Center for the Education of Women
Survey: Student-parents concerned about
child care expenses, support
The first targeted U-M survey of students with parenting responsibilities found that those with children are concerned about child care expenses and department climates that aren't always supportive of family. In addition, a number of student-parents expressed an interest in more University-sponsored child care, although the majority of them were satisfied with current child care arrangements.
The survey conducted in 2004 by the Center for the Education of Women (CEW) found that 24 percent of graduate and professional students, as well as undergraduates who claimed dependents on financial aid forms, reported having children under age 18, a child on the way or a child over 18 with special needs, says Beth Sullivan, senior associate for advocacy and policy at CEW. Out of 15,901 students who received the survey, 5,280 (33 percent) responded. Of these, the number of students with children was 1,286.
"What we learned is that there is a good number of students who have children and a good number who are happy with their child care situations, but there also is a sizeable group that would be interested in U-M care," Sullivan says.
Student-parents were asked their current and preferred child care options and of the 891 responses to this portion of the questionnaire, 58 percent said they used unpaid care provided by themselves, a spouse or partner, family members or friends as their primary caregivers. Twenty-two percent used non-U-M child care centers, while 11 percent used unlicensed paid care either at their homes or at someone else's home. Seven percent had children enrolled at a U-M center.
When asked their preferences for alternative forms of child care, the majority (74 percent) indicated they were happy with their current arrangements; 11 percent preferred unpaid care by themselves, friends or family; and 19 percent indicated they were interested in finding available U-M child care, Sullivan says.
Second on the list of concerns for the students was a lack of understanding by departments about the demands on them at home.
"In terms of their comments, right behind child care students are telling us there are climate issues to be resolved in many departments," Sullivan says. "Some professors forget this student may have a spouse and two kids at home. They don't understand when a student-parent says he or she cannot work in the lab past 5 p.m., for example."
The survey also found that:
• Fifty-three percent of 1,016 respondents had one child; 33 percent had two children; 9 percent three children; and 5 percent four or more children.
• Eighty-five percent were married; 7 percent were divorced, separated or widowed; 5 percent had never been married; and 2 percent had a same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partner.
• Ninety-one percent of respondents' spouses or partners were not U-M students.
• Twenty-three percent were from North Campus; 30 percent lived within the City of Ann Arbor; 12 percent resided in a town/city up to 30 minutes east of Ann Arbor (e.g., Ypsilanti); and 12 percent lived in Detroit or its surrounding suburbs.
Sullivan says CEW hopes for a larger response when the survey is repeated later this term. She urges all students who receive the survey to complete it whether they have children or not so the University can get a more accurate picture of the number of student-parents.
To download a copy of the 2004 report or its appendices, go to http://www.studentswithchildren.umich.edu/. The Students with Children Web site offers access to information related to child care, financial assistance, parenting resources, health insurance and community health clinics, social support, housing and relevant U-M policies.
The site is maintained by the Work/Life Resource Center, http://www.umich.edu/~hraa/worklife.
Questions about the 2004 report or the upcoming survey can be directed to Sullivan at (734) 998-7225 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about CEW advocacy efforts on behalf of students can be found at http://www.cew.umich.edu.