UC Berkeley launched a new pilot program last week that provides backup child care for undergraduate and graduate student parents in order to allow them to focus more on their studies.
The program provides subsidized child care at the Bright Horizons at Bayer child care center in West Berkeley and additional centers as well as 24-hour in-house child care for children older than 6 weeks and younger than 18 years of age.
The pilot program allows students up to 60 hours this year for backup care at a cost of $4 an hour — allowing students to schedule child care with only four hours’ notice to study last-minute for exams or write papers.
The service will begin in the 2013-14 academic year and will continue while funding lasts. Funds come from the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees as well as from a grant from the Hutto-Patterson Foundation.
“Berkeley will become the first public university in the U.S. (joining two very wealthy private universities) to offer both graduate and undergraduate student parents access to backup child care at highly subsidized rates,” said Andrew Szeri, vice provost for Graduate Studies and dean of the campus Graduate Division in a statement in July.
Already, many student parents are showing great interest and are signing up for the program. Students can register and access the service online.
“As of this moment, nearly 200 students have registered for this service,” said Sharon Page-Medrich, coordinator for the pilot program. “That’s quite an enthusiastic response.”
According to a January 2013 profile of student parents at UC Berkeley, the campus enrolls 317 undergraduate and 290 graduate student parents.
Rodney Wilson, an undergraduate American studies major with two children, said he will definitely be using this service.
“It opens up opportunities to participate more at Cal,” Wilson said. “As student parents, we really do miss out. Before, when I needed to go to a study group or an after-hours lecture, there was no guarantee you could get child care.”
Jessica Alegria, another undergraduate parent majoring in American studies, said that every student parent, especially single parents, will benefit.
“A lot of student parents are also single,” Alegria said, herself a single mother. “On top of that, some are not from the Bay Area, so they don’t have that extra support.”
Both Wilson and Alegria, who hope to pursue graduate degrees, said that 60 hours for the academic year is a good starting point but hope the program will expand. According to Page-Medrich, the funding for the pilot program should last for about two years, and she hopes that the advisory committee will renew the program.
“It’s important that our campus do whatever we can to enable student parents to balance parenting with academic skills,” Page-Medrich said.