The White House has reversed plans to eliminate a federally-funded program dedicated to supporting low-income student parents on college campuses.
The administration’s new federal budget blueprint, released Monday, requests $15.1 million for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program. It’s a major change from the budget proposal first rolled out by the White House in 2017, which proposed slashing the decades-old initiative altogether.
As Refinery29 reported in September, nearly 5 million college students, about a quarter of the current campus population, have kids. Adding the cost and demands of child care to the already steep price tag for college tuition makes pursuing and obtaining a degree even more challenging for these students, many of whom are single moms. In fact, research shows student parents accumulate debt and drop out at rates higher than their child-free peers.
Providing low-cost and easy-to-access child care can help. But as the number of college students with children grows, crucial services for the vulnerable campus population are being cut. Advocates worried that axing CCAMPIS, a relatively small program that supports thousands of students across dozens of campuses, would only make things worse.
It’s unclear what prompted the administration’s shift on CCAMPIS. Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, released in 2017, dismissed CCAMPIS as one of a number of initiatives that “duplicate other programs, are more appropriately supported with State, local, institutional, or private funds, are outside of the Department’s core mission, or have not shown evidence of effectiveness.”
But when pressed late last summer on the issue and how cutting grant funding for struggling student parents squared with senior advisor Ivanka Trump’s stated support for expanding child care access, a White House official told Refinery29: "We are working on ways to preserve the program." New documents outlining the new Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal acknowledge the program’s need. “One significant barrier to completion for low-income students and single parents is the lack of convenient and affordable quality child care services,” a report justifying the education funding requests states. (Refinery29 has reached out to the White House and the Department of Education for comment).
Whatever happened, student parents and those advocating on their behalf are cautiously optimistic about the development. Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, a senior research associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said she was “shocked and pleased” to see the administration's change of heart in the new budget. “We are a little surprised and also very happy that CCAMPIS is preserved in this budget proposal and that they’re proposing a small increase,” she told Refinery29. “Obviously, much greater funding is needed to adequately meet the needs of student parents, but we definitely appreciate this important first step.”
Colin Seeberger, strategic campaigns director for the millennial-focused advocacy organization Young Invincibles, echoed those comments — and concerns. "CCAMPIS has a long track record of being supported by members of both parties, so it's a relief to see the Administration finally acknowledge that the program works,” he said in an email. “While the program currently helps nearly 3,300 students, more than 1.3 million student parents are currently living in poverty. The demands of being a parent are hard enough in today's economy, but doing so while going to school can feel logistically and financially impossible. For the Administration to truly demonstrate it understands the needs of these students and their families, they'd have to propose substantially increasing investment in campus child care access."
An investment that fully serves student parents living below the poverty line could cost as much as $500 million, Young Invincibles has estimated in the past. The closest proposal in Congress, backed by Democrats in the House and Senate, would permanently bump the program’s budget to $67 million a year.
Supporting the needs of low-income students with kids doesn’t stop with funding CCAMPIS, experts say. And, when taken as a whole, Trump’s new budget is by no means a win for struggling young Americans. Reichlin Cruse was quick to point out that while the proposal restores funding for the childcare grants, proposed changes to services like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and loan repayment could hit student parents especially hard.
“[These programs are] part of the patchwork of support that [student parents] use to make ends meet while they’re pursuing their degree,” she said. “Cutting any of these programs is going to make it more difficult.”