An increase in student enrollment also means an increase in the number of parenting students on campus — leaving some students with the challenge of finding appropriate childcare amongst the limited options available on campus.
The only on-campus option for parenting students is the accredited UH Children’s Learning Centers.
A recent expansion of the center now allows them to accommodate a little more than 200 children, said UHCLC director Sherry Howard.
Yet, despite having the UHCLC already in place on campus for students and their children, some students are misusing the drop-in center located inside the UH Recreation and Wellness center.
“They have that child care center for women who work out – But some women, because there was no other childcare available, were dropping their kids there, pretending they were going to work out, and then really running to a class,” said Beverly McPhail, director of the UH Women’s Resource Center.
“And we hated that they had to do that. It’s a bit dishonest but we understand their frustration and their need.”
To address this issue, the WRC began having talks with the director of Cubbie Corner, the child care center inside the recreation center.
The goal was to turn Cubbie Corner into a drop-in child care facility open to all students on campus – not just for students working out in the gym.
But with the changes in Cubbie Corner administration, McPhail said they are facing challenges.
“The interim director (of Cubbie Corner) turned us down recently saying they were worried about liability issues,” she said.
“We are trying to do more because we do recognize that we have a lot of non-traditional students on campus and some of them are mothers. It’s a different license and drop-in childcare centers are hard to run because of that in and out,” Howard said.
Even worse, drop-in centers have a number of limitations.
“There’s a (time) limit — for example, if you’re going to license as a drop-in, a child cannot be there more than two hours and they are very difficult to manage in terms of getting that kind of corporation and getting kids into the system,” said Howard.
When students run short of child care options, they are left with no choice but to bring their child to class.
“What students ask a lot is ‘what is the university’s policy on bringing a child to class,’” McPhail said.
“What I tell them is there is really no statement saying that’s OK or prohibiting it.”
McPhail recommends asking the individual professors on what their policy is beforehand. She says some professors are accommodating while others are strictly against it.
But McPhail says what she sees is that when some professors are open and willing to allow children in the classroom, other students are not.
“When a little baby is quiet, no one knows it’s there and that’s OK. But babies start crying and fussing or older kids start running around, whining, and that’s often distracting to other students and they think ‘Hey I’m here, I’m paying all this money, I don’t need this distraction.’”
A solution to this problem is to get drop-in care on campus, McPhail said. And to do that, mothers need to voice their concerns.
“What it would take is for a group of students who are mothers to get together and form a group and go to the administration and kind of demand these services,” she said.
“But nobody’s really taken that on.”