No freedom for students enrolled with child care

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William Chapman, 2, is all smiles with his camera after nap time Wednesday in Room 0.1 at the early childhood center.  Photo by Anthony B. Botello

William Chapman, 2, is all smiles with his camera after nap time Wednesday in Room 0.1 at the early childhood center. Photo by Anthony B. Botello

Psychology freshman Ana Faces drops off her child, Carlos Nayen, 2, Thursday at the early childhood center before classes.  Photo by Cynthia M. Herrera

Psychology freshman Ana Faces drops off her child, Carlos Nayen, 2, Thursday at the early childhood center before classes. Photo by Cynthia M. Herrera

Federal grant is 15th largest in the country.

By Cynthia M. Herrera

cherrera151@student.alamo.edu

Nathalie Mora, radio-television-broadcasting sophomore, completed a beginning course in journalism in the fall and planned to enroll in the next reporting class this spring.

But because she receives a Federal Pell Grant and the course was not in her degree plan, her child was going to be turned away from the early childhood center at this college.

Mora wanted the additional journalism class to help in her studies of mass communication. Her degree plan includes a variety of production and broadcast writing skills, but she wanted experience in print media as well. She is in her second semester as a reporter for The Ranger.

Media communications Chair Marianne Odom petitioned early childhood to accept Mora’s degree plan with the additional course, explaining journalism is beneficial to her degree plan. The department agreed and allowed her child to re-enroll for spring.

“There shouldn’t be a restriction as long as you’re going to school and your grades are up,”  Mora said.

This college’s early childhood studies department offers childcare for students, whose children are 5 or younger, predominantly those in professional and technical majors, thanks to a grant called “CCAMPIS,” provided through the Department of Education.

Child Care Access Means Parents In School gives students the opportunity to enroll their children in childcare on campus while they work to achieve a degree.

This college is one of 86 educational institutions in the country to receive the grant. It allows the college to grant scholarships to students who receive Pell grants or have military dependents. The college receives $313,469 every year for four years and is one of six institutions to receive the grant in Texas.

According to the list of 2014 grantees on the Department of Education’s website, of all the colleges in Texas, this college receives the third highest grant behind the University of Houston, receiving $375,000 annually and the University of Texas-Pan American, which receives $360,172 yearly. This college places 15th of 86 national grantees.

The application process to receive the scholarship requires students to register for at least nine hours, pay tuition and provide a concise student schedule along with an account summary and a recent household income tax return.

Students also must submit a degree plan showing the courses completed and the grades earned, as well as courses currently enrolled in and future courses needed to graduate. The academic adviser must sign off on the degree plan.

Vernell Walker, dean of professional and technical education, said in an email, “Students receive money for child care from a grant that explicitly states that only students who follow the degree plan would receive money for child care.”

However, the website for the Department of Education states that low-income students who receive Federal Pell Grants are eligible for the scholarship. No mention is made of following a degree plan.

Ellen Marshall, chair for early childhood studies, said the department has been receiving the grant for about 12 years. Marshall wrote the grant with the college’s grant writer.

The proposal submitted to the Department of Education states that students who are to receive the scholarship must enroll only in classes on the degree plan. “The goal of this grant, and the Department of Education, when we wrote our proposal, that’s what we said we would do, is to require … we’re under obligation to them to do that,” she said.

Psychology freshman Ana Faces, 23, used to have to take her child to an off-campus day care three days each week. Now she has the convenience of having childcare on campus.

“It’s really cool, they’re super professional,” Faces said. “They’re clean. They have their centers. It’s organized.

However, she did not know that students are limited from exploring classes outside of their degree plans.

“Some people who aren’t sure what they want to study, taking other classes helps,” Faces said.

She would also like to study for something in computers, to be able to fix them and have a second option of a career, but enrolling her child in the early childhood center limits her.

Faces said, “I would like to see it change because it’s not the same. You don’t have the freedom. You can’t choose.”

According to The College Board’s website bigfuture.com, college is an opportunity to explore options and find oneself through preferences for courses and activities.

In a video by The College Board, Chio Flores, director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, Washington State University, explains why college is important. “It is more than just about the job,” she said. “It is a life-changing opportunity for them to develop as young people.”

She continued, “In terms of that, education is so much more than just the four-year degree.”

Walker said in an email that the goal of the college and of the CCAMPIS grant is to get students to graduate as soon as possible and get a job.

Kris Clark, interim vice president of student and academic success, said in a phone interview, “We want our students to be goal oriented and to be successful. Ultimately in our minds, success is empowering students to go into the workforce and be successful or transfer to a university and be successful.”

Clark served as executive vice president of this college in 2006-2008 before transferring to the district for a year as vice chancellor of academic success.

Despite a variety of programs encouraging students to graduate, Clark said nowhere is it set in stone that graduating at a fast speed is a goal of the college.

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