OCC child care faces cuts

— Michele Ferguson, who runs the Child Learning Center at OCC, said it’s imperative for students to have adequate child care in order for them to pursue their educations.

“Finding reliable, affordable and accessible child care is a barrier for parents with young children seeking higher education,” Ferguson said. “In the 26 years I have served as the director of the Children’s Learning Center, I have seen that access to education changes lives and that campus child care provides parents the peace of mind and security they need to be academically successful and ultimately earn college degrees.”

Ferguson said OCC’s program enrolls 60 to 70 children of students each year. A total of 5,000 children of student-parents are enrolled in the 32 SUNY child care centers statewide. All of those centers cater to the specific needs of student-parents, unlike other child care centers in the community.

“Our center gives students priority in enrollment of children and offers part-time schedule options that coincide with how students enroll for classes at OCC,” Ferguson said. “While community centers charge parents more for enrolling children part-time — two to three days — we charge the regular daily rate.”

New York has the second highest average cost of child care in the United States. Throughout the Northeast, child care is the highest household cost, exceeding the cost of housing, college tuition, transportation, food, utilities and health care. Meanwhile, statewide, more than 700 income-eligible community college students were turned down for child care subsidies due to limited funding, forcing some to drop out of school.

Ferguson fears more students will face that choice if funding isn’t restored.

“If the funds are not restored each campus will experience a decrease of 40 to 50 percent of what they were awarded in this fiscal year,” she said. “Centers will then have to make difficult decisions as to where to make up for the shortfall They may have to increase child care fees; change enrollment policies; or be forced to decrease the number of student parents in favor of private paying or community families.”

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