In the latest act of a long-running campaign to secure University funding for child care, the Graduate Student Assembly is releasing a report this week calling for new measures to alleviate the personal and financial burden of raising children as a graduate student at Yale.
The GSA report — which uses data gathered by the Graduate and Professional Student Senate in a survey last fall — is being sent to all students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in an email Tuesday. It outlines a long string of unfulfilled promises by the University to provide affordable child care for graduate student parents, a group that makes up around 4.5 percent of the total graduate school population. And it proposes a set of detailed recommendations, including a sliding-scale tuition system at Yale-affiliated daycare centers, designed to make on-campus child care more accessible to graduate-student parents.
The report’s publication marks the first time since 2006 that graduate-student leaders have formally addressed the child-care issue, although representatives have advocated for more resources periodically over the last decade.
According to the report, 15 percent of the 124 graduate-student parents who responded to the GPSS survey take on debt to pay for child care, at an average rate of $8,600 per year. Although Yale provides free health insurance for the children of graduate students, it does not subsidize tuition costs at the seven Yale-affiliated but privately owned daycare centers in New Haven. Those centers, which on average cost around $1,700 per month, can be prohibitively expensive for graduate students living on stipends of less than $30,000 per year.
“There’s a population in dire need of some kind of help or change,” GSA chairman Nicholas Vincent GRD ’17 said. “Graduate students with children is a small population, and it’s an even smaller population that’s going into debt, but for those people it’s a very serious problem.”
Last year, Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley told the News that affordable child care for graduate students was a “top fundraising priority,” and graduate student leaders expressed optimism that the University would announce a child-care subsidy before the end of the spring semester.
But no announcement materialized, and Cooley told the News Monday night that “no decision has been reached” on a proposal for child-care subsidies that the GSA first presented to her last year, although she emphasized that the issue remains a priority.
She added that in the coming months the Office of the Provost will examine several options for a possible subsidy, including need-based aid or a flat-rate for all student parents.
“We were all hopeful that we would hear last semester,” Vincent said. “Obviously we didn’t. I hope that we can get those conversations started again, and that it will accelerate something happening again in the coming year.”
If the new campaign does not bear fruit, it would not be the first time Yale has disappointed graduate-student parents hoping for greater financial support. In 2005, the University administered a comprehensive review of its child-care options and published a report promising “enhancements” that ranged from opening more slots at existing centers to building a new on-campus child-care facility with space for the children of graduate students.
But as this week’s GSA report documents, many of those plans fell through, due in part to external factors like the global financial crisis. The two child-care centers that have opened since 2005 — the Nest at the Divinity School and Phyllis Bodel South at the Yale School of Medicine — are expensive and have few spots for graduate students with children, parents say. Of the seven centers, only Calvin Hill Day Care on Highland Street has a need-based sliding tuition scale, and that system was already in place before the 2005 review.
“What we’re trying to do here is to say, ‘These are things that we were promised, and a lot of it has fallen by the wayside,’” Vincent said. “We’re trying to create an institutional memory. A lot of this information was gathered, and then it was forgotten.”
Still, the report acknowledges the University has made “some monumental improvements” over the last decade. In 2005, then-Graduate School Dean Jon Butler secured free health-care coverage for the families of graduate students — a policy that sets Yale apart from many of its Ivy League peers.
The GSA report cites that health-care policy as a plus but calls for the University to go one step further and make good on the plans outlined in 2005. Specifically, it asks for more slots at the seven centers for the children of graduate students and need-based stipends for student parents who can’t afford tuition costs.
According to the report, last year five other Ivy League schools — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania — offered need-based child-care stipends to graduate-student parents. Of those Ivy League schools, Princeton offered the most generous child-care subsidy: $5,000 per year per child for students with up to two children.
For Neta Bar GRD ’21, a geology student expecting to give birth to her first child sometime over the next week, a subsidy like the one Princeton offers would be invaluable.
The costs at Yale-affiliated centers mean keeping her child close to Yale is “not even an option,” Bar said. “They’re saving spots more for faculty than for students,” she added.
Currently, Bar said, she plans to send her daughter to a daycare center about half an hour away in Hamden.
According to the report, the seven Yale-affiliated centers offer a total of 438 spots, only eight of which are occupied by the children of graduate students. Some of the centers, including Phyllis Bodel South, give preference to the children of faculty and staff.
Vincent told the News he hopes the GSA report will spur the University to create more spots for the children of graduate-student parents.
But, he added, even that will not solve the entire problem: student-parents in the professional schools, who on average go into even more debt than their graduate school counterparts, lack both child-care support and the comprehensive health care offered to graduate students.