Child care professionals can apply for money to help them pay for their early childhood education studies at Carroll Community College.
Eligible new and returning full- or part-time students can receive tuition assistance starting in the fall from the Child Care Career and Professional Development fund if they apply by March 1.
The purpose of the fund is to provide tuition assistance to credentialed child care providers to pursue a college degree in early childhood education, child development, family studies or related disciplines.
The program is a way for child care professionals to obtain or continue their pursuit of a college education at participating colleges or universities in Maryland, according to the Maryland State Department of Education website.
Marlene Welch, associate professor and discipline coordinator for the Early Childhood Education program, said the Child Care Career and Professional Development Fund was brought to Carroll Community in 2008.
The college applies to receive the funds annually because it helps the students who are majoring in early childhood education obtain a degree, Welch said. The fund covers early childhood education, which spans from birth to third-graders, so the fund can cross over and also help students majoring in other degree fields.
Students who benefit from the fund may re-apply each semester, according to a college news release.
Qualified students must be working, credentialed child care professionals who are seeking a degree such as an Associate of Arts in Teaching in Early Childhood or Elementary Education, or an Associate of Applied Sciences in Early Childhood Education. They must have been working in a child care setting for at least one year.
Interested students should first contact Carroll Community College. To apply, students send application paperwork to the office of child care at MSDE. It is reviewed and Carroll Community is told whether the student is accepted.
The fund would cover a student's education, including tuition for degree and general education courses, books and lab fees, Welch said.
"They also will pay for students to take the Praxis exam," she said.
One of the conditions of being selected to receive funds is that the student must continue to work in settings such as a child development center or a camp program licensed by MSDE after completing their degree, Welch said.
While at the college, students must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, Welch said. Participating community college students, however, have an average GPA of 3.5.
"Last year, we had the most graduates for the fund in the state of Maryland," she said.
The fund has increased enrollments in Carroll's Early Childhood Education program.
More than 100 students at the college have utilized the tuition assistance program and the college has received more than $500,000 designated for Carroll Community students from the MSDE in the last five years, according to Professor and Education Department Chairwoman Susan Sies.
Those interested in the fund can make an appointment with Heather Bailey, who runs the Early Childhood Grant Coordination at Carroll Community. She is in the process of meeting with people at Carroll child care centers to tell them about the fund.
The college works closely with students who utilize the fund and even helps them with career planning and academic advising, Sies said.
"We want to make sure people are successful and that they're happy," she said.
Sies said both traditional and nontraditional students may take advantage of the application process. Carroll Community students who participate in the fund demonstrate better persistence rates, even among the larger community colleges in the state with students utilizing the fund, she said.
Welch said the importance of the available funds to qualifying students is two fold.
"The college student is able to get a quality education at Carroll Community in their field," she said. "And the children they'll eventually serve will have quality teachers."