Canadian post-secondary institutions recognize the importance of on-campus childcare facilities to boost education rates in the general population. Indeed, a significant obstacle for an adult with children to attain a degree is inadequate or challenging childcare circumstances. If childcare facilities are developed in proximity to adult learning, post-secondary executives believe that more adults will be able to complete their degree programs.
As such, The SHURE Initiative caught up with Donna Drover, Director of Facilities & Business Services at Selkirk College, West Kootenay & Boundary Region. Drover discussed her observations about adults with children and post-secondary education attainment, and a recent childcare center delivered in 2021.
SHURE: What have you learned about the inability of adults to complete their post-secondary education if they have children? In other words, how difficult is it for an adult with one child or more to complete post-secondary education? And what do these statistics tell you?
DD: Balancing post-secondary education with the responsibilities of raising children can present significant challenges for our adult students. Completing post-secondary education as an adult with children can be difficult for several reasons. There are considerable time constraints. Raising children demands significant time and attention, as does balancing coursework and studying. Balancing education and caring for children can lead to time conflicts and exhaustion.
There’s also the financial burden. With tuition fees, textbooks, and other associated costs, post-secondary education is costly. In addition to diapers, formula and the other expenses related to raising little ones can create significant financial challenges. Supporting students by having on-site childcare that is reliable and affordable can help create a positive and successful experience while achieving their academic goals.
Having flexibility in scheduling is also really important. Many post-secondary institutions offer a more flexible schedule for students to create a timetable supporting part-time or full-time employment. Juggling parenting with work and educational demands can lead to stress and burnout, and creating balance can be a significant challenge.
Many post-secondary institutions have addressed these concerns by offering more flexible learning options through online courses and evening classes and providing support services tailored to students with children, creating a more comfortable and inclusive learning environment.
SHURE: Childcare in university settings sounds like a brilliant idea to further education in the general population and benefit society. What is the history of this concept and how did it originate?
DD: A few factors have contributed to the origins of childcare services in post-secondary settings.
I think the rise of the women’s movement and advocacy through the 1960s and 70s brought more attention to issues around gender equality and women’s access to education. Through that process, we have seen more advocating for the support services required to make it possible for women to attend post-secondary. As women began to enroll in post-secondary institutions in more significant numbers, it became more apparent that there was a demand for childcare.
We have been experiencing a shift in the demographics of our students, and there is an increase in the enrollment of mature students, which naturally results in an increasing number of students who require childcare support.
Making sure that we have services available to ease the burden on our students is something we prioritize and share across the sector as we strive to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all our students.
The concept of on-campus childcare aligns with a broader discussion about diversity and inclusivity. There has been a growing understanding of the importance of supporting students with caregiving responsibilities. It reflects a wider commitment to creating equitable and accessible educational opportunities for diverse students.
History shows the social and economic advantages of facilitating access to education for students who require childcare. Supporting access to education can be essential to breaking poverty cycles, promoting economic mobility, and fostering a more inclusive and diverse workplace. In some countries, legislation and policy also promote childcare services in educational settings, encouraging post-secondary institutions to prioritize the needs of students with children by allocating resources for childcare facilities and programs.
SHURE: Describe how childcare in university settings would work in terms of contract, cost, and other factors that parents and students should know.
DD: The response to this question can vary across regions, provinces, or countries, and students need to be aware of many factors, including:
- The enrollment process may involve applying and providing necessary documentation and completing required forms. The post-secondary institution may have specific enrollment periods and deadlines, which is very important for parent students to know and understand how these relate to registering a child for childcare.
- Understanding the terms and conditions of the contract between the student and the childcare provider is essential to know how operating hours, tuition rates, payment schedules, and policies related to attendance withdrawal may impact childcare. The parent-student student must understand the terms and conditions of the contract, which may include a policy on sick children and how it could affect their ability to attend class.
Some post-secondary institutions offer subsidized or discounted childcare rates, financial aid, or scholarships for enrolled students. The student must be familiar with their post-secondary institution’s financial aid program to ensure they know the type of financial assistance available.
The childcare facilities at our campuses are operated by not-for-profit agencies that reserve a certain number of childcare spots for our students, and students must be aware of enrollment dates to secure a place for their child successfully.
SHURE: From a real estate perspective, what might be the unique opportunities for university planners and student housing executives? In the broader community, childcare might be considered retail real estate. Is it approached in the same manner in university environments?
DD: I will first address the unique opportunities for post-secondary planners. Integrated services are essential, so post-secondary planners need to design campus spaces that integrate student housing, childcare facilities, and academic buildings. This creates a comprehensive educational environment where we can support student parents’ academic and family needs.
Offering on-campus childcare can attract and retain students needing help finding appropriate childcare supporting their academic pursuits. This factor can contribute to a more diverse and engaged student population.
Another unique opportunity is the convenience and accessibility of strategically locating childcare facilities near student housing and academic buildings to enhance the overall comfort and accessibility for student parents, reducing their commuting time and general stress and allowing them to manage their schedule more effectively.
On campus, childcare centers can foster community among student parents, creating spaces where parents can connect and share experiences.
Incorporating childcare facilities into campus planning demonstrates a commitment to long-term sustainability by acknowledging the student population’s diverse needs and providing a unique opportunity for on-campus practicum placements for early childhood education programs.
Regarding the approach to childcare and post-secondary environments versus retail real estate, while childcare in post-secondary settings may share some similarities with retail real estate, there are notable differences due to post-secondary institutions’ educational and community-focused nature.
Some of those would be educational focus and integration with academics, community building, student experience enhancement, and long-term investments that can contribute to student success, retention, and overall campus culture.
SHURE: How has your college implemented childcare, and what have you learned?
DD: Selkirk College operates across five campuses and three learning centers. Currently, two campuses feature childcare facilities, and there are plans to construct such facilities at two additional campuses. The college collaborates closely with the Ministry of Education and Child Care, accredited non-profit community service organizations, and community partners. This collaboration is pivotal for funding, support, and the operational aspects of licensed non-profit childcare facilities.
The college initiates a transparent public procurement process by issuing a comprehensive proposal request. This document outlines the project’s summary, scope, expectations, schedule, contractual terms, and requirements. Once a capable proponent is selected, the college plans and executes the task. A collaborative committee, comprising members from the ministry, childcare agencies, and the college, works together to create a unified vision and supervise the construction process.
The college maintains the facility post-construction but does not oversee the day-to-day childcare operations. This strategy cultivates productive partnerships with non-profit childcare providers, providing valuable resources for students and staff and offering practical training opportunities for our Early Childhood Care and Education program.