WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) led the House introduction of the Preparing and Resourcing Our Student Parents and Early Childhood Teachers (PROSPECT) Act to improve access to affordable, quality infant and toddler child care for student parents. More than one in five college students are parents, with an overwhelming 70 percent being mothers. Congresswoman Hayes is joined in this effort by Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the U.S. Senate.

Decades of research have shown that children under the age of three who receive quality child care are more likely to have the behavioral, cognitive, and language skills necessary for success in school, college, and later life. However, due to a lack of adequate child care supply as well as high costs, reliable child care remains unaffordable and unavailable for many families, especially in Black, Brown, and rural communities.

The PROSPECT Act invests in community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to become incubators for infant and toddler child care talent, training, and access on their campuses and in their communities. In addition to providing free, high-quality infant and toddler child care to student parents at grantee institutions, the bill would address an immediate, demonstrated need to build the capacity and quality of the infant and toddler educator workforce. Community colleges and MSIs lead the higher education sector in educating infant and toddler child care providers, especially child care providers of color, making them the optimal actors for driving quality infant and toddler child care education in their regions. The Fifth District is home to MSIs including Naugatuck Valley Community College and the University of Connecticut – Waterbury Campus.

“I am intimately aware of the struggles of being a young parent while trying to study and earn a degree. On top of keeping up with my classwork and working multiple jobs, I had to navigate the realities of raising my child with limited resources,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “The PROSPECT Act would have meant a world of difference to me and so many other student parents. Making childcare more affordable and accessible on college campuses removes one more barrier to higher education and sets families on a path of long-term success. I sincerely thank Senator Booker and Congressman Norcross for joining me in this effort and their commitment to making education more attainable for all.”

“Many students today are also parents juggling multiple responsibilities,” said Senator Booker. “Finding access to quality, affordable child care is a challenge that many of these students face, which is exacerbated by the high cost of child care and the lack of child care supply. The PROSPECT act addresses this crisis by investing in community colleges and minority-serving institutions so they can provide child care to students and also train the next generation of child care educators.”  

“As someone who worked in construction as a single dad, I know access to childcare is critical to expanding opportunities, growing the middle class, and strengthening our economy,” said Congressman Norcross. “Childcare affordability for students who have children is good for the parent, their family, and our community. That is why I’m proud to cosponsor the PROSPECT Act and give working families a fair shot.”

This legislation would help close the student parent affordability gap, the estimated out-of-pocket costs a student parent from a low-income background must come up with to cover expenses such as child care, tuition, fees, housing, books and supplies, transportation, and more. Studies show that by removing the financial burden of child care student parents are able to increase their class load, thus bringing them closer to their degree.

Specifically, the PROSPECT Act would invest $9 billion over five years in:

  1. Impact grants, which will expand the supply and quality of infant and toddler child care in the community by providing training, mentorship, technical support, and expansion funding to new and existing area infant and toddler child care providers.
  2. Access grants, which will provide free high-quality child care for up to 500,000 children under age three who have a parent attending a community college or Minority Serving Institution, thereby minimizing barriers to higher education completion, and reducing their post-graduation debt.
  3. Pipeline grants, which will fund community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions to launch and expand academic programs in early childhood education, and to form strategic partnerships with regional institutions to expand, diversify, and strengthen the workforce pipeline for infant and toddler child care providers.

Finally, the bill would also amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 by providing increased federal matching payments for child care to 90% for infant and toddler care, to incentivize states to raise their own investments in this area.

Endorsing organizations include the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), The Center for Law and Social Policy, Generation Hope Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Black Child Institute, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Public Advocacy for Kids, UnidosUS, and Zero to Three.

A one-pager of the legislation can be found here and full text here.