Beginning in Spring 2018, Frederick Community College will introduce “Parents Lead,” created by Anne Hofmann, assistant professor of English.
Parents Lead is a cohort-based program designed to assist financially-eligible parents with young children.
The program supports student-parents in earning general education credits toward an associate degree or assists them in selecting a different path for continuing their education.
“Access to higher education is problematic,” Hofmann said. “We believe that there are parents who are not at FCC because of the childcare barrier. One of the major issues is that there is not affordable, reliable, part time childcare available nationally. This is a local issue that we are trying to address with this specific program, but it is a much larger national conversation.”
Access to early childhood care in the United States fails in comparison to other countries where childcare is typically subsidized by the government.
Childcare in the U.S. poses an increasing financial burden on a large majority of families today. Childcare cost in 2013 was more expensive than rent in 22 states and in 2016 was more expensive than in-state college tuition in 33 states.
To offset childcare costs for student-parents attending the program, the Frederick Community College Foundation will provide scholarships. Students are also eligible for additional scholarships and aid.
The program offers a hybrid learning model of 25 percent face-to-face instructional time and 75 percent online coursework.
This model gives student-parents the opportunity to interact face-to-face with their instructors and other peers in a classroom setting. This is something that a student-parent wouldn’t typically be able to do while taking a traditional online course, according to the program’s promotional materials. The interaction with other students will encourage a sense of belonging as well as increase persistence.
Children typically would not be in childcare for more than two hours a week during instructional time, the program maintains.
Hofmann has two children herself and understands firsthand how difficult it can be to juggle everyday responsibilities with children and school. She is currently attending the University of Maryland, College Park, where she conducted the study that inspired the creation of Parents Lead, and is studying to earn her doctorate degree in American Studies.
“The reason we have this model is to reduce the cost of childcare, but in order to be successful online learners, students need some support,” Hofmann said.
Hofmann has commonly found that students will enroll themselves into online courses because taking an online course can often be “more convenient” than taking a lecture course and they can fit the work into their daily lives. Yet, if a student is not setting aside the time to study and do the work required for an online course, they will often fail.
“Students will learn how to be a distance learner,” Hofmann said. “Within the first semester, that’s what we are going to be structuring and teaching.”
The Office of Adult Services is available for all parents inquiring about returning to school to earn a degree. The office eases the transition for student-parents while offering their financial assistance among other services to ensure that student-parents will be utilizing everything that is available to them.
“Our role is to provide the academic advising for students who are selected for the program,” said Janice Brown, director of the office of adult services. “They’ll be referred to us to talk about barriers or challenges they may face and we will make them aware of resources that are available to help them address and overcome those barriers. This is a place to troubleshoot problems and offer support for the students.”
The official deadline to apply for the first semester of the Parents Lead program is Oct. 1, but organizers are encouraging anyone with an interest in the program to continue to apply. Click here to access the application.
“I’m hoping that this program will reduce childcare barriers for working-parents and that they can come back, earn a degree, maybe make more money, and set an example for their children that higher education is important and can make their lives better,” Hofmann said.