This is a guest post from Emily, a high school intern in the Women’s Center. Since she first started interning here in September, Emily has been helping the Women’s Center director research resources and data related to university child care (based on UMBC’s on-campus childcare facility closing in September 2013) and is helping with Take Back the Night. This is a piece that comes out of a larger research paper she is working on for her internship class about why on-campus child care is essential to the success of college student parents.
We are intentionally posting this blog post during the week of Critical Social Justice because we believe that access to affordable and quality childcare for all families everywhere is a social justice issue. Furthermore, access to affordable and quality childcare in America can and should take on a deeper intersectional approach that includes looking through the lenses of race, socioeconomic status, and gender. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences related to childcare and the concept of access to affordable and quality childcare as a social justice issue.
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Imagine: you are a college student with a child or children; perhaps you even do fit this description. Between working and taking classes, you have no choice but to rely on child care to look after your children. It is the beginning of the school year, you have found a steady rhythm of dropping off your kids, going to work and class, and picking them up. One evening, you go to pick up you child from childcare and you’re given the news: Effective immediately, the center you relied on, the one that made it possible for you to be superman or woman between work and school and kids, is now closed. What are you going to do? Bring your rambunctious four year old to lecture?
As you may have heard, on September 19, the child care center at UMBC closed suddenly due to water and structural damage (Baltimore Sun Article). Plans on how to address the closing of the center and next steps are moving slowly, and it is important to understand how accessible, affordable, and quality child care can benefit parenting college students.
23.3%, (that’s 3.7 million) of undergraduate students have dependent children (IWPR Report). Half of these student parents (1.9 million), are single parents (IWPR Report). Childcare is a top concern for 72.4% of student parents in a 2012 study of student parents at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Child care is often unaffordable and unavailable. In 2012, tuition at a public, 4 year university in Maryland was on average $8,220, while full-time infant care at a Baltimore center was on average $11,560 — 40% more expensive than college tuition (Baltimore Sun Article).
Attending college is already expensive without the added costs of child care. More than 40% of student parents work full time or even more in order to meet the demands of their family costs and tuition. Between working and college classes, a college student parent needs extensive, often full time, child care coverage. Especially for college student parents taking evening or weekend classes, or working these hours, as many do, child care becomes more expensive at these non-standard hours.
In addition to high costs, child care is simply often unavailable. Roughly 13,300 Baltimore children under age two need some kind of care, however, facilities can only accommodate up to 20% of them in the city and 27% in the county (See Baltimore Sun Article).
On-campus childcare options are also rather grim. From 2004-2011, public four year institutions with on-campus childcare have decreased from 59.1% to 55.1%. At those with childcare facilities, the “average waiting list was approximately 85% the size of the enrollment of a center, or 90 names of children who need care but for whom there is no space.” Additionally, faculty and staff children were more likely to be served, with only 34% of care slots filled by the children of students.
With all these disadvantages, it is not surprising that student parents are 22% more likely to leave college without a degree after six years than non-student parents (53% versus 31%). Student parents are more likely to drop out of college than they are to graduate. A college education is integral in providing an economically stable and safe situation for student parents and their families. In 2011, the average salary for people with a high school diploma or equivalent was $30,000, compared to $45,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree, about a third greater salary. This trend extends to post-graduates, earning an average of $59,200, again, nearly 33% more than those with a bachelor’s degree. Without affordable and available childcare options, student parents are not likely to graduate, leaving them at a disadvantage for the rest of their careers.
At the moment, UMBC does not have on-site child care. If you are looking for childcare resources, we encourage you to visit the newly created UMBC Moms and Parents myUMBC group page that was created by the Women’s Center to help serve UMBC parents. Also, as mentioned at the top of this post, feel free to share your own experiences related to childcare or why you think access to childcare is a social justice issue.