UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | May 29, 2023

Campus playcare project on hold

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Higher education is expensive enough without the added struggle of paying for childcare.

According to Higher Education Today.edu, about 15 percent of college students are single parents. If there is no family able to watch their child while at classes or work, these single parents would need to put their children in daycare. According to careaboutchildcare.utah.gov, average daycare monthly costs in Washington County can range from $310.74 to $718.45. Dixie State University has a daycare, but it is limited in hours.

There was a project in the works to help parents with their short-term childcare needs in 2014. The Testing Center playcare would be a place where a parent who needed to take a test could drop their child off in a room set aside for them, and then could proceed with testing.

Dixie State University has a daycare, but it is limited in hours. According to Higher Education Today.edu, about 15 percent of college students are single parents. 

If there is no family able to watch their child while at classes or work, these single parents would need to put their children in daycare. Average daycare monthly costs in Washington County can range from $310.74 to $718.45, according to careaboutchildcare.utah.gov. 

There was a project in the works to help parents with their short-term childcare needs in 2014. The Testing Center playcare would be a place where a parent who needed to take a test could drop their child off in a room set aside for them, and then could proceed with testing. 

Kyla Mercier, a senior integrated studies major from St. George, said the lack of childcare can create some serious challenges to continuing education.  

“When my baby was six weeks old at the start of semester, which was about two years ago, she was two weeks too young for daycare,” Mercier said. 

She said she had sorted out most of her schedule with a babysitter, but still had a conflict with a Friday class and would have needed to bring her child to class. However, her professor was against the idea, she said.

“The professor refused to budge, and in the end, it really impacted my ability to stay on track for graduation,” Mercier said. 

She said she had to drop the class since there was no other way to take care of her child.

Mercier said she has now mostly figured out her childcare situation, but she said a playcare would be enormously helpful, as she can’t always manage to take her tests during the times she has a babysitter. 

DSU faculty and students in 2014 had a plan to build a playcare, but the playcare project at the testing center never surfaced.

“We ran into issues as those involved in the project underwent changes,” said Deborah Decker, assistant director of advisement. “Staff, like myself, were moved, and the students supporting the project graduated.”

As for the $2,714.50 allocated for the program by the DSU Student Association, Decker said it’s in limbo, much like the playcare project.

“We tried to raise funds and generate support from the community, but there just wasn’t enough [support] there,” Decker said.

According to the playcare proposal, which was approved by the DSUSA Academic Senate, around $65,000 would be needed to renovate and run the playcare center. The $2,714.50 for the playcare was more of a goodwill gesture and blessing on the project, Decker said.

“I think the need is certainly still there,” O’Brien said. “Personally, I know students who would benefit from having at least the playcare, if not expanded daycare facilities on campus.”

Decker said the change would have to start with the students, as they are the ones who need to say they need the service.

“We don’t have any data on which students are parents and who needs childcare,” Decker said. “Getting that information would be a good start to showing that the need [for the playcare] is there.”

According to Dixie State University policy, minors are not allowed on campus on a regular basis, but allowances can be made by a professor with the understanding that DSU is in no way responsible for the minor while on campus. Decker said on the playcare side of things, the building would be licensed as well as the playcare staff to comply with federal regulations and to conform to policy.

“I understand the predicament on both sides of the issue,” O’Brien said. “It can be very complicated navigating childcare with the benefit of two incomes and two schedules, and not everyone has that to work with.”

Decker said the project will continue to be on hold until there is renewed interest in the playcare.

“Talk to your professors, with [Dean of Students] Del Beatty, and your [student] senators,” Decker said. “There is no model in Utah for the playcare, so we would really be blazing a trail with this project.”