U investigates graduate student-parent necessities

The University and the Professional Student Government want to achieve a better picture of life as a student-parent.

by Brian Edwards

With rising childcare costs and daily travel to daycare facilities, University of Minnesota third-year law student Harold Yun said heâÄôs finding it increasingly difficult to balance school and parenting. In order to help student parents like Yun, the Professional Student Government is gathering feedback and comments to send to the Office of Student Affairs. The UniversityâÄôs Student Parent HELP Center, which helps students find daycare, only caters to undergraduate students. But Yun said he thinks graduate and professional student-parents should also have access to the services the University provides. The UniversityâÄôs Child Development Center in Southeast Como and the Como Early Learning Center also provide services for student-parents. The waiting list can be more than year at the UniversityâÄôs center. Two weeks of daycare at the Center can cost around $600, depending on the parentâÄôs income, but undergraduates can be awarded a state grant of up to $1300 for childcare. Susan Warfield, SPHCâÄôs program director, said the center is interested in helping graduate students, but the program was originally created to assist undergraduate needs. Because the University has never changed that policy, the program can only serve undergraduates. Though graduate students have told SPHC they would like help paying for childcare, the current state and federal grants are strictly for undergraduate students, Warfield said, adding that undergraduate students are more at-risk than graduate or professional students. âÄúThere is a huge difference between an 18-year-old undergrad who gets pregnant during their freshman year and a 26-year-old graduate student, even if the graduate studentâÄôs pregnancy was unplanned,âÄù she said. If student-parent resources were extended to graduate and professional students, the University would most likely need more staff members and possibly a separate program because graduate student needs are different, Warfield said. But until the University receives written requests from student-parents, Warfield said graduate and professional studentsâÄô needs are unclear. âÄúWe have had students approach us about childcare, but we donâÄôt know whether graduate students need many of the counseling services that we offer to undergraduates,âÄù she said. PSG President Kyle Kroll said childcare has been a recurring theme during group discussions, as finding flexible and affordable childcare has consistently been a problem for student-parents. Professional students frequently have projects arise last-minute, Kroll said, and coordinating childcare can be difficult. Still, childcare is of higher value to the graduate and professional student populations than to undergraduates, he said, because they are more likely to be parents. The University hasnâÄôt begun to finalize what actions it will take based on student feedback, spokesman Matt Sumera said.