By Amanda Wich, reporter
Pikes Peak Community College has a high-quality Child Development Center (CDC) on two of its campuses available to student parents, yet many students are not using this convenient childcare service because they are not able to enroll their children.
One CDC branch resides at Centennial Campus and the other is housed at the Rampart Range campus.
“I didn’t even know Rampart had childcare,” Nadine Garcia, a PPCC student and mother said.
PPCC has three campuses and a large student population that often takes classes downtown or at the satellite locations, such as the Creekside Center in Falcon.
But, students can only enroll their children at one branch of the CDC, which makes taking classes at more than one location a challenge for many parents.
The CDC has a waiting list, and every semester, students must fill out the wait-list application again if their child was not selected.
In addition, if students need to take a semester off, their children will need to go back on the waitlist when they return.
When PPCC nursing student Garcia first enrolled, she placed her daughter on the wait list at the Centennial campus’s CDC. Two years later, Garcia’s daughter had still never been able to attend. Garcia has paid hundreds out of pocket while she finishes her associate degree, even though she qualifies for reduced childcare at PPCC’s childcare centers.
PPCC’s child development center is a high-quality center that employs experienced teachers who can work with a wide range of students, including those with special needs, children needing medication and even children with food allergies.
Also, the child development center serves as a lab for students enrolled in the early childhood education program, where they receive hands-on experience under the supervision of a child development center lead. This sets PPCC’s CDC apart from other childcare centers around the city.
But, the CDC is understaffed and can only house a certain amount of children, so many students’ children will not be able to take advantage of the quality care.
Cynthia Neale-Downing, Director of PPCC’s CDC says, “The number of children on the waiting list that the CDC can offer spaces to is driven by a variety of factors. One of the factors is the shortage of state-qualified early childhood teachers available for us to hire.”
The child development center offers an infant program for $59 per full day, a toddler program for $57 per full day, and a preschool program for $54 per full day. The preschool program also has a half-day option of $33.
For a full-time student, the cost of childcare is high, but the child development center offers a sliding fee scale based on income, family size and eligibility for financial aid. The sliding fee scale is only available for students taking 6 or more credit hours. PPCC’s staff and faculty are also eligible for the sliding scale rate.
PPCC psychology student Jessica Martinez wanted to enroll her daughter at the CDC but was not able to afford it. Martinez qualifies for both FASFA and the sliding fee scale but was not able to afford it on a salary of less than $35k a year.
Neale-Downing mentioned childcare assistance for students in need that is in addition to the sliding fee scale and being able to use financial aid for childcare. One source she mentioned for assistance is Child Care Assess Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS), which is a grant program to help parents graduate and pays 70% of a student’s childcare costs.
In addition to CCAMPIS, the CDC also accepts Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (C-CAP) and Army Fee Assistance program (AFA). These different programs help the CDC stay affordable for most students.
Two faculty members, who chose to be anonymous due to their children still attending the CDC, have had different experiences from Garcia and Martinez. One of the faculty member’s child was enrolled at the CDC without being on the waiting list. The other faculty member’s child was on the waiting list for one day, but then a spot opened.
“It certainly helped my ability to be a better teacher because I had less of a financial burden,” says one of the faculty members about the benefits of the sliding fee scale.
Both faculty members also value the benefit that PPCC’s child development center has for the school, the community and their children. They both enjoy having their children close to them and the programs offered by the center.
One faculty member who wants to remain anonymous said, “My son now wants to attend PPCC (he is 4!). He keeps changing his major and is always excited to find out that he can study this or that at the college. He is so young, but already thinking about college!”
“I am not sure of any other child care center that may help foster that,” says one faculty members.
Neale-Downing clarified that the CDC has a 9 to 1 ratio of students’ children enrolled to faculty members’ students enrolled, which means the CDC serves a total of 81 students.
However, if students do not enroll their children before the start of the semester it becomes more difficult to get the spot needed that fits a student’s class schedule.
Neale-Downing encourages students to get assistance with the enrollment process by contacting the CDC at either Centennial Campus at 719-502-2323 or Rampart Rage at 719-502-2424.