North Central Michigan College’s Child Care Initiative (CCI), which is leading the development of a sustainable, community-centered child care system in Emmet County, will enter its second phase with more than a half-million dollars in funding thanks to a federal grant and local support from the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation and the Emmet County Board of Commissioners. 

A $490,569 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School program (CCAMPIS) will expand child care access to NCMC’s student parents with infants and toddlers, addressing a key barrier standing in the way of parents’ ability to graduate. 

NCMC was one of just 34 CCAMPIS awardees nationwide and the only awardee in Michigan. The grant is renewable for up to four years, and funds can be used in the near term to subsidize student parents’ child care costs.  

“Attending college while raising young children is no easy feat,” said Jennifer Wixson, NCMC early childhood education program coordinator and head of the CCI. “Parents face a unique set of circumstances that affect their academic persistence and completion. Our first step will be identifying who our student parents are so that we can connect them with resources to support them on their path toward graduation.” 

The CCAMPIS grant will finance 55% of CCI’s Phase II total costs for 2023-24, with the remaining 45%, or $394,268, to be funded by non-federal governmental sources and fundraising.

Another key funding partner, the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, has awarded the college a two-year, $100,000 grant in support of Phase II initiatives, including establishing the NCMC Child Care and Preschool Program, a four-classroom proof-of-concept prototype built on a true-cost business model. 

CCI’s Phase I research revealed that many family child care owners do not pay themselves a set salary based on their true business costs. Rather, their rates reflect the “going rate” in the community, which is informally regarded as what families can afford to pay. The result is a business model that drastically undervalues home-based providers and their employees. The NCMC Child Care and Preschool Program will demonstrate the feasibility and viability of a true cost fiscal model, Wixson explained. 

“We know that ensuring living wages, benefits, and a predictable salary scale is critical to sustaining and growing our local child care system,” Wixson said. “By developing, prototyping, and piloting these concepts, we will ensure their success in Emmet County, and ultimately, across our Northern Michigan region.” 

The Community Foundation was a key partner when North Central launched the CCI in 2022, awarding the college $50,000 to fund Phase I research. Community Foundation Executive Director David (DJ) Jones said the initiative was — and continues to be — well aligned with the Community Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for all people in Emmet County. 

“Child care is a critical need in our community,” Jones shared. “We are pleased to continue our support of North Central’s dedicated initiative to find solutions that are sustainable.” 

Emmet County has emerged as another local partner, with the board of commissioners unanimously approving a $50,000 funding request on November 16. Those funds will be used to support the engagement of employer partners in the college-led child care and preschool program. 

In addition to providing proof of concept, Wixson noted four objectives and outcomes resulting from the program: 

  1. Enabling student parents to pursue their educational goals assured that their children are in a safe, educational, caring environment nearby, which will lead to an increase in their attendance rates and achievement. 
  2. The on-campus program will utilize a sliding fee scale and priority enrollment while modeling the use of various funding streams, allowing low-income student parents expanded access to high-quality child care services. 
  3. Providing tangible evidence of North Central’s commitment to students’ welfare, leading to increased retention and completion rates, as well as participation in a parent advisory group and other parent engagement experiences on campus. 
  4. Promoting cognitive, emotional, and social development as a foundation for future academic achievements and increasing the capacity of community child care opportunities and preschool programming. 

For the latest updates and activities related to NCMC’s Child Care Initiative, visit