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MTSU Child Care Grants Help Parenting Students With Financial, Care Responsibilities

MTSU Child Care Grants 2022
Aiko Baker, Middle Tennessee State University education student, left, balances parenting her son, Avery Baker, center, with her studies and part-time job with help from MTSU’s child care grant, which the university’s June Anderson Center awards to around 20 families each semester. Baker and her son recently grabbed a photo with mascot Lightning while attending the campus’ first home football game in fall 2022. (Photo courtesy of Aiko Baker)

For MTSU English and education student and mother, Aiko Baker, balancing her studies, part-time job and parenting her 2-year-old son has been tough, but she knows it is well worth it.

“I’m doing it for him,” Baker said.

To help lower income, parenting students like Baker manage the financial burden of child care while pursuing a degree, MTSU’s June Anderson Center for Nontraditional Students launched the Child Care Fund earlier this year — awarding around 20 child care grants of about $1,000 a semester to applicants who are Pell-eligible and have one or more dependent.

The application deadline to receive funds for the spring 2023 semester is Friday, Dec. 2, at 4 p.m., and those interested can apply by going to https://tinyurl.com/yp58y29c and following the appropriate links to access the application form.

Fall 2022 marked the first cohort of grant recipients, and Baker was one of them.

“Thanks to the grant, I only had to pay $16 for tuition this semester!” Baker said. “For the first time in my college life, I have not had to take a single penny in loans! This is huge for me, as I’ve already racked up almost $20,000 in debt from school.”

A Murfreesboro, Tennessee native, Baker’s mother is also a Blue Raider. Her mother started her studies the same year Baker was born, so Baker feels like she grew up on campus.

“I started school in 2013 and went for a year, (but) then took a year off and came back for another year,” Baker said about her own studies. “I started again after my son was born in 2020. Having him gave me a renewed sense of purpose.”

Planning to teach high school, Baker will graduate in two years.

“Initially, I will only be certified to teach English, and I’d love to host a drama club,” Baker said. “I’ll go back and get my master’s and get certified to teach theater as well. I have had thoughts of pursuing a Ph.D., but that is a ways in the future, and I’m not sure about that yet.”

Maigan Wipfli, June Anderson Center director, said that 1 in 5 college students are raising children, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“Students with dependents have many additional expenses that differ from the traditional student,” Wipfli said. “Parenting students must not only fund their tuition, but they also pay for child care perhaps before, during and after their study or working hours, have higher food and grocery bills and other cost of living expenses.”

In addition to the Child Care Fund, the center hosts a variety of programs that students can attend throughout the year, assists in connecting parenting students with resources on- and off-campus and has partnerships with local agencies that staff can refer pregnant and parenting students to, if they have additional needs that MTSU does not provide.

“We also host an annual school supply drive for students with dependents,” Wipfli said.

Anyone can donate to the drive, either by dropping off school supplies to Room 330 in the Student Union Building or purchasing donations from an Amazon wish list at https://tinyurl.com/2pu4cac7.

Further, checks can be made out to the MTSU Foundation with memo line: Fund 92318 Day Care Lab.

Baker said the center has helped her feel more connected to her son, even while managing her time between her many responsibilities.

“The JAC (June Anderson Center) has provided me with activities to bond with my son in activity kits and games,” Baker said. “I can focus more on my studies knowing he and I will get quality time together. They’ve also helped me feel more connected to my school. As a nontraditional student and everything going on in my life, I have felt a bit isolated in the past. The center helps me realize I’m not the only one on this journey.”

To learn more about the Child Care Fund, visit the website at https://www.mtsu.edu/jac/nontrad/Parenting_Resources.php.

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