The Pima Community College Early Learning Center, which opened this month, is a partnership between PCC, Child-Parent Centers, Pima County’s Pima Early Education Program Scholarships, and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.
The three main components of the center are 1) an on-campus high quality childcare center modeled on the educational requirements of the federal Head Start program; 2) free childcare for those who meet the program requirements; and 3) connecting student-parents to wrap-around services both on and off campus.
The center will serve PCC students with children ages 3 to 5, with a priority to serve 4-year-olds, and will serve student parents who have family incomes up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The college estimates that approximately 40% of those families’ primary language at home is one other than English. The program will be offered to children five days a week, from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
The PCC Early Learning Center will utilize financial assistance from Pima County’s Pima Early Education Program, as well as stipends from a “Child Care Access Means Parents in School” grant from the U.S. Department of Education, so that families meeting the income eligibility requirements will not have to pay for their children to attend.
Students who have not qualified for on-campus childcare will be referred to other assistance, and PCC will help those student-parents access assistance programs.
Childcare can be prohibitively expensive for many families, especially those with low incomes. Low-income families with children under 15 years of age spend, on average, 40% of their average monthly income on childcare, whereas their higher-income counterparts spend between 7 and 13% on childcare. In all 50 states, the average annual cost of center-based infant care (for children less than one year old), which ranges from $4,863 in Mississippi to $16,430 in Massachusetts, exceeds the average fees and tuition of a four-year public university in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
“Pima Community College is proud to invest in the future of our region’s children through the PCC Early Childcare Center,” said PCC Chancellor Lee D. Lambert. “This initiative removes a huge economic barrier for our student-parents, who can concentrate on their PCC education knowing their child is safe and cared for.”
Research conducted by the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona and the Arizona Foundation for Women indicates that policies that support childcare and higher education are among the most effective ways to help low-income working families achieve economic self-sufficiency.
This research provides strong evidence that pairing high-quality preschool services for children together with job training or education for parents produces positive outcomes for parents and children that go well beyond the benefits of preschool alone.