Despite Yale’s national recognition for providing benefits to female employees, many mothers who work for the University are still struggling to find an affordable daycare center for their children.
This month, Yale was selected for the sixth year in a row by Working Mother magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies” in America for working mothers — but the mothers tell a different story. Yale does not have its own day care center, and the seven centers affiliated with the University cost over $1,300 a month for full-time care. Faculty, staff and graduate student employees interviewed said that while Yale’s parenting resources are numerous, many working mothers cannot afford available day care both in New Haven and on campus, forcing them to seek cheaper centers outside the city.
“I would love to see more child care,” said biology professor Valerie Horsley, who sits on the Women Faculty Forum steering committee — a gender equity group for Yale faculty. “It’s good for the students to see faculty having a life and having a family and having a job.”
When Horsley came to Yale in 2009, she was unable to find a day care slot for her daughter, who was almost three years old. Finding that there were too few day care spaces for children under three, Horsley said she sent her daughter to the Apple Tree Children’s Center in Hamden. Currently, there are only 16 slots available for babies on Yale’s main campus, excluding the Medical School and West Campus, she added.
Ten years ago, Yale planned to establish a new day care center staffed and funded solely by the University, but these plans came to a standstill after Yale discovered that city zoning laws would require such a day care to be open to all neighborhood children, said Anna Jurkevics GRD ’15. Current day care facilities are housed in Yale buildings like the Divinity School and the Law School, but otherwise operate as independent businesses which set their own tuition prices, run their own facilities and staff their own payroll.
It is expensive to run a childcare facility, Horsley said, adding that tuition is so high at Yale-affiliated centers because the University does not want to take on the financial burden of subsidizing them. Tuition at The Nest at Alphabet Academy, a day care facility for children under three and the most recent addition to on-campus Yale-affiliated centers, costs $1,950 a month for full-time care. Most of the other Yale-affiliated day care centers cost between $1,350 and $1,500 a month.
Because the on-campus day care centers are private, mothers like Jennifer Medina, who works as an accountant for Yale, receive little financial aid from the University. And though aid does exist — some Nest parents can be granted a subsidy of around $200 — it is not guaranteed. Medina said she was shocked when she saw how much it would cost to send her youngest daughter to day care at one of Yale’s affiliated centers.
“The resources were extensive, but most of these places were extremely costly,” Medina said.
And figuring out the cost of day care is rarely simple for mothers at the University. Of the seven Yale-affiliated day care centers, only three list tuition costs on their websites. Jurkevics said that at a Yale information session targeted at graduate student parents, tuition expenses were discussed only after day care options were outlined. Unable to afford day care at Yale-affiliated centers, Jurkevics sent her children to Sunshine Preschool in Hamden where full-time care costs $1,170 a month. Travelling in and out of the city each day has restricted her ability to fully participate in campus community life, Jurkevics said.
Jurkevics’ family income — both she and her husband work as graduate students at Yale — was too high to qualify her children for scholarship money at the Yale-affiliated Edith B. Jackson Child Care Program, where monthly tuition costs $1,385.
According to other mothers interviewed, tuition is not the only expense to confront, as many day care centers have additional expenses that are not included in tuition. For example, applications for day care at the Yale-affiliated Phyllis Bodel Childcare Center require a nonrefundable $35 processing fee. Additionally, parents wishing to drop their child off early at Edith Jackson must pay $15 per day to do so.
Some mothers interviewed questioned whether Yale’s continued recognition among the top 100 companies for working mothers is deserved. Jurkevics said that Yale’s award should be seen in the context of other American companies, which are not required by federal law to provide paid maternity leave. Many European universities raise the wages of student employees who have children, and a similar policy exists at Princeton, she said.
“It’s not Yale’s fault, it’s America’s fault,” Jurkevics said. “We have a broken attitude to mothers and parents in this country. I don’t think it would cost that much [for Yale] to actually be a trailblazer for working families.”
Horsley said the issue of day care provision often falls by the wayside in discussions with University administrators. Jurkevics, who said she spoke earlier this year with Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley, said she felt Cooley was blind to the problems faced by graduate students with children.
But Jurkevics noted that the problem is much larger than day care. Yale faculty members discourage female graduate students to have children and start families, she said, adding that colleagues told her she should not be having children.
Still, the Yale Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate recently formed a committee to investigate ways to improve childcare options for faculty.
Other companies listed as the “100 Best” by Working Mother Magazine include Goldman Sachs, Lego and Verizon.