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Department of Education Grant of $2 Million Secured to Support Early Learning Center, At-Risk Student Families

Early Learning Center drawing

The Early Learning Center on the Ferris State University campus will have a new home on campus, and a significant boost in resources, thanks to a $2.04 million, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education intended to assist Pell Grant-eligible parents with their childcare costs and support center staff and programming.

The Early Learning Center, which provides childcare for Ferris State University students with young children, has received significant funding from the U.S. Department of Education. A total of $2.04 million will go to the Early Learning Center through the “Child Care Access Means Parents In School” (CCAMPIS) program.

Lori Johnson, manager of the Early Learning Center, noted that this was the largest possible award to support their operation and clientele over four years.

“We submitted a 50-page narrative demonstrating the need in this area, with assurances that our educational product was exemplary and that we can provide assessment, to meet student goals and their success as learners,” Johnson said. “The Department of Education will also be provided specifics on using these funds in the ELC’s budget.”

Johnson noted several key goals presented in their application:

  • In early 2023, the Early Learning Center plans to offer more spaces to children under 3 years old. “This is our greatest priority,” Johnson said. “It will help meet a significant need among our student parents.”
  • A family support specialist will be added to the Early Learning Center staff. “We will be able to provide greater assistance to single parents, helping them become acclimated in the campus and community, aiding them in networking with other student families and directing them to available support services,” Johnson explained. “We hope to have our specialist on staff by January 2023.”
  • Pell Grant-eligible students whose children are under the age of five will be provided subsidies. “They will receive support ranging from 70 to 100 percent of their childcare costs,” Johnson said, adding that subsidies are currently being distributed.
  • Wrap-Around Care will be available for children in the Early Learning Center’s programs. “We will be able to provide this assistance from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., weekdays,” Johnson said. “To accomplish this, there will be several months of work to hire staff and develop this program.”
  • The Early Learning Center will be able to address workforce shortages more capably in the early childcare field. “Our salary and hourly pay structure can be adjusted to meet industry standards,” Johnson said. “We hope to quickly hire qualified people and afford our students with children the care their youngsters need.”

Johnson explained that the U.S. Department of Education notified the university of their success on the CCAMPIS award application Wednesday, Sept. 21.

“We are so excited to provide access and success to two generations of learners,” Johnson said. “Our student parents will have their concerns about childcare cost eased, which allows them to bring greater focus to their studies. It is a game-changer for students who face significant stress in meeting childcare expenses. Their children will receive enrichment in quality programming from qualified personnel, thanks to this grant award.”

The Early Learning Center will also have a new home, as the university’s Board of Trustees approved the retention of pre-construction, construction and other related services in February 2022 to develop a new center. The ELC will move from its current location in Bishop Hall, which will be demolished.