By Nick Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 14, 2005
Student officials are hard at work trying to turn the idea of on-campus child care into a reality.
Cade Bernsen, a political science senior and president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, is trying to start a permanent area where student-parents can drop off their children while they attend class or advising.
Bernsen feels that it is the university's responsibility to provide for the needs of student-parents.
"They're going the extra mile for education and we have to do everything we can to give them the best chance of success," he said.
While previous attempts at providing child care have been made, Bernsen said the issue should not be ignored.
"I think we should demand this school to address this issue," he said.
While no statistics are specifically collected on student-parents, the Dean of Students Office estimates their number between 4,000 and 5,000 students, Bernsen said.
"That is a big enough group that we need to address their needs," he said.
Overcoming the biggest problem, finding space to house the child care center, will take will and resolve, Bernsen said.
"Everywhere we go, I feel like people are saying, 'There's no room at the inn,'" he said.
The first step in establishing child care is to put together a committee of all the interest groups, such as students, administrators and student-parents.
Bernsen and ASUA have recruited other departments to help get the project off the ground. Joining the project is the Office of Commuter Student Affairs, a department that addresses the needs of students who commute to campus.
"If there's anything that we see that is not fair on campus, we will try to fix it," said Shelbye Reese, a graduate assistant for CSA and an art education graduate student.
With about 29,500 students who travel to campus each day, the CSA offers an invaluable networking opportunity.
"The best contribution our office can make is a connection to students," Reese said.
One resource currently available to student-parents is the Kidz Korner, located in the Commuter Lounge on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center.
Kidz Korner, which opened in January, is an area where parents can let their children play while they study nearby.
While the Korner is a step in the right direction, parents must stay with their child. Ideally, the new child care center would be a drop-in child care center, Bernsen said.
Rather than try to start an all-day child care center, a drop-in center is more feasible. At the proposed center, a parent can leave his or her child while taking care of business on campus. If a babysitter falls through, this would give parents the resource they need to make it to class or finals on time, Bernsen said.
To announce the official beginning of the effort, ASUA plans to hold a weeklong information festival.
"What I would like to have happen is a kick-off campaign similar to (Project) Solar," Bernsen said.
Awareness is key to addressing child care matters.
"If we create enough buzz, these issues jump higher on the priority list," Bernsen said.
For now, the UA has a new program to assist student-parents in affording the cost of raising a child. The UA Life and Work Connections department offers the Student Child Care Subsidy program, which gives students $500 per child per semester.
Student-parents coming to the UA may need all the help they can get.
"What occurs for them is their support network may be three states away," said Caryn Jung, senior coordinator of UA Life and Work Connections.
As of this semester, there are 71 students who receive the $500 subsidy.
More information on the child care services provided by UA Life and Work Connections can be found at http://lifework.arizona.edu.