Johanna Velasquez

Johanna Velasquez is a student at Saint Peter’s and is also a single mom. (Photo courtesy of Reina Reyes)

When students start researching college choices they look at the sports, clubs, professors, but it does not cross their mind to see if this University has a childcare program unless they are parents.

If you type in “childcare” on the website, students will find that the first link available to them is a policy statement for children on campus and no child care program.

Saint Peter’s is one of the few colleges in New Jersey that doesn’t offer childcare. It’s hard enough to try to earn a degree while also parenting, sometimes alone, and it is unimaginably harder to do as a student and parent, who has to find a way to have their child taken care of while they are at school.

Johanna Velasquez, 21, is currently a junior at Saint Peter’s University and she is also a young single mom. Even though she gets help from her mother on school days to watch her young son, she still finds it difficult to juggle college life, parent life and work life. Johanna says she will always put her son first regardless, but is also aware she needs to work hard to give him the future he deserves.

“I tend to miss a lot of classes on a day to day base because my son has a weak immune system, he’s always getting constantly sick and I’ll lose sleep and have to take him to the doctors,” Velasquez said. “My mom is always there to help me but sometimes it gets a little too much, and I have to step up and do my mom duties. I miss assignments or deadlines because everything gets so overwhelming.”

Saint Peter’s neighboring college, New Jersey City University, is one of the universities in New Jersey that has a children’s learning center, for the kids of not only students, but also administrators and alumni. The center allows the children to learn while they are there.

The center also benefits education majors because it allows them to complete field work and hours from the comfort of their university. The director of the Learning Center, Ana Aponte, says that as the number of students with kids increases, it is beneficial for them to have access to this childcare program.

“The center serves as a retention tool for the university,” said Aponte by email. “Students can attend classes while their children also receive a high quality early childhood education and care.”

Students can concentrate on their schooling while staff can work efficiently while their children are conveniently nearby, Aponte noted.

Child care centers can be costly for universities to manage. It would cost the university money to create the center, and hire people to work there. Students would also have to pay for tuition.

“In order to truly be impactful for colleges and students, child care costs should be made affordable for student-parents,” Aponte said.

According to the NJCU website, students pay a non refundable application fee of $25 , a $10 registration fee that reserves a place or puts the child on the waitlist, as well as $3 for every hour the students child is there. Parents get billed monthly.

According to Institute of Women’s Policy Research, in the last 20 years the number of parents in college has grown to 4.8 million. The IWPR also states that the annual cost for full- time care for children until the age of four in the U.S. exceeds the cost of in-state college tuition.

In New Jersey, there are 22 universities that have an on-campus child care program, according to — SPU is not one them.

But that does not mean it has not been considered.

The President of the University, Dr. Eugene J. Cornacchia, expressed that it has been discussed, but they have not come to terms on how to go about it yet. He acknowledges that it is a challenge for the students with kids to juggle school and childcare and that it would be helpful for them to have access to care on campus.

Currently, according to the university website they encourage to leave their children at home to ensure their safety. The school suggests parents used their allowed absences if an emergency does come up.

However, this is still a challenge considering the student will be missing out on important lectures.

In the meantime, Pres. Cornacchia has some temporary ideas.

“Maybe an interim thing we can do is arrangements with some of the local centers that have opened up,” Dr. Cornacchia said.

Cornacchia stated that there’s two new places opening up across the old courthouse and another down the street on Montgomery Street.

“See if there is anyway that at least, in the short run, might alleviate some of the problems and challenges,” he added. “We’ll know whether that can happen sooner than we can do something about our own facility.”

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