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With on-campus daycare unavailable, students must look elsewhere

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Every semester it becomes more important for students to complete their degrees and graduate in the time frame they planned. The difficulty of being a part time student and working full time in order to pay off school is already stressful, and now add the expense of paying for childcare services for those who are both parents and students.

Of the 18 community colleges in New Jersey, 13 have a daycare on campus that serves students, faculty, staff, and the community.

Bergen County Community College is one of the 13 schools that have a childcare center on campus. The students receive a higher discount for the childcare center tuition than the staff, faculty and open public in order to help out students.

Sally Dionisio, Director of the Child Development Center of Bergen Community College says, “We do our best to assist students and their children in order for them to complete their degrees, it’s a good opportunity for students to be able to drop off their kids here at campus while they are taking classes.”

Mercer has realized that child care is a problem for students, staff, and faculty members. Dean of Students Dr. Diane Campbell told The VOICE, “We had a meeting and our faculty said that child care it was an issue with students, that lots of time we had students who bring their children to school and it seems that they need a way to have somebody to watch their children.”

In fact, in the late 1970’s there was a co-op childcare center on Mercer’s main campus. However, the college only provided the space, the mothers were in charge of the shifts. Professor of Visual Arts Lucas Kelly’s mother was able to finish her high school and Associate Degrees at Mercer County Community College because of this service.

Kelly says, ”She and a number of students created a co-op. This cooperative daycare that she participated in was basically a bunch of students who were mothers who needed childcare and couldn’t afford childcare but also needed to go to school and couldn’t afford not to go to school. So they essentially traded their time to watch children for time to go to class, so my mother would watch a group of kids while the number of the mothers whose kids were under the watch of my mom were taking class.”

In a survey conducted by The VOICE, 72 percent of students said Mercer should have a daycare on campus, and 60 percent said that if Mercer had a childcare center on campus they thought more people would enroll. But the student were less enthusiastic about the idea if it would result in a tuition increase.

One respondent wrote on the survey: “If it doesn’t affect my tuition then I don’t care.”

The opening of a daycare on campus might affect tuition costs, according to Dean Campbell. She says, ”There are so many regulations that go with childcare that makes it very expensive to run…To renovate the toilets that are the little size, for examples. So as we look into it, it takes more and more money to even to begin to set it up.”

What would be the direction that Mercer would take if they decided to open a daycare?

According to Professor Theresa Capra, who runs the college’s Education program, “We don’t want to open a babysitting place, like in the supermarket where you can drop off your kids while you shop. If we are going in the direction of opening a child care center it must be a high quality facility with trained and qualified professionals, and it would be a wonderful opportunity for students in the EDU courses and psychology courses to get hands on learning and observation time, and I also think there is some room to have Mercer students to work there part time.”

In a survey conducted by Dean Campbell’s office of faculty and staff, of the 160 respondents, 36 percent indicated a need for childcare.

Having such a facility on campus would not only benefit faculty and students who are parents, but also students majoring in early childhood education.

Keighley Webb,  an education major says, “I think it would be extremely beneficial for education majors to have a daycare on campus. For EDU 109, an intro to education course, it is required to observe 25 hours of teaching. It would be useful to have a daycare on campus for students to be able to conduct their hours there.”

Dean Campbell  has made an effort to survey students about their needs and most recently held an informative session for students, staff and faculty members by Child Care Connection. This agency, based in Trenton,  assists families with their child care needs by helping them find facilities in the area.

This sounds like a good option for parents, since they also offer connections with summer camps, but according to student Aronya Downing, a mother of two, there is a problem.

“The problem with Child Care Connection is that your income can disqualify you, and most of the places they offer do not have late evening babysitting, so it’s a trouble with evening classes for me,” said Downing.

Although the cost of establishing a center are high, community colleges in New Jersey that have lower tuition than Mercer have managed to accomplish it. Passaic, Middlesex, Gloucester, Camden, Atlantic Cape and Burlington county colleges all have lower in-county per credit tuition than Mercer, and all of them have daycare centers. Three of them–Middlesex, Gloucester, and Burlington–have health centers, another important student service, too.

“It’s kind of a shame that it hasn’t happened here at Mercer. I hope that the new administration thinks of this as a service for the community…Opportunities for women are not looking like they are getting better, and childcare doesn’t look like it is going to get cheaper,” says Professor Kelly.

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