The field of early childhood education is in crisis, and the Community College System of NH and Great Bay Community College is working to solve it.
In tandem with the DHHS, UNH-College of Professional Studies, Keene State College, and the Community College System of New Hampshire, Great Bay Community College students have access to a trio of grants that will offset educational expenses as students complete ECE certificates and degrees.
As a constellation of options, the grants will support and transform the field across the state. Students already working in the field could complete an early childhood education certificate “pretty much for free,” said Jennifer Ganim-Smith, Great Bay’s Early Childhood Education program coordinator and professor. “And they could get a significant amount of their associate degree for free as well.”
The grants are designed to support the field during a time of acute need.
“There is a desperate need for ECE teachers. Covid decimated the field,” Ganim-Smith said. “People do not go into early childhood education to make a lot of money; they pursue this field because they are passionate about working with children and want to make a difference in the lives of young children and families. We want to help support early childhood education students who are entering the field and those that are already part of the workforce to earn certificates or degrees without incurring the cost of going to college or having to go into debt. If anyone feels inhibited about the cost of going to college, this really opens the door. We are hoping this will boost interest and remove barriers for the new generation of educators and the current workforce that wants to further their careers.”
The grants are available now and will be available each academic semester in 2024. They are designed to attract people new to the field and those currently employed who want to improve their skills and bolster their credentials.
The Early Childhood Tuition Assistant Grant offers tuition assistance for one course per term to people working in New Hampshire-licensed child care or New Hampshire licensed out-of-school time programs. Depending on the classes, the grant will pay 100 percent of tuition costs.
Through funding from the Bureau of Childhood Development and Head Start Collaboration, the Granite Steps for Quality grant supports 100 percent of the cost of tuition for up to three courses per term. This grant was developed to support students linked to ECE and out-of-school time as well as paraprofessionals working in NH elementary schools. The GSQ grant provides tuition for ECE, Educator Prep, and Human Services-related course work.
“This one is game changer,” Ganim-Smith said. “It will open so many doors. It pays for three courses at 100 percent of tuition, and it’s not limited to early childhood but also educator prep, and human services. The Early Childhood Assistance Grant is specific to early-childhood education, but this one opens it up.”
The Community College System of New Hampshire ECE GAP Scholarship complements the other grants by supporting related costs for students living or working in New Hampshire who are connected to one of the system’s ECE certificate or degree programs. “This scholarship pays the fees and the books for the other classes they can get free,” Ganim-Smith said.
Applications and information are available online, and students can apply for all three grants through a single application. “CCSNH is making it as streamlined and easy for people as possible,” Ganim-Smith said. “We are hoping this attracts people who want to enter the field, and I am also hoping we attract people who are working in the field and want to go back to school to learn more. Now they have opportunity to do that without incurring the costs.”