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May 26, 2017

There are so many cuts to education in President Trump’s budget proposal, it’s understandable that his plan to dispose of a campus-based childcare program hasn’t gotten headlines. But parents who use the Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) program have noticed.

“Without CCAMPIS I would not have graduated. It’s as simple as that,” said Michel Cocuzzo, who earned her associate’s degree this month from Mount Wachusett Community College in Massachusetts.

The program was created by Congress in 1998 and greatly expanded in 2001 under President George W. Bush, when funding hit a high-water mark of $25 million. Since 2003, spending has remained fairly steady at about $15 million. It’s not available on every campus and the programs that do exist have waiting lists, but it has served thousands of parents every year. Students who are eligible for Pell grants are also eligible for CCAMPIS.

About 4.8 million, or a quarter of all college students, have children, and 71 percent of student-parents are women, according to recent research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Advocacy groups like the Young Invincibles have argued that expanding campus-based childcare for low-income families would help boost graduation rates.

Opponents argue that it’s not clear whether the program has helped more parents graduate. Trump’s budget is cutting CCAMPIS along with several other programs because they “duplicate other programs, are more appropriately supported with State, local, institutional, or private funds, are outside of the Department’s core mission, or have not shown evidence of effectiveness.”

Cocuzzo, now 40 years old, originally enrolled at Mount Wachusett after high school, but a car accident forced her to withdraw. She found work in a processing center at a bank and then for the IRS. She loved the work, but the IRS center closed right around the time she became pregnant. She stayed home with her kids, now 5 and 7 years old, and the family was able to make do on her husband’s salary as a welder. But things were tight and she wanted to go back to work.

“I knew I needed some kind of degree,” she said. “And in high school I loved school. I was an honors student, and I still am.”

The problem was childcare. The family’s $60,000 income made them eligible for a Pell grant, which covered tuition, but not for subsidized child care programs such as Head Start.

“Can you believe it?” Cocuzzo asked, laughing. “We made too much money.”

Then she heard about CCAMPPIS, which provided high quality childcare right on the campus. She applied when her son Anthony was 2 and a half years old and got a spot.

Related: Few Colleges Give Special Attention To Single Parents

Cocuzzo says life can get hectic, but she and her husband have made it work. She drops the kids off in the morning and then goes to class. Her husband picks them up while Cocuzzo finishes her studies (or the laundry or the grocery shopping) before coming home to make dinner and help her daughter Angelina with her homework. Even with the Pell grant, scholarships and childcare help, she currently has about $13,000 in student loans.

Anthony will start kindergarten in the fall, so the family won’t need the child care center any more. Cocuzzo will be at Fitchburg State University where she is majoring in business administration and is on track to get her bachelor’s in December 2018.

Still, she wonders what will happen to the other 30 families at Mount Wachusett who currently depend on CCAMPIS to stay in school.

“If you want people to go to school, taking this away makes no sense,” said Cocuzzo. “What are these families going to do?”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

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