Over the past five years, the idea of child care service at Dixie State University has circulated amongst students, faculty and staff.
For parents who are trying to get an education while balancing raising young children, finding child care services is crucial. Most professors don’t allow children in classrooms during lectures and test taking can prove to be an even bigger struggle. Since tests at the testing center sometimes fall outside of normal class time, it can be challenging to find last-minute care for children.
“Having dependable, good child care is essential for [parents] to finish their degree, finish on time and to be even better providers for their children monetarily, intellectually and emotionally,” said Deborah Decker, assistant director of advisement.
There is a lot of stress on young parents to find someone to watch their children repeatedly throughout the semester.
“Many of the child care options are not conveniently located,” Decker said. “A lot of them are expensive, which is hard for students on a limited budget, or even staff and faculty members as well… Also, there’s a lot of turnover and a lot of [the staff] aren’t highly trained. And being on a college campus, you know that’s what everyone values, we want people who are highly trained and that’s somewhat difficult to find in the area.”
Decker was one of the staff members involved in the movement for campus child care. In 2013, Dannelle Larsen-Rife, an associate professor of psychology, began work to conduct a needs assessment for child care throughout campus. Larsen-Rife and other faculty members created a proposal for the development of a day care geared toward infants to 12-year-olds at the DSU Testing Center.
About 200 students took the survey at the Testing Center and in various other classes. The results revealed about 35 percent of students have a child and have a need for a day care, and 62 percent of students said they were somewhat or very likely to have a child within the next three years.
“It’s tricky to demonstrate need because that’s not something we ask on college applications,” Decker said. “We just really have no idea how many of our students have children and what age ranges they are… so it’s hard to plan.”
The project was put on hold due to lack of support and funding. Nevertheless, the idea still seems to be hotly discussed. On separate occasions, multiple groups around campus have brought up the idea of having campus child care services.
Where the issue stands now
Part of the problem is not having a clearly defined leader of the movement, Decker said. There is a duplication of efforts from different groups on campus, but if a committee was organized, they could look at things from the big picture and meet everyone’s needs. Although there is no committee centralized on child care, it has been brought up in administration.
Within DSU’s strategic plan, “Dixie 2020: Status to Stature,” under strategy no. 2, addendum B, of goal four, it states student, faculty and staff needs to be met include “support for nursing mothers in partnership with Women’s Resource Center/Utah Women in Higher Education Network of DSU, child care in partnership with WRC/UWHEN of DSU, and support for returning adult learners/non-traditional students.
DSU has applied for Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS), a federal grant that supports low-income parents in postsecondary education through campus child care services. Submitted this year, the application was written to request federal funding to help student parents afford outside child care.
Unfortunately, it was rejected and DSU was not awarded funding. Sylvia Bradshaw, director of sponsored programs, who submitted the application, said it came back with feedback saying that the reason DSU was rejected was because the plan did not involve an on-campus child care service option.
DSU and Southern Utah University are the only universities in Utah that do not have on-campus child care facilities or receive the CCAMPIS grant.
What faculty and staff are saying about the need for child care services, and what YOU can do to help
Data has shown students ages 25 and older have dropped out of DSU recently, Bradshaw said. Although this doesn’t necessarily prove causation between having children and staying in school, Bradshaw points to a correlation, because according to NPR, in 2014 the mean age of a woman at the birth of her first child is 26.3.
“If we want to empower women to get degrees and we want to empower women to be educated, with the Women’s Resource Center and Utah Women in Higher Education, we have to recognize that women are mothers,” said James Haendiges, associate professor of English and faculty senate president. “If they have a child, they’re a mother and we need to empower them in that situation instead of leaving them out to dry.”
Haendiges also said most professors would rather have their students coming to class and learning, rather than having to miss class because of a lack of child care. Although there are policies in place against minors being allowed in classrooms, Haendiges said he and other professors realize that sometimes for student parents, there is no other choice.
“If people are violating policy, sometimes it’s an indication that there’s an issue in place and it needs to be rectified,” Haendiges said.
Especially with the development of master’s programs, students will be staying at DSU longer, therefore increasing their likelihood of having children, Decker said. Child care services could help with retention. If students are provided the resources they need, they are more likely to stay and finish at the university, Decker said.
“They come in as the traditional student, but they don’t [always] leave as a traditional student and we’ve got to meet those needs in between,” Bradshaw said.
With the expansion of campus, there are opportunities for a child care facility in multiple locations. Bradshaw said they have explored the idea of utilizing the East Elementary playground or a space in the Human Performance Center. Most recreation centers and gyms have child care facilities in them, Bradshaw said, so if student demand can show that one classroom in the HPC needs to be converted to a classroom, administration may see that change out.
“By not offering that support, you are definitely withholding the benefit of the building from a good portion of our students,” Bradshaw said.
Child care would be an asset to faculty and staff as well. Haendiges said the topic has previously come up various times, especially with the hiring of young faculty members who are parents. However, it has fluctuated in priority as faculty and staff have moved or as their children aged.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Bradshaw said. “And student parents are too busy to be squeaky.”
Tiffany Draper, assistant director of student success over orientation, family programs, and early alert, said the more administration hears the need from students, the higher it moves on their priority list. She and Bradshaw urge students to bring the topic of child care up to their student senators, Student Body President Ezra Hainsworth, President “Biff” Williams, Dean of Students Del Beatty, Peter Gitau, vice president for student affairs and strategic plan goal leaders, Dean of Education Brenda Sabey and General Counsel Doajo Hicks, to make it known that this is an issue that matters. Students can also go directly to Draper’s office in the Val A. Browning Learning Resource Center. The more proof she has that students want the facility, the better.
“We do see a lot who don’t finish their degree because of getting married or having children and if we had an avenue for them to stay and finish while they’re living life, it would be really nice,” Draper said.