Students at City College are protesting an administration plan to close the school’s childcare center during a planned 26-month renovation, while firing all current staff and providing no alternate childcare space on campus during that time. During the lengthy closure, CCNY would be the only CUNY campus with no college-based childcare.
“It is already a struggle for us to balance raising a family with getting an education,” said CCNY student Giulianna Tedesco at a City Council Higher Education Committee hearing on March 6. “For many of us, the Child Development Center closing is the tipping point that may force us to interrupt or even cease our studies.”
Quality Day Care
City College students with children who currently use the Center are demanding that its staff not be laid off, and that the Center be provided with alternate space on campus so that it can continue to operate while the renovations proceed.
The college administration maintains that it will provide student parents with support during the renovation period. “To ease the transition, City College will assist parents for one year by providing subsidies for the differential in child care tuition, not to exceed market rate, for students enrolled in the 2014-2015 academic year,” CCNY Vice President for Communications and Marketing Dierdra Hill told Clarion in March. “City College also will provide parents with a listing of other childcare centers near the campus.”
Student parents fault the administration’s plan on several grounds. “The subsidies are just for one year, but they say the construction work will take 26 months,” said Marina Massaro, a master’s student in art education. Even during that year, affordability is a concern. “They don’t say clearly what they mean by ‘market rate,’” said José Fernández Nuñez, a civil engineering major.
Finding good-quality day care is not easy, and the most affordable option may not provide quality care, said Tedesco. “My personal experience with alternative day care in the Hamilton Heights area is this: having my son sitting in someone’s home day care, parked in front of a TV set all day. For $1,200 a month, he learned all about Ninja Turtles, SpongeBob Squarepants and Power Rangers, all while developing a love of mozzarella sticks and chicken nuggets.”
“I think they are not being serious about these other options,” Massaro told Clarion. “In November, they said they will give us a list of childcare options in the neighborhood, and they said this in writing in December. But we still don’t have these details.”
“The subsidy promised will only cover current parents affected, and not any incoming parents,” Fernández Nuñez emphasized. This objection was voiced repeatedly by parents currently using the center: What, they ask, are parents who enroll at City College next year, or the year after, supposed to do?
Many student parents say that the Center’s on-campus location and its clear orientation to City College students have been critical to their ability to pursue college study. Affordable, good-quality day care that is a subway ride away, or with a schedule that doesn’t align with that of City College, will not provide the support for their studies that the Center provides them with today, they said. “Today we get top-quality education for our children at an affordable price within minutes of our classrooms,” Fernández Nuñez told Council members. “Some of the neighborhood daycares close much earlier than the CCNY center’s 5:30,” noted Massaro; this, she said, can be a problem for class schedules.
Ability to Pursue Education
“The Child Development Center offered to City College students was a major factor in deciding if and where I will pursue my master’s,” Massaro told the Council hearing. “My life as a single working mother is so chaotic. But I feel comfortable knowing that Agatha has a stable environment to go to,” she said. “I felt happy and relieved and comfortable about going back to school because the college offered high quality and affordable childcare. I personally would not have even started studying if City College did not have on-campus child care. And the same is true for many other parents.”
“It is frustrating as a parent to try to pursue your education,” agreed Fernández Nuñez. “You go online, you do your research, you ask, the service is provided there so you feel a sense of security. And now this sense of security is no longer there.”
Students praised the work of the Center’s current staff. The CDC has “an amazing group of teachers,” student Eridiana Diaz said in written testimony. “We ask for you to find a site to relocate our teachers, our children, and our Center so that we may continue to further our education semester after semester without any interruptions.”
“Every day we bring our children to the CDC and we look over our shoulders at the brand new, huge, multimillion dollar structures being built only steps away from us,” said Tedesco at the conclusion of her testimony. “We ask you, is there not some small place you can find for our children?”