New program helps struggling Columbus State students pay for child care

Robin Trimarchi/rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

Columbus State students burdened by child care costs may qualify for financial relief under a new program, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the university.

CSU is one of three institutions across the state participating in Boost, a child care subsidy plan for undergraduate students in their junior or senior years. The program exists in partnership with the University System of Georgia and Quality Care for Children, a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta. It pays up to $125 a week for children enrolled in Quality Rated daycare programs.

“The Boost program is a great opportunity for CSU to better serve our students,” said Lisa Shaw, director of CSU’s Academic Center for Excellence. “I am thrilled and honored to connect students with this program.”

CSU sent emails to qualifying students informing them about the program the past two semesters, according to the news release. Applications were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Fall applications will open in August.

Qualifying students must be Pell Grant-eligible, enrolled full-time (12 or more credit hours), have completed 60 or more credit hours and have a grade-point average (GPA) of 2.5 or higher.

“The Boost Program took a big financial burden off my family,” said Sasha Hernandaz, a CSU nursing student. “With the help of this grant, I can focus on nursing school like I had originally wanted and not have to worry about working extra hours just to afford day care.”

Affordable child care has been a growing problem in Columbus and nationally. The Afterschool Alliance, a national organization that advocates for children in need of after-care programs, recently released a document called the “America After 3PM Special Report: Afterschool in Communities of Concentrated Poverty.” The study found that 24 percent of children living in low-income neighborhoods participate in after-school programs, compared to 18 percent of children overall in the United States. Yet, the supply falls far short of the demand.

Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of early education and school-age care programs. Similar to rating systems for restaurants and hotels, it assigns one, two or three stars to programs that meet or exceed the minimum state requirements.

“We hope to address a need for temporary child care as well, so that students may pursue internships, travel abroad or student teach,” said Shaw. “Ultimately, we want to set these students and their families up for success in and out of the classroom.”

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter