By Amira Masri
“Does she go to the daycare on campus?” the inquiring woman indicates my two-year-old daughter.
I steal a glance at the toddler disorientedly pushing her empty stroller into the closed elevator doors. The short answer, friendly stranger on the third floor of the H building, is no. The reason for this answer? Our school does not have a daycare on campus.
I am fortunate enough to not really require such a service either. From my vantage, it seems to be generally understood within county programs, colleges and universities that securing a living wage through higher education is a crucial step for earning parents toward ending the cycle of poverty. My daughter and I live at the Jeremiah Program, a non-profit organization that helps single mothers complete a college degree, in part by offering on-site childcare facilities. Regardless of whether daycare was offered at MCTC, I would still have my daughter enrolled with the Jeremiah Program.
But not every single mother at MCTC lives in my building. And not every parent is a single-parent household.
According to the 2013 CCSE data, only 17.4% of MCTC students report providing care for dependents for more than 30 hours a week, with 54% reporting that they do not care for dependents of any kind. 17% may not seem like much, and it certainly isn’t the majority.
If we take 17% of say 13,000 students (the last enrollment tally was at 13,874 students), we have about 2,210 people enrolled at MCTC caring for dependents more than 30 hours a week. Assuming one dependent per student, that could mean as many as 2,210 dependents that could be eligible for on-campus care during a 7-day work week.
The college doesn’t leave parents high and dry, however. There are childcare grants available for parents who do not already receive MFIP (MInnesota Family Investment Program) childcare assistance funds.
One type of childcare grant, issued by the Office of Higher Education, awards a maximum of 2,800 dollars for each eligible child per academic year. In 2008, 2,921 students total (not only at MCTC) were awarded an average of $2,045 in childcare grants.
How does this kind of funding compare to the actual cost of childcare?
That all depends on where you live and how long the child is at daycare during the week. My daughter attends daycare 5 days a week for sometimes ten hours a day, which costs me around $220 dollars a week. For non-parent readers, it may be worth mentioning that infants are more expensive than toddlers, with a decrease in cost corresponding to an increased age group. On average, parents in the metro area of Minnesota pay about $306 dollars a week for infant childcare, with out of state parents paying around $190 dollars a week for the same age-range. One semester of infant childcare would cost double the average amount issued in childcare grants per academic year.
Although $2000 would certainly dent the childcare bill somewhat, the fact that the grant is per academic year and that childcare costs about 7 times that per year leads me to the conclusion that grants like these aren’t adequate in supporting students who care for dependents.
An on-campus daycare would certainly bring its own set of obstacles. Licensing, insurance, the costs of building and maintaining the space — not to mention the required wages of the brand new employees — would put a serious strain on the school’s budget. Is such an undertaking worth exploring for the 17% of us who care for dependents?
Well, parents would not be the only possible beneficiaries of an on-campus daycare. The Early Childhood Education program at MCTC would be able to utilize the on-campus daycare facilities for observational learning, perhaps even interning with the daycare at a certain point in their education.
Although running a daycare would be costly, it would also accumulate revenue. If parents are already paying upwards of $12,000 a year to ensure their children are taken care of, that’s money that can go toward maintaining the childcare facilities. If every parent utilized on-campus daycare on a weekly basis, that’s 2,210 children times $12,000 a year — and that doesn’t include the possible staff who may enroll their dependents on-campus for the sake of geographical convenience.
The question stands, do the parents at MCTC want a daycare on-campus? Should MCTC play a role in educating two generations simultaneously? Is such a project financially feasible for the college and indeed the students? I’ll leave it up to you. Get in touch with Student Senate President.Senate@go.minneapolis.edu to let them know how you feel about an on-campus childcare center.