The fate of the Ford Family Enrichment Center is up for question

Children and copious tears are not normally on the agenda for a UCC board meeting, but there were a lot of both at the last meeting when the closure of the Ford Family Enrichment Center was discussed.

With only three minutes each to voice their individual opinions, UCC students, parents, and community members, voices shaking with tears, spoke against the closing of the daycare.

One pregnant woman speaking against the closure started with a calm voice, but soon lost her composure, tears rolling down her face as she hugged her baby bump. In the background, board meeting guests sniffled, and mothers and grandmothers in the audience cried.

UCC’s on-campus daycare center, the Ford Childhood Enrichment Center, currently watches 24 children from 19 student parents said UCC Provost Kasey Crabtree in an email to campus staff.  The daycare is now open Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The daycare center contributes to the Early Childhood Education program, and students can work in the facility or in similar daycare settings in order to fulfill degree requirements.

The FCEC is funded by grants which do not cover the full costs of operations, according to Crabtree’s email. The on-campus daycare is scheduled to close because the center is costing UCC over $145,000 dollars annually. This deficit has been an issue for the college since 2005, except for a four-year time frame. The college estimates that the cost of attendance for one child is subsidized at a rate of $6,000 per child, Crabtree stated.

Serious discussions on how to best plan for the FY20 budget planning cycle are what’s bringing the daycare into question. “UCC is an academic institution; we are in the business of delivering quality academic programs and related services and do not have the expertise or resources to manage the day-to-day operations of a childcare center and related liabilities”, Crabtree stated in her email.

The college wants readers to know that this decision was not made lightly. “People are painfully aware of the negative impact on a few students. As you know, all community colleges are witnessing a decrease in public support. We must remain focused on the mission of the College as an academic institution,” Crabtree added.

The FCEC staff and students in the Early Childhood Development program have been notified. Crabtree assured that the Early Childhood Education program will remain intact, “Plans are underway to revamp the program and move it online. The program is not going away.”

Physics professor and parent Mick Davis attended the board meeting on behalf of his students.

Ezekiel John, child of Page Sanders, playing at the daycare.

“I am saddened by the closing of the Ford Childhood Enrichment Center. Over the last few years I have had several students per year who use the center. Discussions with those students suggested they would not be able to attend UCC if the center were not there. While my real concern is for students, closing the center would also be very frustrating personally.  My two children attend the center, and I have found the care to be excellent.”

 Davis added, “The kids love it there, and get excited each time we leave home for the center. Liz and I bought a home close to campus mainly because we wanted to use the center and save money on commuting for childcare and work, while also freeing up time to spend with students and provide extra service to the college. Driving into town twice per day for daycare would likely cut into that extra service time.”

“Aside from the quality care, relatively reasonable cost, and opportunity to use grants or financial aid, campus childcare saves students gas money and hours of driving time each week that can instead be used to study, work, or spend time with family,” Davis explained.

The decision on closing the Ford Childhood Enrichment Center will be made at the next board meeting on March 13, 4:30 p.m. The meeting will be located in HNSC building, room 100.