. The family went from saying, “We can’t afford this” to getting CCAMPIS assistance and being able to continue their schooling. That student-parent recently graduated and is now looking at graduate school. “It’s nice to be able to see that from beginning to end!”