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The cost of child care

The+Graduate+and+Professional+Student+Council+passed+a+resolution+calling+for+an+increase+funding+for+Texas+A%26amp%3BM%26%238217%3Bs+on-campus+child+care+center.
Photo by Photo by Taylor Fennell

The Graduate and Professional Student Council passed a resolution calling for an increase funding for Texas A&M’s on-campus child care center.

The Graduate and Professional Student Council passed a resolution calling for an increase in funding for Texas A&M’s on-campus child care center, but there is still work to be done to alleviate the monetary struggles faced by parents working toward their degrees.
The resolution in support of increased funding to the Becky Gates Children’s Center was presented by former GPSC president Matthew Etchells and 2017-2018 Delegate for Aggies in Science, Technology and Engineering Policy Keya Mukherjee. According to the resolution, an increase in funding could reduce the cost of child care for students while making it possible to expand the center, effectively reducing the more than 200 person wait list.
Etchells said child care is continuously discussed among various student groups he met with and the resolution was meant to let administration know of this growing concern among the student body.
“Child care is something that keeps coming up because for us it is an equity issue,” Etchells said. “Why should you have to make the choice between a PhD or a family? That doesn’t make sense to us as students. … The university has grown so quickly that things like the Becky Gates center needs to grow since they haven’t quite matched the rate of growth of the university.”
While the resolution passed unanimously at the end of the spring semester, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Tom Reber said action still needs to be taken before the university could increase funds for the center. Reber said the resolution would need to be addressed at the Student Affairs Advisory Board meeting in the fall, gain support from undergraduate student government, and go to the vice president of student affairs, chief financial officer and president of the university before funds can be released.
“I think any time students support other students it’s great,” Reber said. “There are not too many times students will say, ‘I want more money to go toward this,’ just because money is tight for everybody. I think any time the grad students rally around a cause it is a great effort and it’s wonderful for the children’s center, but it doesn’t mean automatically they get more funding. There is still a lot of work to do.”
Currently, Texas A&M provides the center with custodial, utilities, maintenance and landscaping services, which averages to approximately $170,000 a year. In addition, a $100 dollar discount for 71 student parents is also provided according to Erica Ritter, director of the children’s center. The center can take in 165 children but would essentially need to double in size to accommodate the 220 person waitlist. Ritter said an expansion of this magnitude would require a funding increase of approximately $8 to $10 million.
“That is a large number but we can provide a very high quality care for children,” Ritter said. “We choose things that are research-based curriculums, theories and philosophies. Children who leave our center typically do very well in the next level of education.”
As a parent of two children under the age of five, biochemistry and biophysics research associate, Denis Odokonyero has experienced first hand how difficult it can be as a student with a family.
“The biggest challenge of course is the financial burden,” Odokonyero said. “The other thing is time. In grad school, you have to work at least 50 or 60 hours a week. You can’t get by only working 40 hours a week. You have stuff to balance and it’s tough. A lot of grad students have kids and of course when they’re young you get maybe two or three hours of sleep a night and still have to function.”
Odokonyero said he would be appreciative of any assistance that could be given to student parents.
“If somehow the [GPSC] could find ways to try to have another facility on campus just for grad students or expand the existing one and, if somehow they could subsidize the cost of it,” Odokonyero said. “It doesn’t have to be the full amount, anything would help.”
Sociology PhD student Angelique Maes is a new mother who delivered her baby this month. Maes said she was concerned about the challenges she would face as a student parent but knew her education was not something she could compromise.
“What it really came down to is if I didn’t finish my degree, I didn’t feel like I would be able to face [my child],” Maes said. “The time to graduate is now. As soon as I possibly can. I’m really making an effort to finish my dissertation and take care of the baby. I’m going to regret it if I don’t.”
Mukherjee said she hopes funds for a new child care facility will become a priority of the university administration since the cost of child care can weigh so heavily on student families.
“We want to bring an awareness to the situation,” Mukherjee said. “People don’t really think about this as an issue unless it happens to someone close to them and they see them struggling through it. I think it’s a much bigger issue than people realize. We would really like the university to provide some support to the issue at hand.”

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  • The Graduate and Professional Student Council passed a resolution calling for an increase funding for Texas A&M’s on-campus child care center.

    Photo by Photo by Taylor Fennell

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