Students with children deserve an affordable Baylor education

Morgan Dowler | Cartoonist

Which would you rather do: add $11,000 to your annual tuition or leave Baylor and everything you love about it behind?

This is the reality for many college students with children, as child care is outrageously expensive, causing a 2/3 majority of student parents to drop out of school entirely.

In the U.S., nearly 5 million college students have dependent children, resulting in a need for affordable child care so that parents can complete their degrees. Unfortunately, the number of colleges offering on-campus child care has declined significantly over the past 10 years — even though the number of student parents is on the rise.

At Baylor, there is only one Baylor-sanctioned child care option, but it is far from affordable.

The Piper Child Development Center provides child care about 12 minutes away from campus for a whopping $10,800 annually, which comes out to $900 per month. For children up to four years old, the price ranges between $9,240 and $10,220 per year.

Add that to Baylor tuition ($25,116 per semester without the cost of books and other fees) and the average cost of rent in Waco ($877 per month in 2019), and students with one child are paying a minimum of $71,556 per year. Add on food and other living expenses — or another child — and the price becomes even more outrageous.

Even if a student is willing to pay that much for child care, they won’t get a spot right away, if at all, as the Piper Child Development Center (like most child care centers) has a hefty waitlist. It is true that waitlist priority is given to current Baylor faculty, staff, students and alumni, but that is no guarantee.

Shouldn’t students with children just go somewhere else for day care, you might ask? They can try, but out of the 104 day care centers in Waco, the average cost is still $8,000 per year, which comes out to $680 per month. From there, parents still have to evaluate distance from Baylor, quality of child care, safety and plenty more. And if that isn’t enough, there is always the matter of making it past a waitlist.

Maybe the only solution for these students is to choose somewhere cheaper than Baylor to get an education, right? After all, they are the ones who took on the responsibility of a child.

Wrong. No student deserves having to compromise the quality of their education because they are a parent. Caring for a child and getting the experience and education valued so deeply at Baylor should not be mutually exclusive choices. Parents are just as worthy, if not more so, of a Baylor education as students without children.

Unaffordable or unreliable child care should not be the reason these students don’t come to Baylor. The best way to fix this is by creating affordable, accessible child care within the trusted Baylor community.

This can be done by creating a child care center on or near campus where only Baylor students, faculty and staff can bring their kids for a much lower cost. The price offset can be made by offering employment to students as part of a degree program, internship or work-study program. After thorough screening and training, students would be able to provide this child care while working toward an occupational goal — a mutually beneficial relationship between the student worker and the child care center.

The Piper Child Development Center does utilize students — but not in the same way. The child care center is a laboratory school at Baylor in the School of Health and Human Sciences. They have about 350 students who work with the children for teacher preparation, child development observation and other research. The solution is not to change or get rid of this program; rather, it’s to create an additional, more affordable option for student parents who do not choose this route.

Having children should never be a barrier to receiving a quality education. It is time to offer these students a better way to provide and care for their families while pursuing a degree by creating a program that provides affordable, accessible child care for Baylor families.