Editorial: MU cannot continue to ignore the needs of student-parents

In the absence of an on-campus child care center, students with children have limited options.

It’s been 14 months since the Student Parent Center was closed, and in the time since, there has been no meaningful progress made toward creating a replacement facility.

Although MU administration was quick to develop a demolition plan for the center, which had operated for 40 years, tangible plans to create a replacement have been anything but decisive. As usual, a task force was assembled dedicated to gathering feedback from around the MU community regarding the future of child care services on campus.

The task force produced a report detailing the struggles faced by students parents — and it isn’t pretty. The report, using 2013 data, stated that nearly 1,400 students have dependent children, based on FAFSA applications. The task force also surveyed 1,267 MU students and personnel — 29 percent of whom were staff, 24 percent undergraduate students and 17 percent graduate students — and found that over half of those surveyed would need child care in the next two years. So while this issue is one of several being tackled by the Forum for Graduate Student Rights, it is by no means exclusive to them.

As a result of these findings, the task force concluded that an affordable child care service provision would be extremely desirable among graduate and professional students, faculty and staff, and they recommended establishing a plan for providing this service.

But here we are, over a year later, with no definitive plan to make accommodations for these needs. All that has been created so far is a ghost of a plan crafted by Loftin to issue a “request for proposals” from private developers. This plan would require no monetary contribution from the university, aside from the land the center would be built on. Since then, there have not been any developers willing to take on the project.

If MU is disinterested in carving out funding for a replacement child care center, then they should make more of an effort to find an interested developer. Sitting around and twiddling their thumbs, waiting around for the problem to vanish on its own, is not a strategy at all. The convenience granted by the center’s on-campus location, flexible scheduling, and its alignment with the university calendar made it far more suited to student parents needs than other commercial day cares in the area. The affordability aspect is also extraordinarily important to student parents. An average graduate student parent pays a sizeable portion of their income solely on child care fees, according to Maneater reporting.

In the short term, MU should provide meaningful assistance to student-parents, similar to the healthcare stipend. Providing this assistance is only fair, as it would only return conditions to normal for our student parents. In the long term, there needs to be a definitive to build a child care center on campus. Our administration cannot silently phase out essential resources and then act as though students are asking for too much by demanding their return.

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