The University of South Florida’s (USF) Preschool for Creative Learning (PCL) received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide financial assistance and other resources to USF students who are parents of preschool-aged children.
The project, “Childcare Access Means Parents in School” includes funds to provide partial tuition assistance for children enrolled at the PCL whose parent is a USF student and classified as “Pell-eligible” as determined by their financial aid status. Approximately 40% of USF students are eligible for Pell Grants, the highest amount among Florida’s preeminent universities.
The project will empower the PCL to host parent education and community building activities to support USF student parents while they are enrolled at the university. Additionally, the funding will provide needed supplies and equipment to support the school’s staff and daily operations.
“The cost of childcare has increased in recent years to the point that it can be equivalent to college tuition,” said Victoria Damjanovic, PhD, director of the USF PCL. “This cost for quality childcare can be a barrier to completing their college degree, causing student families to choose between childcare and college tuition costs. Having this project at USF eliminates the barrier of cost, allowing student families to continue their education while knowing their children are receiving an exceptional learning experience.”
Located on USF’s Tampa campus, the PCL serves as a site to demonstrate, observe, study and teach exemplary practices in early childhood education. The award-winning facility is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a distinction held by less than 10 percent of all childcare centers, preschools and kindergartens nationally.
More than one in five college students across the U.S. are also parents, according to an analysis from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). This population of students often faces challenges such as higher college debts and difficulty balancing work, home and academic responsibilities. The IWPR reports that despite these obstacles, student parents are often more motivated to earn higher grades than other student groups and are driven by a desire to improve their children’s lives.
USF is a leader in providing an inclusive learning environment that allows students to maximize their potential for lifelong success. Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report ranked USF no. 12 among U.S. public universities as a top performer in Social Mobility, which assesses an institution’s success enrolling, retaining and graduating students who come from families with lower incomes and receive federal Pell Grants.
“Part of the mission of the College of Education is our commitment to improved outcomes for students and communities, particularly those that have been underserved,” said Judith A. Ponticell, PhD, interim dean of the USF College of Education. “The partial preschool tuition assistance for USF student-parents who are Pell-eligible and who enroll their child at the PCL may increase the likelihood that these students can complete their degrees. In addition, these students will have access to support through parent education and community building activities hosted by the PCL.”