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Childcare is an essential service for student-parents

According to figures from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), about one in three women who attend a public two-year institution have children that require direct adult supervision. To participate fully in the economy, student-parents need to graduate with a meaningful skill set. To graduate, student-parents need to complete their educational program. And to complete their educational program, they need high quality childcare while they are in class. If my math is correct, then the key to their full economic participation is having childcare available to student-parents.

“Juggling the responsibilities of parenthood with college is extremely difficult. … among women who entered college in 2003–04 without dependents, nearly 60 percent attained a credential (degree or certificate) within six years, and fewer than 30 percent dropped out with no credential. Among those with a dependent, the success rate was much lower. More than half of female student-parents dropped out with no credential, and fewer than one-third attained any credential at all.

-The Hamilton Project

Having a child (or children) while simultaneously attempting to earn a college degree is hard. But earning a college degree is the most likely way for a person to escape poverty. Having a child is a barrier to degree completion, so removing as many barriers as possible (like lack of childcare) for student-parents makes it easier to complete a degree.

As a community, then we should do whatever we can to economically enfranchise people who live on the margins. We should do whatever it takes to help these individuals achieve a more stable economic status. And as a hard-and-fast rule, we should not endeavor to create “ALICE households.” (Follow this link if you are not familiar with the term “ALICE.”)

Lack of childcare is a barrier to attendance

At the community college, reducing barriers to attendance is part of the process of economic enfranchisement. Barriers to attendance include the cost of tuition, books and fees; transportation; food; housing; medical care; and high-quality childcare for ALICE households.

So, reducing barriers to community college attendance doesn’t have to be hard. It is part of the community’s self-investment. And Washtenaw County invests heavily in its community college. (After all, we’re a rich community, right?) Since 2017, Washtenaw County taxpayers have sent more than a quarter-billion dollars to WCC. That works out to about $3,000 per student per year to the college, based on current property valuation and a (generously) estimated unduplicated headcount of 20,000 students. At that rate of investment, we should be able to provide a lot of services at WCC that we’re somehow not providing.

Exactly how are the trustees spending our money?

Unfortunately, instead of investing our money in students who live on the margins of the economy, our Board of Trustees has chosen to invest our money in a quasi-private health club. That health club is siphoning off millions of dollars from WCC’s General Fund right now in the form of bond payments, maintenance costs and rehab costs. At the same time, it has lost about two-thirds of its subscribers. That leaves the Washtenaw County taxpayers holding the bag. And for good measure, they want to divert more money to build a hotel and convention center.

Instead of investing our money in students who can grow the Washtenaw County economy, the WCC Administration is furiously enlarging itself, while simultaneously laying off staff, cutting academic programs and cutting services that students rely on.

Instead of investing our money in the campus infrastructure, the WCC Administration cut the maintenance budget by 83% since 2017. While the pipes burst and the College experiences sewer and drainage problems, thankfully the Administration has somehow found enough money to increase the Executive Management budget by 7.5%.

And ultimately, we have the WCC Trustees to thank for this sorry state of affairs. Their oversight has made all this possible.

Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Bart , via Flickr