Children of Cornell graduate students attend a Graduate School welcome event for students with families.

Student Child Care Grant funding to increase $100,000

Children participate in a Kids’ Science Day at the Big Red Barn graduate student center.

The Office of the Provost has approved a $100,000 increase in the annual budget for Cornell’s Student Child Care Grant Program for fiscal year 2019, Dean of Students Vijay Pendakur announced.

The change brings the total budget for the program, which helps offset child care costs for students with families, to $350,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018, a 40 percent increase. Grant support is available for Cornell students who meet current eligibility requirements and have children from newborns to age 13.

The Students with Families Advisory Committee, composed of student parents, support staff and administrators from units across campus, was tasked in early 2017 to examine the program’s eligibility requirements, with a goal to determine how best to make meaningful grant awards to as many Cornell students as possible with child care expenses.

The program’s eligibility expansion and an increase in financial support for student parents was backed by the Graduate Professional Community Initiative, and the committee submitted its recommendations for the grant program in the fall after conducting a Cornell Student-Parent Survey during the summer.

Announcing the funding increase to committee members, Pendakur said: “This is in direct response to the thoughtful analysis and proposal your committee developed, balanced with available resources. We appreciate how hard you’ve worked on advocating for this grant program.”

One criterion for eligibility was changed in the past year. The family adjusted gross income threshold for eligibility was increased from $70,000 to $120,000 (prorated), to allow more students to participate in the grant program.

“The initial proposal was geared to expanding the reach of the grants and the eligibility requirements,” said committee member Aubryn Sidle, a doctoral student in development sociology. “I think the administration really heard that and honored it.”

The program awarded 54 grants totaling $185,100 for the fall 2017 funding cycle, supporting child care for 62 children. The average grant amount per student was $3,428.

Data from the survey of student parents, with questions centered on child care experiences and the grant program, will inform further recommendations for enhancing eligibility criteria. Of the 176 students who responded, 40 percent were grant recipients. On one survey question, 56 percent of the respondents agreed they had “experienced significant financial hardship as a result of child care cost” in the previous year.

“While most comments about the grant program were positive and appreciative, a common critique from student parents has centered on eligibility criteria being too narrow and, as a result, many student parents who may be in need have not been eligible to participate,” said Janna Lamey, chair of the advisory committee and assistant dean of the Graduate School.

Committee member Brandon Gheller, a doctoral student in nutritional science and father of two toddlers, said: “One of the purposes of the survey was to get a handle on why students didn’t apply. It just feels like more people would be eligible. You want to help them and give that money to them if possible.”

Pendakur and Barbara A. Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, asked the committee to work with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly to revise their proposal with new grant criteria for the program and modifications to the awards process that will deploy the increased annual allocation.

Cornell was one of the first universities in the country to offer students a child care grant when the program was initiated in 2004. The initial $100,000 annual allocation for the program was raised to $250,000 in 2015.

The Office of the Dean of Students will announce the deadlines for spring 2018 grant applications in mid-February. Since some eligibility requirements are changing, students whose circumstances may have changed since the fall or have previously applied to the program and were denied are encouraged to consider reapplying.

“Improvements were already made in last year’s cycle and will be made again this year,” Lamey said. The Student Child Care Grant Review Committee carefully considers all requests, she said.

Eligibility requirements for fall 2018 will be finalized and announced in the summer. For more information on the grant program, email Senior Associate Dean of Students Mary Beth Grant at

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