Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, it may now be easier for East Central University students, who have young children, to complete their degrees.

The $88,300 grant to ECU, through the Tiny Tiger Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Project, is designed to benefit campus-based child care services for low-income students. There are 58 institutions of higher learning from across the country that will benefit from the $9.2 million grant.

Among the benefits for ECU will be the addition of a full-time Family Services Specialist, working in conjunction with the already established campus children’s center.

“This is important to us in that it allows us to expand our services. Due to daycare licensing regulations, we can only serve 40 children in the fall and spring,” said Melissa Malm, director of ECU’s Child Development Center. “This family services specialist will meet the requirements to help expand the number of children we can accept for enrollment.”

According to Malm, the new family services specialist will assist military students and their children, function as assistant in the child development center and have some classroom responsibilities within the department.

ECU Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Duane Anderson says the grant will give a boost to students in pursuing their degrees.

“Completing a college degree is very important,” said Anderson. “This grant can help parents continue to stay in school and meet their educational goals. We’re very pleased that this grant will enable child-care support and provide better services to our students.”

One of the most exciting benefits of the grant is funding a sliding fee scholarship program for the children of students who do not qualify for outside child care assistance but who nevertheless struggle to pay the full costs of child care.

The funding will particularly be beneficial to married students on Pell Grants.

Previously, husband-wife students on Pell Grants were ineligible to receive monetary child-care assistance if they were enrolled and taking classes at the same time, according to the state of Oklahoma’s Title XX subsidy.

This will also enhance the collaboration with the ECU Guard Officer Leadership Development (GOLD) Program and the ECU Veteran’s Upward Bound to support services and extended-hour child care designed to address the needs of military-connected students and their children.

The grant can also lead to the completion process of national accreditation with the National Accreditation Commission (NAC) for Early Care and Education Programs

“This will allow us to enhance our services so we can collaborate more with other departments on campus,” Malm said.

The grant is renewable up to three additional years, according to Malm.

The emphasis of the Tiny Tiger CCAMPIS Project is to successfully achieve and maintain national accreditation in order to improve the quality of child care in the area.

In the 10 counties of ECU’s service area, there are 245 child-care facilities with 3.6 percent having achieved national accreditation, according to the March 2013 Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ Monthly Statistical Bulletin. These 10 counties are also considered geographically isolated.

The 11th county in the region (Cleveland) is located the farthest northwest and is considered to be an enhanced county due to its population density. In Cleveland County alone, located approximately 80 miles from ECU, there are 287 facilities with a 6 percent national accreditation achievement rate.