Arrow-right Camera


Preschoolers At College Scc’s Expanded Day-Care Center Eases Burden For Students With Kids

She may be only 4, but Stephanie Jamieson goes to Spokane Community College every day with her mom.

Sally Jamieson enrolls her daughter at the Bigfoot Daycare Center on campus to free up the classroom time she needs to train as a surgical technician, a career that the unemployed single mother hopes will make her self-supporting in the future.

“I don’t have any family to baby-sit,” Jamieson said while Stephanie dashed into a colorful classroom filled with toy farm sets, Disney books and blocks. “I probably wouldn’t be able to go to school without this child care.”

As the number of student-parents swells, Inland Northwest colleges and universities are responding with one of the most popular amenities on campus - day care.

Bigfoot this week opened a $550,000 wing, doubling its capacity to 150 youngsters.

Gonzaga University, which years ago closed its on-campus day care, has arranged for children of employees and students to stay at nearby St. Aloysius School or the Goodale & Barbieri ABC’s Daycare along the Spokane River.

At the same time, North Idaho College has launched a $630,000 fund-raiser to double its campus child care center and pare a waiting list of 100 children.

“We have people who put their names on the list when they are pregnant in hopes they can get in,” said child-care supervisor Shelley Thomas.

Eastern Washington University, Spokane Falls Community College and other schools also offer child-care services. Often offered a reduced rates, the day cares create on-campus laboratories for education majors.

More than 2,300 campus-based child-care programs operate nationwide, serving 140,000 children, according to the Chicago-based National Coalition for Campus Children’s Centers.

“The growth is nationwide, and we’re projecting that there will not be enough slots for children in the future,” said coalition president Jo Copeland.

Campus-based day care is critical to the success of parents entering college for the first time, or returning for retraining, coalition studies have shown. Student-parents who use on-campus child-care graduate quicker and are more successful, the organization has found.

Renee Eckersley, a 27-year-old single mother and SCC student, agreed. She said she saves time and reduces anxiety by dropping her 5-year-old son, Cameron, off at a campus preschool.

“I don’t have to drive all over town,” said the medical receptionist student. “I’m going to school to make things better for us.”

Steve Schenk, NIC dean of college relations, said that as the student population grows older, there’s an increasing demand for child care.

“We’re seeing we are the college of first choice for people returning to school and single mothers,” he said.

On the SCC campus, Bigfoot charges students $1.50 per hour, the lowest known rate in Spokane County, according to the nonprofit Family Care Resources, which helps families locate affordable day care.

Preschool rates in Spokane County go up to $5 per hour, but average $2.91 per hour, the agency said. The Washington state day care subsidy for welfare recipients is $2.51 per hour, but most funding for parent-students is being eliminated.

Rates are low at Bigfoot because SCC owns the buildings - paid for by taxpayers and student fees - and a philanthropic attitude by the company owner.

SCC accounting instructor Paul Lewis founded Bigfoot with 30 children in 1974. He said he pays himself $8,000 annually, and reinvests remaining profits in the center and its employees.

“I haven’t tried to maximize my profits,” Lewis said.

Making a profit in 1998 may be difficult as state welfare reform eliminates day care subsidies for students, Lewis said. Bigfoot is considering offering evening day care hours to adjust for schedules of working night students, and make up for revenue lost from welfare reform.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo