Campus Child Care Struggles to Thrive With Less State Funding

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Campus Child Care Struggles

Allie Bidwell talks with Katie Nelson about the struggles of the childcare program.

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Child care services at UC Berkeley will be facing major changes for the 2011-12 academic year as administrators in the Early Childhood Education Program attempt to find ways to combat deficits from reduced funding sources at both the university and state levels.

In addition to a 6 percent increase in fee payments from parents for all levels of child care - infant to preschool-age - the program is also closing its doors for the summer in order to save more money, according to student parents and Alice Jordan, coordinator for student parent programs and services at the Transfer, Re-entry, and Student Parent Center. The program will also be stepping up its fundraising efforts to maintain the child care services it currently offers at the seven campus sites.

According to program director Laura Keeley-Saldana, child care services, which offer care to roughly 250 to 300 children, are expected to generate $4.1 million in revenue - from both state funding and fee payments from parents - for the year, but the expenses for the program will total $4.4 million, leading to a $300,000 deficit.

"We were hoping to add after-care options to families, providing additional revenue for our program," she said in an e-mail. "But after the parent forums we have realized that there may not be enough interest in after-care, which now puts us again in a deficit. We have cut back the number of students we serve due to lack of state funding (from) the University, which supports the operation of the (program)."

Currently, the program must pay back 9 percent of its profits to the campus for utility payments and the use of campus facilities, adding to its deficit. According to Keeley-Saldana, the after-care program, which had been an option of interest for parents in the past, did not generate enough interest this year. As a result, after-care - which could have generated an additional $75,000 in revenue - will not be offered to parents.

According to Interim Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Welfare Angelica Stacy, cuts in funding for child care services were given on very short notice, and while the program is trying to maintain its commitments to parents, it must explore additional funding sources - such as fundraising - so child care services can stay afloat.

Stacy said the program is trying to maximize efficiency by making sure every slot is filled and maintaining a balance between quality of care and cost of care. Such a balance, she added, will hopefully be continued by the reopening of Girton Hall, another child care site set to open in February. While Girton Hall will not generate income for the program, it will be a shift in location and possibly offer more spaces for child care, said Keeley-Saldana.

However, even with the reopening, Stacy said that as state funding continues to drop, parents in low-income faculty and staff positions could face financial issues in keeping up with cost increases.

"We're in range in terms of having affordable child care, but that doesn't mean it's not expensive," she said. "The program is a child education center, not just child care. We have to fight to maintain that. That is why we have been trying to go about changes systematically and do a deep analysis, not only to understand certain issues, but to listen to what the parents want."

Junior Jennifer Kim, a student parent who sits on the Parent Advisory Committee, said although the changes were not ideal, she would not be able to attend school if her son was not in the program.

"There were mixed reactions from parents about the changes we are making," said Bob Flaherty, chief financial officer of the campus Residential and Student Services programs. "Concerns seemed specific to the age of the child, what building their child may be in now, etc. We can only support as many children as we can afford."

Flaherty said the process of deciding how to best serve the needs of the families while attempting to remain financially sustainable was not easy. He added that it took four months of negotiations as well as numerous meetings with parents to figure out what would best suit the program now and in the future.


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

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