Budget Cuts Take Toll on UC Child Care Programs

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Cuts to Campus Childcare Funding

Assistant University News Editor, Emma Anderson and Lead Academics and Administration Reporter, Katie Nelson analyze the impacts of university childcare funding cuts on student parents.

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Junior Smoke Johnson said she thought she and her fiance were going to live the American dream when they were both accepted to UC Berkeley. Even with one son, they thought they could manage.

Upon entering school, Johnson applied for and received full-time child care for her son, but when she gave birth to her second son this past year, things became difficult. She was told by officials in the campus Early Childhood Education Program that due to budget cuts, there were not enough spots in the program and she would not be able to receive care for her second child.

"We both receive financial aid and scholarships, and I thought we really had a chance - it's hard enough to be a Cal student, but because we can't get child care, it has kind of torn everything apart," she said. "I barely make it to my classes and study time is impossible to find and now, for the family's sake, my fiance is withdrawing so I might have a chance to graduate."

Student parents are about to see some major changes to the campus child care system as the Early Childhood Education Program attempts to find ways to deal with a budget that faces a $300,000 deficit - accrued over the past few years - according to a member of the campus Parent Advisory Council and UC Berkeley junior Jennifer Kim.

Kim, who also has a 2-year-old son in child care in University Village in Albany, said student parents will no longer be guaranteed that their children will have continual child care services beginning next fall and subsidized summer child care services will cease to be offered to parents this summer.

"It is generally agreed upon that once you are accepted into the program, you won't have to worry about child care until you graduate," she said. "But with this change, everyone has to start from scratch every fall. I know I can't afford private day care and that if I didn't get accepted into ECEP, then going to school would probably be impossible."

There are roughly 250 slots for infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children in the seven campus child care centers. Should a child be accepted into the program, parents must pay a nonrefundable $500 deposit followed by fees for each child's age - $1,815 per month for infant care, $1,660 per month for toddler care and $1,375 per month for preschool-aged children.

The program's total budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year is $3.75 million, but, like all other residential and student services, it must allocate funds to pay the campus back for the use of facilities - about 9 percent of its total revenue, up from 7 percent last year.

Martin Takimoto, director of communications and marketing for the Residential and Student Service Programs, said he is unsure how the recently passed state budget may impact further cuts to the UC child care system or how it could impact potential future fee increases and campus payback. However, he said the program will try to continue to preserve child care services for students, faculty and staff.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs for Residential and Student Service Programs LeNorman Strong said he and ECEP Director Laura Keeley-Saldana have worked with a number of campus administrators to discuss the need to continue child care services for student parents.

"We wanted to create child care scholarships and have them be a priority to try and continue to provide services; we just got a fundraiser who gave us our first $25,000," he said. "While there are other requests out there, my hope is that we would be able to create endowments each year to provide scholarships to as many parents as possible."

Child care services for student parents, which can be subsidized through financial aid, have been delayed this year due to program glitches in the financial aid office's recently implemented ProSAM system. The program was meant to increase efficiency in allocating aid packages to students but instead has caused major problems in getting funds to students on time.

Senior Milanca Lopez, who could not afford full-time campus child care for her son when she started at UC Berkeley four years ago, had to use outside providers instead while she went to work or to class. Lopez even had to return to Los Angeles this summer because of her inability to pay for campus child care while she worked.

"Now, getting out of work at 7 p.m., I have lost time I could be using to spend with my son. I have to work because if I don't then I would get into this constant cycle of trying to keep up," she said. "Staying here this summer and going to school and paying for campus child care wasn't even an option. I have to support my family somehow."


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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