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MA community college offers free drop-in childcare

Just as Washtenaw Community College closed its state-licensed childcare center, Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, MA is opening one up. The program will provide drop-in childcare for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years.

The service will cost HCC student parents nothing at all. The college will pilot the first year of the service using a $100,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Parents must be on campus while their children are in care and must carry a restaurant-style pager.

“It’s not our goal to be in the day care business. Our goal is to be able to serve our students by providing short-term child watch they can access while they attend class or a tutoring session or other educational support.”

Christina Royal, Holyoke Community College president

HCC is about one-fourth the size of WCC in terms of unduplicated headcount. The size of the institution is less important than the understanding that the HCC Administration displays. According to HCC President Christina Royal, HCC has “talked about” providing childcare on campus for years. Until the pandemic, however, the college didn’t prioritize it.

The pandemic has caused HCC to focus more intently on its students’ basic needs as part of the college’s strategic plan. They’re trying to draw students into their classrooms. They recognize that lack of affordable, consistent childcare is a barrier to attendance.

Free childcare isn’t the only evidence that HCC is serious about addressing its students’ needs. Late last year, HCC’s campus convenience store became the first campus-based market to accept EBT cards for students who receive SNAP benefits.

Free drop-in childcare addresses student needs

Focusing on the needs of students is not too much to ask of a community college administration. For too long, Washtenaw County has suffered from WCC administrations that prioritize their own agendas at taxpayer expense.

On-campus drop-in childcare meets the specific and unique needs of the campus community. It also addresses long term needs of the county by supporting activities that ultimately reduce the number of low-income households.

There was no need for the WCC administration to choose between giving WTMC a different space and having a childcare center. WCC could have had (and did have) both for more than two decades. The argument the WCC administration made – which was that the Children’s Center was losing money – is patently absurd. The Health and Fitness Center managed to lose nearly $5M in the space of a year, yet that disaster drags on unchecked.

Free drop-in childcare on campus is what happens when a community college administration focuses strategically on its students’ needs.

WCC doesn’t have free, drop-in childcare on campus.

Photo Credit: Province of British Columbia, via Flickr