Why Is There No On-Campus Child Care Program?

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Brianna Gonzalez is a USF alumna who had to take care of her young son while she was a student at the University. COURTESY OF BRIANNA GONZALEZ

San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley are just a few schools around the Bay Area which offer on-campus child care services.

USF, on the other hand, does not have a single on-campus child care facility for students or faculty with children.

Though the University offers a subsidy for qualifying staff and faculty, an increasing number of student-parents are referred to external child care organizations by the “Daycares” page on the University website, which suggests child care services.

 

Plans Have Never “Materialized”

Ellen Ryder, vice president of marketing and communications, explained in an email that funding and staffing are the two main reasons why USF does not have on-campus child care.

“We would like nothing better than to provide this important service to members of our community,” Ryder said. “Without available funding to support and staff, and without funding to construct a safe and appropriate space to operate such a facility, USF has no plans at this time to implement such a facility.”

The Office of Human Resources declined a request for an interview, with a representative stating that they were “not interested” in answering questions. Theodore Matula, chair of the rhetoric department, said he has heard several times that the University was looking into on-campus child care, but he said the plans never “materialized.”

“So many other universities manage to pull this off,” Matula said. “I don’t know why USF has not been able to make this happen. If we’re living up to the Jesuit values of appreciating and developing the whole person, then the role of many of us as parents should figure in [to that].”

 

USF’s Alternatives

The University does offer a subsidy to eligible faculty members to help fund child care at a daycare in the city. To be eligible, faculty members must work full-time at USF, claim the child as an IRS-tax dependent, show that the child has not attended first grade yet and prove that, if the employee is married, their spouse is employed.

The subsidy is also based on the income of the employee. Faculty making less than $101,542 per year receive just over $400 per month. Meanwhile, faculty in the salary range of about $126,000 to $161,000 per year are eligible for $324 per month towards child care.

The day care closest to USF is Les Petits Canards French Immersion Preschool, which costs $1,650 per month.  

Based on experience as a parent and full-time professor, Matula said it was a challenge to find child care services around the city.

“We had to conform our schedule to [the day care’s] hours, and when those hours changed, we had to find another system of after-school care,” Matula said. “One year, when our oldest was in first grade and youngest in pre-school, either my wife or I had to leave work every day around noon to pick up both kids and take them to an after-school program at another school.”

Matula received around $420 per month from the University, but still had to pay around $1,500 per month for the child care center. He explained that USF provides the child care subsidy until the child is five years old.

 

Unlike other universities, USF does not provide an on-campus child care option for faculty or student-parents. SARAH HAMILTON/GRAPHICS CENTER

 

A Senior Thesis

USF alumna Briana Gonzalez also noticed this issue in 2016 when she was a student and a mother at the same time. Gonzalez researched this issue for her Master of Public Affairs degree within the Urban and Public Affairs graduate program.

Gonzalez had to bring her son to class numerous times because she couldn’t find child care. Though she said that her professors were always accommodating and understanding, the experience she had in her first semester was difficult.

“I was struggling to find someone to take care of my son,” she said. “That was a constant worry that really affected my studies and my ability to do any homework and concentrate on the program itself. It sent me through a lot of stress because I was questioning, ‘Should I even be doing this?’ I can barely afford to live here, and now I am adding going to school and adding child care [on top of that].”

There has been a 30 percent increase in the country’s student-parent population over the last decade, according to a 2017 analysis published by the Institution for Women’s Policy Research. At the same time, the number of on-campus child care services has declined nationwide.

The University did not give Gonzalez nor the Foghorn the exact number of faculty or students with children, as the school does not track such information.

“If [USF] does not take this [growing number of student parents] into account and change their ways, they are going to be left in the dust by more competitive schools who are understanding that our demographics are changing,” Gonzalez said.

When Gonzalez wrote her thesis, she surveyed faculty who have children and asked about their experiences at USF. The responses she received expressed a need for child care, but also a need for more concern about on-campus mothers in general. For example, USF provides a “lactation space” upon request for breastfeeding mothers, in accordance with Human Resources’ lactation accommodation policy. To use a room, breastfeeding mothers must submit a completed lactation accommodation request form to the Human Resources leave manager.

Once approved, the employee is given time breaks to “express milk during work hours.” If they need additional time to breastfeed throughout the day, the breaks will be considered unpaid.

Health Promotion Services provides two lactation sites for student mothers. The first is located on Lone Mountain in Rossi Wing, while the other is in the University Center. The rooms are open Monday—Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

One anonymous survey participant in Gonzalez’s survey said, “Being a student that has to commute for teaching weekends, and with a baby on the way, I would benefit the most from on-campus child care. Any financial support would be helpful as parents have increased expenses associated with attending school because of child care.”

Editor’s note: In a previous version of this article, Briana Gonzalez was described as having done her research for her senior thesis. It was actually for her Master of Public Affairs degree. The article has been updated with this information. 

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