ACCT, NHSA Launch Kids on Campus Partnership to Expand Child Care for Student Parents

Today, NHSA and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) announce the launch of the Kids on Campus initiative to bring more Head Start programs to community college campuses. The launch takes place during the 2024 Community College National Legislative Summit at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. Six foundations have joined together to provide funding for this five-year project.

For the next five years, NHSA and ACCT will provide technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start programs and community colleges, bringing them from “matchmaking” to “marriage.” The associations will identify interested organizations, introduce those prepared to partner, and provide technical assistance all the way through introductions to negotiations and through the first few months of their active partnership after the doors have opened.

“Insufficient child care and early learning opportunities are significant barriers for the 1.7 million parents—mainly moms—in college,” said ACCT Board of Directors Chair Jay Nardini. “Nearly all of these students have incomes at or near the poverty line.”

Nardini, who also serves as chair of Iowa’s Hawkeye Community College board, added that “few community colleges currently offer on-campus child care, and many centers that did exist permanently closed during the pandemic. Most single parents in college have children under age five and would be eligible for Head Start.”

“Head Start and community colleges are two perfectly matched pieces of a complex puzzle, coming together to complete the picture of what comprehensive education can–and should–look like,” said Yasmina Vinci, executive director for the National Head Start Association. “Co-locating Head Start’s high-quality early childhood education programs on campuses will bring the Head Start model to more families who are working to get ahead. NHSA is thrilled to join this effort to support student parents and, as a result, to unlock the full potential of two generations of learners at once.”

Head Start and community colleges are both well-respected national institutions. Combining the public benefits of high quality, early education with our nation’s open access higher education institutions allows multiple generations of families to benefit. Leading foundations in the higher education and child care spaces recognize this possibility. ECMC Foundation, Imaginable Futures, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Trellis Foundation, Crimsonbridge Foundation, and Seldin / Haring-Smith Foundation all have joined together to support NHSA and ACCT in facilitating and supporting new Kids on Campus contracts between campuses and Head Start operators.

The joint project offers a practical, commonsense approach to solving challenges in both sectors:

  • Qualifying student parents receive free, high quality child care and early education for their families from the Head Start program.
  • Colleges obtain an expert partner to operate on-site child care from Head Start, which also has the ability to apply funding to retrofit buildings on campus.
  • Head Start programs are located near their target populations and receive free or drastically reduced rent, which can be used as an in kind donation toward their required 20% match of federal funds – which many programs struggle to do.
  • Head Start families have an option to enroll in the college and may even receive support from Head Start to do so, if receiving a GED or credential is part of their family goals.

ACCT President and CEO Jee Hang Lee expressed gratitude for the opportunity to undertake this important work. “We’re grateful to have found partners in NHSA and the philanthropic community who share our vision for improving student outcomes by supporting students’ needs,” he said. “Students who are parents face enormous life challenges that compete with their abilities to thrive in college. Bringing Head Start centers to more community colleges is an elegant solution to address one complexity of the long-standing problem of student persistence and completion.”

The Kids on Campus project builds on the planning grant funded by ECMC Foundation and Seldin / Haring-Smith Foundation for six months during 2023. That grant allowed for both associations to explore the likelihood of success of this project and develop the user guide that will inform the technical assistance provided during this five-year project.

About NHSA

The National Head Start Association is committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than 840,000 children and families from systemically underserved populations, 250,000 staff, and 1,600 Head Start grant recipients. ••• Media Contact: media@nhsa.org

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