The Graduate School set to launch new child care grants

Peter Kotecki, Campus Editor

Northwestern will provide child care grants for eligible graduate student parents to use at any licensed daycare or in-home provider, effective Oct. 1.

The grant will be available to graduate students who have a child under age 6 and have a combined family income of $130,000 or less, said Lori Anne Henderson, director of work and life resources in the human resources department. Graduate students who receive the new grant will get an annual stipend of $2,500 per child, with a two-child limit, she said.

“The intent is to provide a portable, flexible grant,” said Henderson, who was co-chair of a task force focused on graduate students with children formed last fall.

Prior to the new grants, the only options for graduate student parents were day care centers the University had negotiated fees with, including Bright Horizons and the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center in Evanston, said Sarah McGill, senior associate dean of The Graduate School and the other co-chair of the task force.

Graduate student parents, many of whom do not live on campus, wanted more flexibility and more financial support, McGill said.

“Faculty, staff and graduate students, they all had access to the same thing,” McGill said. “Graduate students, they are at a different path of their academic studies than staff and faculty, so they might need something a little different.”

Robin Hoecker (Communication ‘16), co-founder of NU’s Student Parent Alliance, said previous child care grants had long wait lists and were expensive.

Although the new grants are an improvement, graduate students with older kids do not benefit from them, Hoecker said. Seven and 8-year-old children who are not covered under the grant are too young to stay at home by themselves, she said.

“Even when you put your kid in school, you still have to pay for child care before school, after school and then during the summers and during vacation, assuming that you’re working full time,” Hoecker said. “Most people who are trying to graduate on time … we need full-time child care.”

Asked why graduate students can only receive the grant if their child is under age 6, Henderson said the University will assess the needs of graduate student parents and may make adjustments in the future.

“The thinking on the part of the task force was … we don’t have a good feel for exactly how many children the graduate student parents have,” Henderson said. “We thought it best to start with a smaller group, and since we had heard a lot about the needs of children under the age of 6, we thought that was a good place to start.”

Hoecker also said NU should offer on-campus child care to graduate student parents. Many universities have this resource, she said, and she is confused as to why NU does not.

The University is looking at creating on-campus drop-in space for graduate student parents’ children and may implement the recommendation in the future, Henderson said.

Hoecker said the University has not publicly responded to the recommendations made by the task force. Other changes resulting from the task force include an expanded parental leave policy and an increased number of lactation rooms.

Provost Dan Linzer and Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah wrote to members of the task force in August saying “a more detailed announcement about the work of the Task Force and the University’s response to the recommendations will be released to the University community in early fall,” according to a copy of the email obtained by The Daily.

McGill said she thinks NU is setting the right tone for graduate student parents.

“I know that there is still more work that needs to be done,” she said. “But I think that these portable grants, along with the updates to the parental accommodation (and) the changes that are going on on campus to create more family-friendly spaces, I think that this positions Northwestern in a good way as far as … supporting its graduate students with children.”

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