Lane’s parents, students and staff currently cope with many struggles, including passing classes, juggling jobs and finding time to be with their families outside of school.
This is why we at The Torch were surprised when the administration’s recent budget proposal for next school year included cutting $100,000 from the Early Childhood Development Center. The proposed cuts reduce classrooms from four to three, maintains two vacancies in the center and cuts down on part-time classified staffing.
The Board of Education is trying to remove $12.6 million from the college’s budget, which is no simple task. However, of the many cuts in the budget proposal, we find this one to be short-sighted.
The proposal cuts from a program in need of more support, not less. Craig Taylor, director of Lane’s Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning estimated that as of Spring 2011, 29 percent of Lane students were parents or expecting children. The development center is currently licensed to care for 99 children.
The development center provides key services to some of those most in need on campus, as childcare is not affordable, especially in Oregon. According to a November 2013 report from child care advocacy group Child Care Aware of America, Oregon is the least affordable state in the country to purchase childcare, for two-parent or single-mother families.
Currently, tuition for a full-time student is $1,116. The base cost of childcare at Lane runs as high as $2,288 per term. A student with a child pays over three times as much to attend school — and that’s before factoring in housing, food, books and fees.
With the median income for a single mom in Oregon at just under $22,000, a child care bill could easily gobble up nearly two-thirds of her income. Some of this cost can be subsidized at Lane through grants available to Pell Grant
recipients. However, need is clearly substantial and the grants do not provide for all parents.
An April 17 report in The Torch described students’ challenges as parents on Lane’s campus. These learners and providers were forced to make difficult decisions about child care from term-to-term — especially parents of older children — as they cannot receive child care through the development center. Additionally, a feature in this issue highlights the two students with the highest GPA on campus, both of whom are parents.
The answer to this problem is simple, despite the difficult budget climate.
The Board of Education needs to stand up for students in need and maintain the current investment in the Early Childhood Development Center.
Even with reduced enrollment expected next year, student need remains substantial and varied. If the current needs of students with children between ages 2 and 5 is met, invest money into a program to provide childcare for older children and provide services to students in dire need, especially single-mothers.
We are not asking for growth. We are not asking for increased investment.
What we are asking for is a continued commitment to Lane’s most vulnerable students and their children, and on-going support for students with some of the greatest needs of all. Doing so means maintaining the college’s ideals, even during the hardest of times.