Updated Sept. 21, 2018
The University of St. Thomas has been honored to provide child development services for the last 20 years, and we deeply value the employees at the Child Development Center (CDC) and the families and children who use it. In making a decision to close the CDC, we have made it a priority to give our employees and families adequate time to deal with this closure, put a transition plan in place to support those impacted, and identify other child care options for families to help with this transition.
St. Thomas agreement with New Horizon Academy and Kinderberry Hill
- For families who currently have children at the CDC, but are not St. Thomas students or employees: New Horizon Academy will offer a 10 percent discount off the full rate for child care at any New Horizon Academy for a period not to exceed 12 months. This discount does not apply to Kinderberry Hill locations. In addition, St. Thomas will provide the last month of enrollment at the CDC at no charge to families.
- All St. Thomas employees and students who currently have children at the CDC: A new Kinderberry Hill location is opening in the coming months in the 1400 block of Grand Avenue. Kinderberry Hill will reserve a space for each child (must enroll by May 2019). Together, St. Thomas and Kinderberry Hill will equalize the tuition rate to be the same as tuition for the CDC for a period of 12 months to provide a seamless transition to the new center. Qualifying families will be provided a specific rate for planning; rates vary by age of child and part-time vs full-time enrollment status. For families who do not wish to enroll at Kinderberry Hill, St. Thomas will provide the last month of enrollment at the CDC at no charge.
- All St. Thomas employees with children: St. Thomas employees are now eligible for an ongoing 10 percent discount off the full rate at any New Horizon Academy. This discount will apply to employees who are already customers of New Horizon Academy. This discount does not apply to Kinderberry Hill locations and cannot be combined with other discounts.
- Backup child care: All St. Thomas employees who are not regular customers of New Horizon Academy are invited to register for backup child care, for those days when your schedule changes or your regular child care arrangements fall through. (Preregistration required through New Horizon Academy.)
What will happen to current CDC employees?
- We care deeply for our employees who have worked in and developed the CDC over the last 20 years. It is our hope that they will remain at the CDC throughout this final year. To that end, we have extended severance packages — along with incentive bonuses to stay through the CDC’s final day of operation, so that all of the children in our care continue to receive the high-quality, loving developmental care our staff provide each day. Our Human Resources staff will also assist with outplacement services to support their job transition.
Were partnerships with other care providers considered?
- The university engaged a local child development consultant to research and recommend alternate high-quality child development providers, listed here. We know that no other center is quite like the CDC, but other options are accredited and highly rated.
- Fewer than 1 percent of our employees have children enrolled in the CDC. The university will continue to explore additional partnership opportunities for child care on or near campus that will be available to more employees.
Why weren’t parents and CDC staff involved in the decision to close the CDC?
A number of faculty and staff across the university have been engaged in planning for improved health and wellness services for students. Data clearly supports the need for increased health, counseling and prevention services. During that process, it became clear that the expanded, integrated services would need a larger, co-located space.
A small group of leaders most familiar with the facilities available on campus thoroughly considered available options and made the decision to locate the Center for Well-Being in the CDC building. The CDC is the best option for its size, configuration and central location.
The final decision was made by those at the university tasked with setting university priorities. Dr. Karen Lange is available to discuss the complete process and further explain how they arrived at this conclusion.
Why not move the CDC to another building? Today we face a number of competing priorities, especially for space. Priorities include more space for health, counseling and wellness services, residence halls, Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas renovation, addressing aging buildings, and fundraising for student scholarships. Our focus is on supporting and educating our university students. Currently, only two graduate students (and no undergraduates) are using the CDC service, which means that the vast majority of students are not leveraging this resource. The CDC was conceived and advanced as a resource for students. Given the need to prioritize university students in our decisions, we did not prioritize developing new space for the CDC.
Faculty and staff also use the CDC. How can you eliminate this employee benefit? Child care is not an employee benefit. It is a fee-for-service available on campus. The data show that fewer than 1 percent of faculty and staff have children enrolled at the CDC, although many more have preschool-aged children.
The most recent employee survey on the topic, conducted in 2014, indicated more than 189 faculty and staff had children ages 0-5; few were using the CDC. Most indicated cost and location as factors in their decision not to use the center. When asked how St. Thomas could support employees with young children, participants proposed the idea of collaborating with local Twin Cities child care providers as a more comprehensive approach to supporting child care needs. These participants discussed partnerships that could provide discounted rates, multiple locations (including those that would support the Minneapolis campus), drop-in options, sick child care options, and evening options, according to the survey report.
By entering into an agreement with New Horizon Academy, all St. Thomas employees will be eligible for an ongoing 10 percent discount off the full rate at any New Horizon Academy. This discount will apply to employees who are already customers of New Horizon Academy. Therefore, more employees can take advantage of this arrangement.
Did the university consider phasing the closure over the next five years to allow all currently enrolled children to complete the preschool program? This was discussed, but not supported for three reasons: facility space, staffing, and quality of programming with consistently declining enrollments. The need to repurpose the building for the Center for Well-Being is immediate and will not be delayed. There is not another building on campus that is available or appropriate for a program designed for young children. Drawing out the closure would have meant declining enrollment over a longer period, and the likelihood of staff attrition would make it impossible to maintain the high-quality programming and consistency young children need. Providing a specific closure plan and date will allow all families and staff to make a thoughtful transition over the next nine months.
What will happen to the residential units on the second floor of the CDC?
Students who contracted to live in the CDC during the 2018-19 academic year will continue to do so. This will be the last year of residential housing in that building, which houses 17 students. After Health Services moves out of Brady Hall for the 2019-2020 academic year, that space reverts to Residence Life.
No, the university is not reconsidering its decision. The University of St. Thomas’ situation is very different from the University of Minnesota. The University of Minnesota Child Development Center is a curricular program within its School of Education. The St. Thomas Child Development Center is a service to students, faculty and staff under the division of Student Affairs, and few students, staff or faculty are using the service.
- Only 1 percent of faculty/staff at St. Thomas use the CDC. Only two St. Thomas graduate students use it. At the U of M, 100 percent of U of M CDC families are faculty/staff and students.
- U of M offers an early childhood education degree and the CDC program is run through its College of Education and Human Development. St. Thomas does not currently offer an early childhood education teacher training or licensure program.
In the past, a variety of our students and classes (from developmental psychology to social work to engineering) have used the CDC for class observations, and we look forward to building new community partnerships with early childhood centers in the neighborhood and throughout the cities to expose our students to a wider variety of services that reflect the diverse community we live in today.
- The U of M did not offer families an alternative child care option or discounts. St. Thomas provided families nine-months’ notice and entered into arrangements with another provider to hold spaces and offer a discounted or subsidized rate for students and employees. It was important to the university to assure quality child care was available to families before the decision was made to close the center.
- St. Thomas’ goal is to expand access to more affordable child care to more employees, and the university is partnering with New Horizon Academy to provide discounted child care services to more employees. In addition, a highly regarded facility, Kinderberry Hill, is opening a new center down the street this fall and will save spots for the St. Thomas students and employees who have children at the CDC. It is more expensive than the CDC, so the university and Kinderberry Hill are partnering to discount the rate for qualifying families for one year.
- St. Thomas is repurposing the CDC building for a top university priority: the health and well-being of our students. There is not another available space for the Center for Well-Being on a campus, and no other building could accommodate the needs of an early childhood center. Our need for the Center for Well-Being is immediate.
We are prioritizing the well-being of our students. St. Thomas has seen a 400% increase in the number of mental health appointments in our health services over the last two years. All national statistics indicate the need for services will continue as more students enter colleges with pre-existing mental health conditions.
The U of M already has Boynton Health Services which provides medical and mental health services. It reduces the stigma for students who might be reluctant to walk into a specific mental health counseling office. St. Thomas wants to create a similar integrated center and is prioritizing student mental health by creating the Center for Well-Being. The move toward integrated health, counseling and wellness services is a national movement, endorsed by the American College Health Association and many other higher education organizations. Read more
If anyone has additional questions, whom should they contact?
Dr. Karen Lange, vice president for student affairs, is available to talk or meet with anyone who has additional questions. Call (651) 962-6120 or email her assistant to schedule an appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org.