MARY KATE MARKANO
For decades, UMW’s faculty and staff have lobbied for on-site child care. Finally, this fall, the University implemented an alternative program, subsidizing openings at a nearby day care center for children of full time UMW employees.
According to school officials, the UMW Foundation has contributed $20,000 to the program, which will give employees with children a discounted rate at the Mary Washington Hospital’s childcare center, Kids’ Station. The program could allow as many as 17 employee children to enroll at the center, as vacancies become available.
So far, four children of UMW faculty are enrolled under the new plan, which pays for entrance fees and 15 percent of tuition.
UMW students with children are not eligible for the subsidy program, however.
“This is a three year pilot project with a very limited budget.” said Associate Vice President of Financial Affairs Rick Pearce. “There may be changes made to it—if it is successful and could be funded—that would open the program to students.”
Some students were unhappy that they were excluded from the program.
“My first reaction to reading that the faculty was getting a discount but not the students was anger,” said Angela King, an English major and mother of two. “This University’s tuition is not cheap. Most of the moms I know who are on campus are single. They absolutely should be given a discount. In my opinion, they need it more than the faculty does.”
According to Pearce, the primary focus in selecting a child care program was location. He noted that the administration had considered construction of a modular building, but concluded that the cost would be too high, and an on-campus location impossible due to lack of available space.
Another option the school considered was leasing a nearby building. According to Pearce, this proved to be too costly as well.
Pearce said the school was interested in a partnership with Kids’ Station because of its accreditation by the National Association of the Education of Young Children, and its location less than a mile from campus, next to Mary Washington Hospital.
“Everyone knows it’s the best kids’ center in the area,” said Pearce.
School officials negotiated the three year pilot program over the summer. In addition to the 15 percent subsidy for UMW employees, the school is also covering the $50 registration fee for each admitted child. Pearce said the University is allowing one child per employee in an effort to give everyone a fair opportunity to take advantage of the program.
While UMW students are not able to receive discounted day care benefits, school officials say the agreement with Kids’ Station has opened the door for student internships at the center. Pearce said he anticipated Psychology and Education majors would be particularly interested in internship or other fieldwork opportunities at Kids’ Station
Sharon Crabtree, director of Kids’ Station, said she looks forward to working with UMW students.
“The plan to start a student program is exciting for both of us,” she said. “I see this as a positive partnership; it has a lot of potential.”
Sarah Pierson, a junior Psychology major, agreed. “I would love an opportunity to work hands-on with toddlers in a day care,” she said. “It would help me gain the experience I need for my desired career path.”
UMW Geology professor Jodie Hayob, who served on a faculty child care committee in 2003, said she is optimistic about the program. “Fifty percent of the committee’s reason for wanting this is the academic component,” she said.
Hayob, who has enrolled her two-and-a-half- year old daughter in Kids’ Station, said the center was attractive because it was convenient, and, with the University subsidy, reasonably priced.