Early childhood education students more likely to earn college certificates with new classes, financial aid program
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released this month findings from an October study showing early childhood education students receiving financial aid are more likely to earn a college certificate in the field. Students received financial assistance provided through the Department of Early Learning’s (DEL) federal Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Challenge grant. SBCTC managed the program that made funds available through 22 participating community and technical colleges.
“When we raise the professional skills of those who care for young children, the entire state sees an exponential return on that investment,” said Kathy Goebel, policy associate at SBCTC who works with early childhood education programs. “Children receiving high-quality care in their early years see higher levels of success in school, lessen impacts on social services and criminal justice systems, and contribute to their communities and the economy as adults.”
DEL partnered with SBCTC in 2011 to develop early childhood education certificates. The certificates, based on national standards and Washington state’s Early Learning Core Competencies, were designed to boost students’ knowledge and skills in caring for young children. The DEL-SBCTC partnership also created the financial aid program, called the Early Achievers Opportunity Grant, which began in 2012 using some of the funding from the three-year federal grant.
The courses that include common student outcomes were developed by a consortium of colleges. With the common courses in place, students can easily transfer between colleges if they move to another part of the state. They can also stop and start studies without losing credits.
“Early childhood employers have a good understanding of the skills and knowledge their employees have developed as a result of attending college classes,” Goebel said. “A student enrolled at Yakima Valley Community College receives the same training as a student enrolled at Whatcom Community College, North Seattle College or any of the 25 colleges that have adopted the common certificates.”
Seven colleges piloted the financial aid program during the 2012-13 school year, and 71 students participated. During the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, the program expanded to 22 colleges and served over 1,000 students. Those students completed more than 1,250 credentials in early childhood education.
“During this three-year period, the colleges learned the importance of providing individualized support for grant recipients,” Goebel said. “Each college established a staff point of contact who works directly with students assisting them with planning their program of study, enrolling in classes, tracking their progress, and providing support to help students overcome barriers that may impact their ability to complete their credentials.”
With the federal Race-to-the-Top grant funding ending in 2015, the Washington state Legislature passed the Early Start Act which continues funding for the program through DEL. The act was signed into law on July 6. The Early Achievers Grant financial aid program now has 25 participating colleges.
Students and employers interested in learning more about the early childhood education programs and financial aid should contact their local community or technical college. The program produced a short informational video on the Early Achievers Opportunity Grant. DEL will also soon launch a website that will provide information about professional development opportunities for child care providers, educators and employers.
The colleges that participated in the initial grant period were:
- Bates Technical College
- Bellevue College
- Centralia College
- Clark College
- Edmonds Community College
- Everett Community College
- Green River College
- Highline College
- Lake Washington Institute of Technology
- Lower Columbia College
- Olympic College
- Peninsula College
- Pierce College Fort Steilacoom
- Pierce College Puyallup
- Renton Technical College
- North Seattle College
- Seattle Central College
- Skagit Valley College
- South Puget Sound Community College
- Walla Walla Community College
- Wenatchee Valley College
- Whatcom Community College
- Yakima Valley Community College