Closing University Child Care Centers Hurts Both Student Parents and Future Educators

Dr. Autumn Green

Across the country, early childhood care and education programs have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most closed in March, and though some are reopening as they are allowed by states, it’s expected that many will never reopen. These programs were financially precarious before the pandemic, and after months of closures and now with new regulations around cleaning and social distancing, it’s tough to make the numbers add up.

Some of these child care centers were located on college campuses. In light of budgetary shortfalls, institutional priorities, and other concerns, some of these institutions have now announced that their campus child care centers will not reopen. Their closure is a major setback for a lot of people, but two groups in particular: college students who are parents, and students studying for degrees in early childhood education.

There are 3.8 million student parents in the United States — nearly a quarter of the undergraduate student population. While studies of student parent experiences show their capability, intelligence, and determination, they often struggle to complete their degrees due to compounding disadvantages. They are disproportionately low-income and students of color, especially Black women; nearly one in two Black female undergraduates is a mother. In addition, one in three first-generation college students is a parent. For these families, higher education is a path to economic mobility for both themselves and their children.

Research has identified child care as the most critical support service student parents need to be successful in college. Child care centers and programs located on campus best allow student parents to balance parenting with college. They are convenient, allowing parents to drop by between classes; they help student parents connect with each other for study groups, playdates and support. They also follow the same schedule as the college, so parents have fewer scheduling conflicts between the academic calendar and child care program breaks and in-service days. They often serve diverse families including faculty, staff, students, and the community, but some give admissions priorities, tuition discounts, or other special considerations to

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