Two local child care centers are hoping to be considered in the University of Minnesota’s push for expanded child care services.
Although the University hasn’t yet officially issued a request for outside child care providers, the Como Early Learning Center and the Community Child Care Center are planning to join the conversation early. Rising tuition costs are driving the centers to seek a formalized relationship with the University, particularly in light of increasing demand for child care around campus.
In anticipation of talks with the University, CELC requested a letter from the Southeast Como Improvement Association to underscore the center’s importance in the community on Oct. 2.
While the centers are not officially tied to the University, they receive student service fees funding through affiliate student groups. Both centers are housed inside student housing cooperatives.
CELC Executive Director Katie Johnson said she doesn’t know what a formalized relationship with administration would look like yet. She’s said she hopes the University will clarify where the centers stand in the process.
“It’s just difficult to figure out who to connect with, because there’s no one office that works with childcare on campus,” said CCCC Director Tracie Myers.
The centers are seeking a solution to their climbing tuition costs. Parents have seen an uptick in costs since the University significantly scaled back eligible SSF funding for both centers in 2016.
As a result, CCCC increased tuition by eight percent in 2017 and again by four percent in 2018. CELC also raised tuition by eight percent in 2017 and another three percent in 2018.
"The risk is that we no longer become affordable for student parents, and we're no longer able to offer discounts to student parents, and I think that's scary,” said Rebecca Stabler, a student parent on the CELC board.
While Stabler originally chose the University partially for its childcare options, the cuts have taken a financial toll. Stabler said her family is spending more on daycare than they make, and she has picked up a job cleaning apartments to get extra money.
"We moved halfway across the country to get this support. I can't explain how disappointing it is to see all this crumble,” Stabler said.
In response to the funding cuts, the University funneled $150,000 from SSF into a grant to help low-income student parents subsidize childcare at any center, said Susan Warfield, program director of the Student Parent Help Center. This fall, 53 students were granted an award and 36 students were wait-listed.
The grant can be used at any childcare center, and is not limited to the CELC and CCCC.
“The responsibility the University has is to our students,” said Sara Carvell, associate director of student government, fees and spirit initiatives at the University. “Other than the student groups affiliated with these centers, the centers are not University entities.”
University administration also offered support through a temporary freeze on discounted tuition.
Student parents receiving discounted tuition rates at CCCC and CELC did not see their tuition increase in the 2017-18 academic year, Carvell said. This year, student parents will not see the same tuition freeze.
In a statement, the University said that the Provost’s Child Care Advisory Committee report will be used to inform the request for outside childcare providers.
Myers said the report solidifies the importance of looking local for child care.
“That committee being formed, creating that report, gives us some fuel to be part of the conversation,” Myers said. “Now it’s in writing what we have been trying to communicate for a number of years: that there aren’t enough childcare slots on campus.”