Opinion: On-campus child care is a must-have for every university

This past March, professor Nathan Alexander from Morehouse College made headlines for teaching his class with a baby strapped to his chest. The infant belonged to his student who desperately needed to review content for their midterm, but couldn’t find a babysitter in time. While the story is very touching, it also highlights a problem many states are dealing with — lack of affordable child care.

Many student parents struggle to find affordable child care. In fact, a recent report from Child Care Aware of America found the average annual cost of center-based infant care in Washington state is $13,742 — that’s $2,911 more than the annual in-state tuition at UW Tacoma.

With such high costs for child care, the journey to graduation is complicated for student parents — especially if they are low-income. A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found over 60 percent of single moms enrolled in college live at or below the federal poverty line and work 20 hours or more a week. With such a hectic schedule, this leaves little time to focus on academics and, unfortunately, many drop out. The study from the IWPR also found that over half of student parents leave college before earning their degree.

Affordable on-campus child care is key in eliminating many of the barriers student parents face on the journey to graduation. Fortunately, on many campuses in Washington — including UWT — these programs exist. In 2016, UWT partnered with the Children’s Museum of Tacoma to create The Muse — a child care program which gives priority to students, faculty and staff. UWT also has a child care assistance program which offers low-income students funds for childcare costs.

These programs are great, but unfortunately many campuses in our nation do not have this in place. For example, a Morehouse College 2015 study found that out of the 53 public two and four year institutions, only 21 percent have on-campus child care.

Another problem is the extensive waiting lists for on-campus child care that student parents — especially those who are not low-income have to contend with. One study found the average waiting list for on-campus child care facilities is 80 people. Unaffordable and unaccessible child care means more parents will place there children in unideal situations similar to the incident at Morehouse.

Such programs need to be enacted across campuses in our nation. On-campus and accessible child care is important not only for the future of student parents, but also their children.