Professor takes care of toddler: Should colleges provide free day care?

According to the American Association of University Women, the college drop-out rates of female students who are also full-time parents is a growing problem in the US. 

Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor
Student parents who drop out of community college usually cite caregiving responsibilities and financial difficulties as their main reasons for leaving.

A college professor in Tennessee quickly became a social media rock star when a student shared a photo of him on Facebook consoling a student’s child while teaching a class.

In the image that’s being recognized as a great act of concern for a student's achievement, Joel Bunkowske lectures on interpersonal communication at DeVry University in Nashville while holding a baby on his hip.

It’s not often that students bring toddlers to his class.

On Monday, hours before his class, Mr. Bunkowske received a call from student Amanda Osbon, informing him that she would be unable to attend that night, ABC News reports.

"She had a situation where she had a babysitter lined up and the babysitter didn’t show up for some reason," Bunkowske said. "My response was 'It’s a whole lot better if you come to class because I'd hate for you to miss a class.' To stop someone from getting that education because of a life circumstance, I think is a travesty."

Ms. Osbon sought and was given permission from the campus director to bring her 1-year-old son, Xzavier, to the three hour-long class. One and a half hours into the class session, the baby became fidgety and wanted to get up and he started walking around, explains Osbon.

The professor picked him up to calm him and continued with his lesson, holding the baby, who remained quiet throughout the remainder of class.

Moved by her professor’s action, Osbon said, "she hopes the photo of Bunkowske and Xzavier motivates single parents to continue fighting for their dreams, no matter what obstacles they may face."

"Never give up because you'll never know who's on your side," she said. "For him to allow my son to come to school, for him to hold my son, he went from being just an educator to being a compassionate human being. I think that's what everyone sees in that photo."

The lack of convenient child care prevents many student parents from getting their degree. According to a 2013 report by the American Association of University Women, more than 4 million women attend two-year public institutions or community colleges, and more than 1 million of them are mothers.

The AAUW reports that relative to students who don’t have dependent children, student parents are more likely to drop out of school, due to caregiving responsibilities and limited financial resources.

In a Washington Post blog, Joann Weiner writes that one way to help these moms stay in school is to provide on-campus child care services.

“This solution would provide multiple benefits. It would allow parents to get an education while also providing care for their children. On-campus child care services would help students earn a little bit of money by working at the center. And, it would allow students who may be pursuing degrees in education to get some hands-on experience at a convenient location.”

Through the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program, the federal government does provide funding for on-campus child care services. However, the funding is limited and just a little fraction of colleges offer some child care services.

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