KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Gabriel Josts, a busy, curious, almost 18-month-old boy, spends his time at day care playing pretend, chasing friends on the playground and listening to his teachers read stories. It's valuable time for him to develop critical skills, and it's also giving his father, a Western Michigan University graduate student, time to focus on his studies. The University's College Assistance for Parenting Education (CAPE) program covers his child care expenses.
"Day care costs more than half of what my wife makes as a teacher weekly. We would have been struggling financially and with a whole bunch of other things if it wasn't for the program being able to help cover the cost," says Dionysian Josts, who is pursuing a master's degree in occupational therapy.
CAPE is a federally funded program that offers financial, social and career support to Pell-eligible student-parents and their children.
"This helps them stay on track for graduation, because if they don't have child care, they're not able to take classes at the level they need," says Dr. Regena Fails Nelson, chair of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies in Western's College of Education and Human Development. "When you have child care full time, you can take a whole load of classes. You have more time to study and do well in your classes."
—Dr. Regena Fails Nelson
Students accepted into the program will have tuition reduced by at least half at one of three partner child care centers in the community.
"We're a learner-centered University. We know students come in with all kinds of needs. So, this is no different than a student who needs tutoring because they need more academic support, or they need counseling support because of some other concerns," says Nelson. "As a University, we see the whole person, and however we can support the whole person to be successful, we're looking for ways to do that."
A graduate assistant meets with student-parents monthly to see how they're doing academically and help connect them with resources if needed. The CAPE program also offers career and family support.
"Just having a college degree doesn't guarantee that you're going to be able to take care of your family. Once you leave, you need to make sure you're transitioning yourself to a well-paying job. So, we're also helping students understand all the things they need to do to build their résumé," Nelson says. "We also help with parenting support as well, making sure students know about parenting programs in the community. We help them look at their children's developmental milestones and do an assessment with them so they're aware of how their children should be developing."
The partnerships established through the CAPE program also place Western education students in those child care facilities to get hands-on experience in their field while also providing skilled workers for the centers.
Applications for the CAPE program can be submitted online. The deadline to be considered for fall semester is Sunday, August 1.
The program has made all the difference for the Josts family. "It's amazing to have help like this," he says. "I wouldn't be where I am today without the CAPE program."
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