UWEC Child Care

Britney Rud is working toward her education degree at the same time she is raising her son, William.

UW-Eau Claire News Bureau

Life is about to get a little less stressful for Britney Rud, a UW-Eau Claire senior who is pursuing her education degree while also raising her young son, William.

UW-Eau Claire’s Children’s Nature Academy, where Will attends and his mother works, has received a grant of nearly $400,000 to help Blugolds like Rud — both a student and a parent — secure quality and more affordable child care for their young children.

Through the federal Child Care Means Parents in School program, UW-Eau Claire will receive $98,585 each year for four years, for a total of $394,340.

The money will help support UW-Eau Claire students who are the parents of infants and toddlers, allowing them to attend classes and be successful in their educational endeavors, said Lisa Coen, director of the Children’s Nature Academy.

“We are excited to receive funding to support Blugolds who are both students and the parents of very young children,” Coen said. “With these funds, we will provide child care at a reduced rate for qualifying families who have children enrolled in the program. These parents can then focus on their studies knowing that their children are in a quality child care program and that they will be charged rates they can better afford.

“The CCAMPIS program will help meet some of our students’ child care needs, which will help them succeed in college and give them more long-term financial security.”

Through the initiative, Pell Grant-eligible Blugolds can enroll their youngsters at the Children’s Nature Academy at a greatly reduced rate.

The new funding also will allow the academy to offer student-parents more flexible schedules, supportive services for families and access to educated and experienced early childhood professionals, Coen said.

That’s welcome news for Rud, a Mondovi native who is working toward her degree in unified early childhood special education.

“This will make it easier for me to afford quality child care for my son while I’m at class and work,” Rud said. “Another huge benefit is that students now will be given priority for openings in enrollment. There is high demand for child care so there are always waiting lists at the CNA and other quality child care providers in the area. It’s good know that student-parents will have first dibs here.”

The lower rates and new flexibility will make her life as a single parent less stressful, Rud said.

“Knowing I will have access to affordable, flexible, quality care will allow me to attend classes and work without worrying about child care for my son,” Rud said.

Coen said data shows that supporting students who are parents of young children does lead to higher graduation rates.

“Affordable, quality child care is crucial to the success of undergraduate students who are raising young children at the same time they are working to earn their degrees,” Coen said. “CCAMPIS has proven elsewhere to be a positive factor in retaining nontraditional and low-income students. It will help us offer more of our student-parents greater opportunities to earn their degrees.”

Research shows that students with children are less likely to complete their degree within six years of enrolling, with only 33 percent of those students earning a degree or certificate in that timeframe, Coen said.

Family care demands are among the major reasons women take a break from or permanently leave school, Coen said, noting that child care is an even bigger challenge for single parents.

That is certainly true of Rud, a single parent in her sixth year at UW-Eau Claire. It’s taken longer than she’d first hoped to graduate because she took fewer credits when Will was an infant.

However, with plans to student teach in fall 2019, she’s now on track to graduate this December.

Will has been attending the academy since he was 6 weeks old, said Rud, who works part time at the academy.

The academy has been supportive, but it’s still challenging financially for Will to attend, she said.

“I love working here, and my son loves coming here,” Rud said. “I know he’s getting quality child care at a rate that’s more affordable than it would be if I wasn’t a student. But even with the student rate, affording child care here has been difficult.

In addition to the financial challenges, managing her time also isn’t easy as a student, parent and an employee, Rud said.

“I want to spend quality time with my son, but I want — and need — to finish my degree so that he and I can have a better future,” said Rud, who hopes to work in a child care setting.