MU grad student parents voice their opinions on the question of child care

Not all MU grad student parents agree with requests for affordable child care.

A graduate student parent at MU pays about one-third of their income solely in child care fees.

The high cost of childcare in Columbia has taken a toll on MU graduate student parents. A plea for affordable childcare was on MU Graduate Rights Forum’s Aug. 19 list of seven demands for administration. MU administration has yet to address graduate concerns for affordable childcare.

The national average salary for graduate students is $27,735, according to Glassdoor.com, a job search website. The average annual fee for a full-time day care center in Missouri is $8,632 per year, according to an annual report from Child Care Aware of America.

Natalie McCabe, a third-year doctoral student in the theater department, said she is simply unable to afford any child care services in Columbia. This means she must juggle her 15-month-old daughter with her schoolwork during the day.

“On my stipend, it’s just too much to afford,” McCabe said. “I don’t want to go into further debt for child care.”

Eric Scott, a third-year doctoral student and member of the Forum on Graduate Rights, said it’s a relatively small group who would need on-campus childcare, but that it’s “still an important constituency.”

"In my opinion, this demand is the one the university has shown the least interest in addressing," Scott said.

Scott said the very existence of affordable childcare would show an understanding of the needs of graduate students who are in their late 20s and 30s, which is around the time people start having families.

The issue of unaffordable child care forces McCabe and her husband, the Artist in Residence and adjunct teacher for the theater department, to take their daughter with them to class at times.

“Our schedules overlap for about two hours every week, so my husband either teaches in class with her or we have a colleague babysit her,” McCabe said.

Because she must find time for school in addition to her responsibilities as a mother, McCabe can only complete her work in the evenings. She said she sleeps four to five hours each night.

McCabe believes some faculty still hold a patriarchal mindset in which women are expected to stay at home with their families. For this reason, they do not realize the need for graduate student child care today.

“In the modern world, women are a part of the work force, and they need to realize that,” McCabe said. “We will do better work and research if we have resources available, like child care.”

Last year, MU demolished the University Village space that offered graduate student housing and the Student Parent Center child care service due to concerns about the building’s old age. The MU-owned building offered housing to all graduate students and undergraduate students with families, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

The Student Parent Center provided child care services on one level of University Village. MU subsidized prices, but at approximately $800 per month, even that was not very affordable, McCabe said.

According to the Student Parent Center website, their standard rate of full-time child care for an infant was approximately $820 per month. However, depending on the family size and annual income, the center could offer discounted rates.

Rebuilding University Village would cost several million dollars and is not feasible for MU’s budget, Basi said. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and a review committee created a proposal in fall 2014 for MU to give the land to an interested developer for free to build a child care center. The developer would be required to offer a discounted price to MU students for child care services at the center, Basi said.

The proposal has been open since fall 2014, but no developers have responded, Basi said. MU is still open to developer interest in the proposal.

Drew Fowler, a doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, said he disagrees with graduate requests for affordable child care services.

He is the father of a 21-month-old girl and uses a child care service in Columbia. He said he does not feel MU is obligated to provide affordable child care.

“I do not think it is an inherent right to have health insurance or child care,” Fowler said. “It is not something I’m entitled to.”

When Fowler decided to go back to graduate school, he and his wife knew there would be costs like child care involved.

“We knew we would have to find a way to afford child care,” Fowler said. “But we consider these responsibilities our responsibilities.”

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