Child care can cost more than college

Think tuition is high at VCU? The cost of putting a child in the university’s day care center can be even higher.

By Alex Wiggans | Capital News Service

Think tuition is high at VCU? The cost of putting a child in the university’s day care center can be even higher. The VCU Child Development Center charges $820 a month for children 3 and under, and $700 a month for older children. In contrast, tuition and mandatory fees for in-state undergraduate students total $9,517 this year – which works out to about $793 a month. And typical college students don’t have to worry about the extra charge parents must pay if they’re late picking up their child from the development center: It’s $5 for every minute after the facility closes at 5:45 p.m.

“It would cost less to send my child to VCU as a college student than to pay what I am now at the Childhood Development Center,” said a faculty member who uses the facility. She asked that her name not be printed because she plans to keep her son enrolled at the center for the next few years. “It’s shocking,” the faculty member added.

But it’s the reality because quality child care is expensive, and the VCU Childhood Development Center must reflect what other facilities charge, said Muriel Azria-Evans, the center’s director. “If you make calls to other child care providers, we are very, very reasonable for a full-time, five-days-a-week, three-meals center,” Azria-Evans said. “I’m sure $820 a month is a lot to a student. I don’t doubt that. Of course it’s a challenge.”

As other VCU units suffered budget cuts, the VCU School of Education, which oversees the center, raised the program’s fees to market levels. This past year, the center increased the monthly fee for youngsters 3 and under from $760 to $820; the fee for older children went from $650 to $700. Azria-Evans said the change was needed to help “cover basic operating costs” and was “related to looking at comparable centers in the area.” She said the price of quality child care is a “national issue.”

According to a report released last year by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, the cost of day care in the U.S. is continuing to rise. The VCU center enrolls children age 16 months to 6 years old. It serves no more than 76 VCU-affiliated children at one time. The center is open only to children of VCU faculty, staff and students. “There is quite a long wait list,” said Azria-Evans. “We have some families that put their child’s name down when they’re pregnant.”

The VCU Child Development Center is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children – a highly coveted distinction that recognizes staff training, staffing levels and other factors. Accredited centers often have waiting lists. Azria-Evans said the wait to enter the VCU program varies – depending, for example, on the child’s age. “We may have on paper a really long wait list, but a lot can change within a year,” said Azria-Evans. “What we offer – I think we are quite reasonable. I think we’re quite a catch.”

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