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UA childcare not up to par with other Pac-10 schools

MATT HEISTAND/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kat Sabine, a women's studies graduate student, reads to her son, eXavier Sabine, yesterday afternoon in the children's section at Bookman's, 1930 E. Grant Road. Sabine was unable to find childcare for her son, who was off school yesterday, because of UA's lack of day care services.

By Lydia Hallay
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday Feb. 22, 2002

Kat Sabine is familiar with the difficulties student parents face in trying to juggle parenthood and academics.

Sabine, a parent and graduate student in women's studies, began her undergraduate career at the University of Arizona when her son was 3 years old. She said finding adequate and affordable childcare has been a continuous struggle while attending the university.

"When I first came back to school, I used to try and schedule my classes so that they were early in the morning," Sabine said. "I'd drop (my son) off with friends, and if that didn't work, I had to take him to class with me."

Sabine said she would often talk to her professors early in the semester to explain that she was struggling with childcare issues, and that although most were understanding about her situation, she encountered a few who weren't.

"I was actually asked to leave class," she said.

Sabine isn't alone in the student-parent juggling act. The last survey completed on student-parent issues was conducted in 1994. It found that approximately 7 percent to 10 percent of UA students were parents. Of these, 54 percent were undergraduate students.

Jim Florian, assistant budget officer, said $62,500 is allotted to childcare programs at UA annually.

Despite this, Mimi Gray, director of the UA Child Development Center Project, said the UA is currently the only Pacific 10 university that does not have an on-site childcare facility.

Gray said student parents "typically take longer to graduate, tend to think about dropping out more frequently, and tend to miss more classes because they don't have childcare."

Caryn Jung, Program Coordinator for Child Care and Family Resources, said she wants student parents to know that UA does offer them some childcare options.

"Childcare services do currently exist at the university," she said. "We have a full range of comprehensive programs for faculty, staff and student parents."

UA Life and Work Connections offers several childcare options to student parents.

The Childcare Resource and Referral Program provides parents with free information on community childcare programs. It also offers parents tips on how to determine whether or not a childcare provider is reputable.

Also, a sick childcare program provides temporary caregiver service for sick children at a discounted rate.

Gray said a subsidy program provides students that qualify with about $500 a semester to help alleviate childcare costs.

She said it's not unusual for parents to pay between $450-$550 a month for full-time childcare.

"Childcare is very expensive, and most students need 20-40 hours of childcare a week," she says.

Mary Beth Ginter, a doctoral student and mother, said there's not much support for student parents on campus and that the programs available have yet to catch up with the needs of students.

"I've felt that there's more talk than action," she said.

Kat Sabine said she applied several times to the childcare subsidy program but was never accepted. In the fall of 2001, she received a notice of ineligibility that denied her financial assistance because "other student parents had higher unmet financial needs."

Professor of English John Ulreich, who is working on phase 2 of the Millennium Project, which examines inconsistencies in women and minority salaries and benefits, said there has been a lot of interest on campus regarding childcare issues.

"It's such a big problem that it doesn't get the attention that smaller, more manageable problems get," he said. "Adequate childcare is an absolute requisite for the university if it hopes to develop its equality goals in regards to women."


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