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NOT FOR THE DEBT-RIDDEN: The University Child Care centre recently and unexpectedly hiked monthly fees, to the dismay of student users.
Clement Law/The Gauntlet

Playtime grinds to a screeching halt

Fee increases at U of C day care leave student users bewildered

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University of Calgary students with families may soon have to decide how much their children are worth.

Student parents could pay $330 more per month to have their infants in day care due to an increase in fees at the U of C Child Care Centre. For some students, the proposed fee increase of 22 per cent brings their fees from $780 to $950 per month.

"I felt terribly betrayed," said student Tracey Angel, whose children will be forced to leave the centre. "I can't afford this. I have to think of my family, I can't put every penny into a daycare."

"They have made this program inaccessible to students," agreed student Rich Hannah. "The fees are now 40 per cent higher than other [Calgary] day cares. This suggests they don't know how to run the program."

Administrators at the daycare refused to comment. The Board of Directors will issue a press release later in March.

Hannah added the increase is doubly provocative because student dollars helped make the UCCC a reality.

"When I did my first degree 10 years ago at the U of C, I and the 16,000 other students, were asked to pay a levy to fund the construction of the daycare centre on campus," she explained. "This I did willingly with the understanding that the undergraduate students and the Students' Union were building this facility for future undergraduate students with children so that they could attend the U of C."

In a letter dated Feb. 25, 2002, the UCCC Board of Directors announced the fee increase and the elimination of the subsidy for students who use the facility effective March 1, 2002. Due to an appeal for more time, the Board of Directors postponed the fee increase to May 1 "to provide parents with additional time to make alternative childcare arrangements," a second memo states.

"The message is clear. The UCCC is a day care for well-off employed professionals [and] not a facility for students," said Angel.

"They're saying 'screw you, if you can't pay-goodbye.'" expressed another frustrated student parent who asked her name not be used.

The UCCC describes itself as a student-friendly service that specifically provides spaces for students. Currently, less than 20 per cent of children enrolled at the day care have parents who are U of C students.

Even with maximum government subsidies the fee increases put the cost of care out of reach for most students.

"That actually does irritate me," said SU External Commissioner Yana Mikhailovski. "If it is open to all students, as it says it is and it's obviously not, then I don't think it should be here. I don't think they benefit the university community as they say. I think they are benefitting themselves and it shouldn't be like that."

Mikhailovski suggested other options for funding be explored instead of increasing fees.

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