Kids on Campus

Exploring On-Campus Childcare Solutions: Head Start and Community College Partnerships Webinar

Thursday, April 13 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Watch Webinar On-Demand

On-Campus Childcare Landscape

A chronic shortage of affordable on-campus childcare leaves student parents – especially single mothers – struggling to meet a basic need necessary for pursuing post-secondary education. The long-term benefit of obtaining post-secondary education is well understood by parents, but the reality of the lack of affordable childcare solutions is often a barrier.

Nearly 1 in 10 U.S. undergraduate students are single mothers, nearly all of whom have incomes at or near the poverty line. Though students’ children may be eligible for Head Start preschool services, fewer than 100 community college campuses have Head Start centers on-site. At the same time, Head Start programs are struggling with enrollment and workforce issues, leaving up to 180,000 federally-funded childcare slots unfilled. Even if parents meet income requirements for programs such as Head Start which opens the door to childcare access, there can still be challenges when it comes to accessing the facilities.

Source: Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation

Scope of Project

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and the National Head Start Association (NHSA) are partnering to match existing Head Start providers with community college campuses that can offer free on-campus facilities, and provide on-going technical assistance, with the goal of increasing the number of on-campus free childcare slots for single mothers. Together, ACCT and NHSA will develop resources for partnerships to match existing Head Start providers with community college campuses that can offer free facilities. The community colleges will not charge rent, allowing Head Start operators to meet the required 20% philanthropic match for their federal grant dollars. Resulting partnerships will allow students on-campus access to free, high-quality early learning while also enabling Head Start centers to recruit eligible families and access the talent pool of Early Childhood Education students who may be interested in working at the center.

ACCT and NHSA propose to match 50+ Head Starts with interested community colleges to explore on-campus partnerships over six years in a two phase project, with the first year (Phase I) serving as the planning and design phase. In 2023, ACCT and NHSA will co-develop process for identifying, vetting, and matching interested members. In addition, the two organizations will build materials to simplify partnership explorations and contracting between campuses and Head Start providers. These materials and processes will be informed by focus groups and surveys of ACCT and NHSA members, direct engagement with the US Department of Education and the Office of Head Start at the Department of Health and Human Services, and interviews with partnership experts.

ACCT and NHSA view this project as particularly practical, as ACCT members are not being asked to operate or launch new Head Starts. Rather, the intent is to secure community colleges as (free) landlords for Head Start operators seeking new locations. The Head Start Act mandates that federal dollars cannot exceed 80 percent of the total Head Start grant recipient’s budget; each program must generate and document the balance (20%) in philanthropic match. Many meet this requirement through donated building facilities, while others struggle to fulfill the requirement at all. In addition, many Head Start locations are unable to fill all funded slots and recruit for classroom roles (both full-time and part-time). Community college co-location is attractive to Head Start Centers both from a labor market and enrollment perspective, as many students not only have children but often seek part-time employment on-campus. Notification about Head Start services and availability through student support staff and financial aid officers brings additional benefits; NHSA has found that a significant driver of under enrollment is that eligible parents are often not aware of Head Start services.

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Institute for Women's Policy Research | Investing in Single Mothers’ Higher Education

National Head Start Association | Head Start United: Removing Barriers to Access for Children and Families

Latest Posts

March 15, 2023 | New Partnership Launches to Plan Free, High Quality Early Learning on Community College Campuses


Kids on Campus WebinarExploring On-Campus Childcare Solutions: Head Start and Community College Partnerships - April 2023


Press Highlights

Inside Higher Ed | 'Matchmaking' Community Colleges and Head Start

Inside Higher Ed | Community Colleges to Get More Head Start Centers

The Chronicle of Higher Education | Campus Child Care Has Become Less Available. A New Partnerships Aims to Change That.

The Washington Post | Head Start centers in community colleges can change the child-care equation


Funding made possible by:

ECMC Foundation
Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation