CVCC receives funding to support student parents

Central Virginia Community College is one of five community colleges in the commonwealth to receive a grant to participate in a pilot project aimed at better supporting students who are parents.

“We are immensely grateful for this grant and the opportunity to provide added support for parenting students,” CVCC President John Capps said in a news release. “We are committed to improving outcomes for students by supporting them in achieving their educational and career goals, and any way we can remove barriers for them is a win.”

CVCC will receive $50,000 from The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education for the project, which will run from December 2022 to November 2023.

The first cohort of students at the five locations participating in the pilot program will provide important information to help students locally with a goal to apply information learned to a state and even a national level, according to Kristin Ogden, CVCC’s dean of institutional effectiveness and planning .

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Ogden said the pilot project emerged from research that indicated women in the workforce had declined significantly, as a result of COVID-19, adult learners in general were not pursuing higher educational opportunities and 1 in 5 students were parenting students.

“We were aware of the challenges that our students were facing,” Ogden said. “We weren’t quite as aware of the numbers and the percentages of them who were trying to work and go to school and raise children.”

Once the opportunity became available, the college began looking at students enrolled this past fall and found CVCC has more than 200 female students who are parents and are Pell Grant-eligible.

CVCC asked questions of that group and found 87% of those students were working while trying to attend school.

Ogden said the number one challenge for students students was balancing family, work and their education.

Ogden said this grant will give the college an opportunity to provide additional resources to these students.

“Not only financial resources, but just in the support of being in a cohort with others who are experiencing the same things like them,” Ogden said.

According to a news release, benefits to student parents and children include:

  • individualized student support with coaching, direct financial assistance, and technology support;
  • increased employment and income opportunities by improving the likelihood of completing a credential of value;
  • participation in a cohort of single mothers providing peer mentoring and recognition of systemic challenges;
  • improved quality early childhood education access through support for child care and children’s activities;
  • assistance in the identification of paid internship opportunities within a student’s degree path; other
  • recognition of persistence and achievement and support for children, including age-appropriate learning materials.

Ogden said ultimately, this grant is intended to place these students in jobs to combat poverty and bring their families to “a different level.”

According to a release, research conducted by CVCC indicated child care access and availability for student parents near or on campus is inadequate to serve the population of children who need care.

Capps said much of the funding will be devoted to that wraparound support and in the form of a part-time coach who will work with those students.

Nadine Greene-Hicks, community connections coordinator, will help facilitate the relationships between the students, their children and resources.

“It’ll be extended to this cohort of parents to help them beyond the classroom if there’s any issues or concerns that they have connecting with those resources, so they are able to finish their educational journey,” Greene-Hicks said.

Through a website review and phone-call survey conducted by the college staff in October to the child care centers in the region, staff learned there is limited availability for infant and toddler care as well as little or no care offered outside of a traditional workday schedule .

Greene-Hicks said she and staff made calls to different day care agencies in Lynchburg and the surrounding areas such as Bedford, Campbell and Amherst counties, to get an idea of ​​cost, availability and hours of operation.

The community connections coordinator said she found there’s a child care desert.

“Basically what that means it’s not a lot of available resources for the parents. Some of the agencies might have a long waiting list and some parents may not be able to afford childcare,” Greene-Hicks said. “At a minimum, you might have a family that pays $170 a week and if you add that up on a monthly basis, that can be up to a car note or your mortgage… A lot of our parents are juggling between working extra hours , going to school and taking care of kids.”

The goal is to help parents find child care options and also find a partner facility that can help accommodate the students, because some facilities close early in the evening at 5:30 pm and students often have to take evening classes due to their work schedules.

“Single parents who struggle in low-wage jobs face disproportionate challenges as they strive to forge a better life for themselves and their children,” Capps said in the news release release. “Through the CAPS pilot project, CVCC will provide these parent students with the coaching, training, and support they need to secure employment in high-demand fields, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and replacing it with economic mobility.”

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