When the spring semester starts Monday at the University of Texas at San Antonio, child care will be available for parents taking evening courses at its downtown campus.
It’s a day student parents on campus have been working towards for three years.
UTSA graduate student Daniela Salinas is looking forward to having a convenient, affordable place for her 9-year-old son Tristan.
This will be the first time she doesn’t have to scramble to find different places for her son each evening while working towards her master’s degree in social work.
“I’ve been in school since Tristan’s been born, so I’ve struggled quite a bit with child care,” Salinas said. “There have been times that I’ve paid triple the amount I probably should be paying, there’ve been times I’ve left him with my younger sisters who I know who have their own lives, and I’m taking up their time.”
“I’ve had to drop out of classes before,” she added. “I’ve had friends who’ve dropped out of their whole entire college career because of child care. We’ve had people bring in their children to class and sometimes that is distracting and it’s not fair to turn that mother or father away and say you can’t bring your child to class with you.”
As president of the UTSA organization Students Raising Children, Salinas has worked with UTSA alumna Bianca Ramirez to open the child care program downtown.
Rather than opening a daycare facility on campus, as student advocates initially wanted, child care will be provided by La Trinidad United Methodist Church about a block away.
The program will run from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and costs about $25 a night to pay staff. It would have opened sooner, but the church had to receive a waiver from the state in order to start because it’s not a licensed daycare.
Senior Pastor John Feagins said the goal is to help students graduate with their degree.
“We’ve been here 141 years, in this area of town, and we’re very committed to helping people through education,” Feagins said. “That’s a win for that family and that’s a win for the community, and so that’s something we care about and very much in line with our values as a church.”
Feagins said right now the church has enough staff to care for 20 children, but has the space to take in more children if needed. Staff and volunteers undergo the same background checks and training as the church’s Sunday school teachers.
“We have a lot of room here,” Feagins said. “We have 800 square feet of space in the basement as well as our (nursery) and the gymnasium next door.”
Salinas said about half of her graduate school classmates are parents, and believes that eventually more space will be required.
“We want to make sure the university understands that this is a need. It’s not going to change,” Salinas said.
UTSA didn’t immediately say how many of its students are parents, but more than a quarter of undergraduate students are parents nationwide, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
UTSA has a child development center on its main campus, but it closes at 5:30 p.m. and costs about $600 a month for students.
Camille Phillips can be contacted at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille