Loss of Student Parent Center disruptive to graduate-level studies

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 | 7:39 p.m. CDT; updated 7:35 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 15, 2014

COLUMBIA — Dustin McGowen says he will have to sell his car so he can send his daughter to preschool and finish his master's degree.

As a graduate student at MU and a parent, one of the reasons McGowen decided to study at the university was because of the option to send his daughter to the Student Parent Center, a campus-owned and operated day care facility located at University Village.

But now that the Student Parent Center will be closing on June 30, McGowen's day care costs are going to double. Instead of paying $2,000 a semester at the Student Parent Center, he's going to pay $1,000 a month for care at Green Meadows Preschool. To make up the difference he's selling his car.

“We’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices,” he said.

McGowen is just one of the more than 30 graduate students who attended MU Graduate Professional Council’s public forum. Graduate and professional students were invited to share their comments and concerns surrounding childcare.

Moving the Student Parent Center or the university subsidizing day care some place else are the best options McGowen said he could think of.

The Student Parent Center, located in University Village, will be demolished shortly after it closes. No clear decision has been made regarding the day care’s future.

The university will also close University Village Apartments on June 30 and demolish it later.

A forum for graduate and professional student housing will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union.

Jake Wright, president of MU Graduate Professional Council, said he felt Wednesday's forum was very productive, and he now has a clear understanding of what the university’s graduate and professional students think is important.

“We need safe, affordable, flexible childcare,” Wright said.

Wright plans to bring these concerns to senior MU administration in order to discuss short- and long-term goals for the graduate and professional students. He has a meeting with MU Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs in a week and a half to discuss the opinions voiced at the forum.

Naomi Clark, a doctoral student and parent, said the impending closure of the day care is disruptive to the students’ work. She said that graduate students who teach and conduct research have to stop their work in order to find an alternative to the Student Parent Center.

MU senior Danielle Walker and graduate student Tiffiny Jones both said they feel as though they as student-parents are being treated differently than the traditional students. For Walker, it’s about her rights as a student-parent, a group she feels the university is discriminating against.

“I want to be a Tiger. I want to graduate. I need proper services for my success,” Walker said. “And this isn’t a ridiculous request.”

Jones said she thinks the university isn't giving students with children enough attention. She said she felt that student-athletes receive more resources and options than the student-parents.

“I want the University of Missouri to be more inviting to student-parents,” she said.

Doctoral student Matt McCune said that student after student at the forum got up to say he or she wouldn’t have come to MU without the option of the day care center.

“The university provides all these other services," he said. “How can day care not be one of them?”

Although he and his wife, Sarah Lirley McCune, also a doctoral student, are not parents, they recognized that the center is an important resource. Sarah Lirley McCune said that by losing this resource, the university will also lose out on some excellent students who choose to be in school during typical child-bearing years.

The option of sending a child to the Student Parent Center gives students peace of mind and allows them to be productive, she said.

“It’s a resource we all need,” she said. “To lose that is a tragedy.”

Additional reporting contributed by Joe Guszkowski.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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