UC Berkeley is reducing the number of subsidized childcare places available for low-income students with young children as part of its campus-wide cost-cutting program.
“It’s the last thing we want to do but we have no other option,” says Marty Takimoto, Communications Director at Cal’s Residential and Student Service Programs which oversees childcare for students. The move has met with resistance from many parents who use the university’s childcare services and a 250-signature petition protesting the cuts has been delivered to the directors of the university’s Early Childcare Education Programs (ECEP).
There will be 19 fewer places next year for infants and toddlers. This year the program accepted a total of 98 across both age groups. Students with children currently in the program will not be affected. The cost of childcare for infants and toddlers is $1,888 and $1,693 a month respectively, compared to $1,400 for pre-schoolers. The program receives subsidies both from the state and the university to be able to accommodate the children low-income students, but Takimoto says for the past two years these have not proved sufficient to cover the costs. “We have been running a structural deficit for that program that works out at $225 per child per month,” he says.
Melinda Pilling, who has two children in the program, and has previously benefited from subsidized care, says the university should not prioritize services to people who can afford them. “It’s a great program — it made it possible for me to succeed in law school — and it’s a particularly wonderful service for people who don’t have any other options.”
The parent petition — which was signed by faculty, staff and students who use the childare programs — said that cutting places for low-income students will affect those with the greatest need and hinder the promotion of gender equity, diversity, and retention of talent. It prompted a meeting last week between concerned parents and ECEP management, including the program’s director Laura Keeley-Saldana.
There are currently 264 children enrolled in ECEP and about 200 on the waiting list. Takimoto says other budget-savings have been made in the past including reducing administration costs by $100,000 and increasing fees. “We are hesitant to raise fees any more.” He says there are very few private childcare options for infants and toddlers outside the university, but they are exploring alternatives for students, such as places at the Head Start childcare program at the Albany Village student residential complex.