Low-income Middle Tennessee State University students needing help with child care costs can apply for about 40 grants of around $1,000 each semester beginning Fall 2022.
The program, put into place with the closing in December of the Child Care Lab at Womack Lane Apartments, will allow MTSU to expand greatly the number of students seeking assistance.
“COVID-19 has taught us that not every parent needs or wants on-campus child care,” Sarah Sudak, associate vice president and dean of students, said Friday. “Many parents would prefer child care that is closer to their home, as they work from home or take online classes.”
The Child Care Lab, which opened in August 1981, served about 24 children, ages 3 to 5, daily each semester prior to COVID-19. However, in recent months, it was restricted to serving only 13 children daily due to COVID-19 safety measures.
“The new grant program will give us the opportunity to provide a greater number of students access to funding for child care,” Sudak said, “since it will be a need-based award available to our lower-income students to use in supporting child care for children of any age.”
Families using the Child Care Lab this semester will be eligible for grants starting in January.
The move was also prompted by MTSU’s Master Plan, which calls for replacing the 55-year-old complex with a modern and expanded offering of residence halls. The building that houses the Child Care Lab would be demolished to make way for more units.
The lab opened in the summer of 1981 within the Womack Lane complex of 192 on-campus apartments used by students with families, as well as single students.
Sudak said the grants “will be awarded to those with the greatest need among those who apply by the deadline each term, until funds are fully expended for that term.”
Grants will be available to students who are Pell-eligible; have a child or children in child care regardless of age; have a FAFSA on file with the MTSU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office; and complete a grant application for consideration for funding.
Administrators are now reaching out to families affected by the change to help them identify alternative child care options. Information about child care resources can be found on MTSU’s website: https://mtsu.edu/pcsw/childcare.php and here https://mtsu.edu/jac/nontrad/Parenting_Resources.php.
Also, the lab’s director, Nancy James, recently announced her retirement and the university will celebrate her 33 years of service at an event from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 2 in the Womack Lane Clubhouse. Sudak said James’ decision to retire was also a factor in launching the new program.
As part of the changes, Sudak said the university will assign a child care coordinator within the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students to administer the new program.
MTSU Foundation is accepting donations to the new child care fund in James’ name. Those wishing to contribute are asked to make checks out to the “Foundation in honor of Nancy James” or “Foundation in honor of the Lab’s Anniversary” and send it to MTSU Development and Advancement Services, Box 109, Wood-Stegall Center, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 37132.
— Andrew Oppmann (Andrew.Oppmann@mtsu.edu)