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Community Colleges Pair With Head Start

If you’re unfamiliar with Head Start, it is a program the Department of Health and Human Services funds to provide comprehensive education and health services to preschool children from low-income households. Washtenaw County has hundreds of children who participate in Head Start. Last week, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and the National Head Start Association announced that they would partner to open more Head Start centers on community college campuses.

Except, of course, Washtenaw Community College will not be participating in this effort because – well, the Administration thought it would be a better idea to “repurpose” the Children’s Center to house WTMC.

WCC had an on-campus childcare center that provided high quality, affordable childcare to WCC students. The current Administration changed that because the Children’s Center didn’t make any money. I’m not sure that profiteering off the backs of low-income students by charging them market rate for daycare services is what the community had in mind for the Children’s Center but that’s a different rant altogether.

Now, the Administration claims to provide vouchers for childcare through other providers. Perhaps the Board of Trustees should ask for an update from the Administration regarding how much childcare WCC has paid for since the Administration closed the Children’s Center. More importantly, how many student-parents who used the Children’s Center remained enrolled after the Children’s Center closed?

Head Start could have been a great option for WCC

The Children’s Center closed at an awkward time. COVID-19 had closed the campus, and WCC was not offering in-person classes at the time it announced the permanent closure. But let’s be clear: community college student-parents with small children may not be able to attend classes (period) unless they have affordable daycare. Now that the Children’s Center is gone, going to college is probably off the table for those student parents, too.

And vouchers for daycare are like commuter parking permits. The permit gets you into the lot, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a space to park. In the same way, vouchers may pay for daycare, but if you can’t find daycare, the vouchers don’t really mean anything, do they?

Having a Head Start program on campus would have enabled low-income parents to attend classes on campus, and would have enabled WCC to finally make some money on the Children’s Center. (Speaking of profiteering, how is the Health and Fitness Center doing? When can we expect that to close for failing to make money?)

There were several ways to go with the Children’s Center that could have benefited the community. Having a Head Start center on campus would have been one of them. Closing the Children’s Center offered no benefit whatsoever to the community. Instead, the decision to remove on-campus daycare was made for the convenience of the Administration.

I’m glad the WCC Board of Trustees has its priorities straight.

Photo Credit: US Department of Education, via Flickr