The Child Development Center.

Child Development Center Director Sally Dionisio with the children of student-parents.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Just weeks after announcing its plans to erase $5 million of debt for 2,000 of its students, Bergen Community College will offer tuition-free enrollment at its on-campus early learning facility – the Child Development Center – for the children of 25 student-parents who expressed a need for childcare due to the pandemic. The College notified the more than 500 eligible student-parents earlier this month.

“In today’s environment, colleges must focus on holistic approaches to serving students,” Bergen President Eric M. Friedman, Ph.D., said. “Colleges must examine the barriers students face in completing their degrees – including challenges related to housing, health and wellness and childcare. By taking this approach of supporting ‘the whole student,’ rather than just addressing scholastic needs, we exponentially increase their opportunities to become successful.”

Combined, the College will use $153,000 in federal funding from two sources to sponsor the tuition-free enrollments. The first, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan, will cover 10 of the spots, with the U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant program funding the other 15. Without the federal assistance secured by the College, student-parents pay $180 per week for a child to enroll at the center.

Each semester, the preschool offers early childhood education for 45 children ages two- to five-years-old. Located in Ender Hall at the College’s main campus in Paramus, the center has educated more than 1,100 since its inception in 1982.

Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and licensed by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, center enrollees include the children of College faculty, staff and students and those from the greater Bergen County region. As a laboratory school, the center provides an on-campus observation, demonstration, field and workforce training site for the College’s students, who use the center to fulfill their course requirements relating to child development.

Led by certified teachers, the center features two classrooms that support both hands-on play and the development of academic concepts in math, science, social studies, language arts and the creative arts. Children also have access to computers, an outdoor play area and learning resources such as a community garden.

Children can enroll in either a full- or part-time schedule. The center operates from September until the end of the College’s summer II classes, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Children of College faculty, staff and students receive discounted tuition. For more information, or to schedule a visit, please call (201) 447-7165.

Bergen’s announcement of the tuition-free early childhood education initiative represents the latest in a series of tactics to provide its students with financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic – including the aforementioned $5 million student debt forgiveness program. The College has also distributed more than $13 million in direct emergency aid to its students and sponsored a $5,000 vaccine incentive program through the Bergen Community College Foundation.

In addition to the recent funds Bergen has allocated to provide relief, students also take advantage of numerous federal, state and College-sponsored initiatives that help them remain enrolled. Among them, students file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which makes them eligible for programs such as the state’s tuition-free Community College Opportunity Grant. The program has now expanded to include households making up to $65,000 per year.

Bergen’s affordable tuition and renowned faculty complement general education classes such as English Composition, General Biology and Statistics that remain ideal for transfer to many four-year colleges. Bergen offers more than 130 degree and certificate programs in areas such as aviation, criminal justice, dental hygiene, fashion design and hospitality. The College ranks No. 1 in New Jersey for associate degree graduates. The College has now fully reopened its campuses after more than a year of operating via a mostly remote instructional and professional environment. For more information, or to register for classes that begin Sept. 1, visit

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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