New K-State Graduate School childcare scholarship helps students balance family and education

Posted July 25, 2022

Childcare scholarship

Throughout their careers, K-State Graduate School professors have witnessed a number of students who had to bring their young children with them to class because they were unable to arrange childcare. The child sat at the back of the room while their parent participated in assignments and discussions. Many K-State alumni may be able to reflect on their experiences as these students who were raising a family while pursuing a degree. 

Although finding accessible, affordable childcare is not a new issue, the need continues to rise. It’s often difficult for a parent who wants to further their education to balance school, family obligations and one or more jobs, all while living on what may be a limited income. 

The new K-State Graduate Student Childcare Scholarship seeks to alleviate the strain of childcare costs for students and set them up for success. 

The initiative was inspired by discussions involving a group of University Distinguished Professors about the needs they were seeing amongst their students. Kimberly Kirkpatrick of the Department of Psychological Sciences approached K-State Graduate School Dean Claudia Petrescu about starting a scholarship. 

Faculty members on the Graduate Council Student Affairs committee and student leaders from the Graduate Student Council helped review the first round of applications for this new scholarship. 

Doris Wright Carroll ’74, ’76, an associate professor in K-State’s Department of Special Education, Counseling and Student Affairs, served on this selection committee, and she said she was moved by what she saw. 

“The stories that I was reading in the applications were stories I’d heard before from my grad students,” she said. “All of them were very passionate and very descriptive how [the scholarship] would help them. They were all just very humble as they told their stories and excited about the opportunity of having the support.”

According to Megan Miller ’09, ’14, the Graduate School’s student success coordinator, the Graduate School received 48 applications for the scholarship. Any K-State graduate student was eligible to apply. 

Applicants represented both master’s and doctoral programs, from diverse areas of study across campus. Both on-campus and online students applied. Some were grad assistants, while others were working a full-time job or even multiple jobs while going back to school. Some had children with special needs that impacted the family’s flexibility and access to childcare. Others reported dealing with health or medical issues themselves.

“They were stories of commitment to their graduate education and their graduate work, and they were committed to supporting their family properly,” Carroll said. “This scholarship allows them to do that.”

The Graduate School was able to award 13 scholarships in the spring semester, ranging from $500 to $1,000. Part of the funding for this new program came from the Graduate School’s Giving Tuesday campaign in fall 2021, supported by Graduate School alumni. The Graduate Student Council also matched those funds.

Both Miller and Carroll said the childcare scholarship is an important part of the Graduate School’s holistic view of student success. A parent struggling to find childcare, afford food for the family, and deal with the stress of a full-time or part-time job may find it challenging to be at their best in the classroom. 

“We acknowledge the importance of graduate student total wellness,” Carroll said. “This is a small part of their total success package.”

“I received a lot of thank yous: ‘This will really help me and my family,’” Miller said.

Conversations are ongoing about the future of the scholarship – whether it will be renewable for students across multiple years and how often it will be awarded (annually or by semester).

Carroll said she’s heard from colleagues at other institutions who say K-State is ahead of the curve by offering this type of scholarship. 

“I’m proud of the fact our graduate school and K-State have taken that initiative,” she said. “We know this childcare scholarship has a great impact.”

And who knows – maybe one day, Carroll says, these children helped by their parent’s scholarship will choose to attend K-State themselves and continue their family’s legacy. 

The Graduate Student Childcare Scholarship is part of the Graduate School’s Accelerator Fund initiative. LEARN MORE