Parents struggle in school as budget cuts put limits on campus childcare

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Published 2011-10-10T19:50:00Z”/>


Stephanie Geske

With recent budget cuts to child care, lack of funds to expand the A.S. Child Development Laboratory and out-of-pocket child care costs reaching $1,200 a month, student parents are having a harder time getting their children into affordable child care.

The A.S. Child Development Lab, which is set up so that students in the major can watch how kids interact, works on a sliding cost scale for children of students, faculty and staff, Director Susan Toussaint said.

There is a two-year waitlist, with 140 children waiting to get in one of the three age group programs, Toussaint said.

The lab’s program is one option for students with children, but even if they’re accepted, there are still obstacles for some student parents. Since it closes at 5 p.m., there’s no child care for night classes, and like most other child care facilities, they can’t care for sick children.

When her son got pneumonia during her first semester at Chico State, Amy Ahl-Wright, a senior multicultural and gender studies major whose children are cared for at the lab, had to drop out. Leaving in the middle of the semester meant her work and tuition money were gone.

This wasn’t the only time she had to leave school, as the semester her daughter was born she had to drop a class and only finished six of her nine units, she said. She had to drop two courses last semester because the out-of-class work didn’t fit with her schedule. Those credits would have made her eligible for graduation.

“If I only had those stupid classes,” Ahl-Wright said.

One of her friend’s professors responded with a “that’s your problem” attitude when she said she was having a child and would need time off, Ahl-Wright said.

Some professors consider having a child an option and students need to realize that having a child in college will affect their schooling, said Nandi S. Crosby, a professor of sociology. However, if a woman misses an exam because she goes into labor or has had a baby and isn’t allowed to make it up, that’s discrimination.

Professors often use their best judgment and try to work with the student, but it would be easier to have some guidelines for both sides to follow, Crosby said.

Some people, like child development Professor Cindy Ratekin, don’t think a maternity leave rule would be a good idea, Ratekin said. Some students are going to want to come right back, and some will have complications and need more time, so it’s very individualized.

“I can’t imagine faculty wouldn’t make adjustments for people,” Ratekin said. “It would be the same thing if you had an illness.”

The Child Development Lab staff is hopeful for a turnaround, Toussaint said. If they had room for more children, not only would child development students have more opportunities to learn from their observations, but more student parents would have access to a higher education.

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<strong>Stephanie Geske can be reached at</strong>

<em>[email protected]</em>


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