Many student-parents unwittingly forgoing additional federal aid for child care, GAO says

The federal government offers programs subsidizing child care costs for student-parents, but many undergraduates aren’t aware that they may be eligible for additional federal aid, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. 

Looking specifically at websites of colleges participating in the Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program—which in 2016-17 helped defray the cost of child care services for approximately 3,000 student-parents—GAO found that two-thirds of the websites did not mention that students could apply to have child care expenses figured into their cost of attendance, and thus their federal loan packages. 

Many undergrads juggling child care needs

Although people typically think of the average college student as a single independent, nearly one in five undergraduate students are raising a child, according to Education Department data. These student-parents are disproportionately women and students of color, and more than half end up dropping out, unable to sustain both academic and parental roles at the same time.

“These parents have a lot going on in their lives in terms of school and young children, and we think it’s important to make information easily available for them about financial aid options so that they can make choices that will help them,” Melissa Emrey-Arras, author of the report, told NPR. According to the GAO, some 2.5 million of the nation’s 4 million student-parents are missing out on a dependent-care allowance that could help them use more federal aid for child care costs.

Student-parents often “have fewer financial resources than others,” and “this is something that could be very helpful for them to know about,” Emrey-Arras told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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