Inadequate financing will prevent construction of a new campus child care facility by 1998 as planned.
Children in Hilltop Child Development Center at Kansas University had a good time making a banner with 240 tiny handprints on it.
Next to each five-digit blotch of paint was the name of a child on Hilltop's waiting list.
Their colorful message: KU's faculty, staff and students need access to affordable, convenient child care on campus more than ever.
And parents wonder: Will a plan drafted in 1994 for a new Hilltop facility crumble like a tower of blocks blasted by G.I. Joe?
"We were just asking that question," Pat Pisani, director of the nonprofit center, said Tuesday.
University officials had intended to open a new center in early 1998. A realistic target, given ongoing funding woes, is the year 2000 at the earliest, she said.
Pisani said KU administrators recently assured her the planned $4.4 million center for 300 children near the Burge Union off Irving Hill Road was a high priority. The current building at 1314 Jayhawk Blvd. serves 160 children.
"There's no doubt the need is there," said David Ambler, vice chancellor for student affairs. "But a new building is expensive."
Hilltop opened in 1972 to provide the campus community with student training, faculty research and child care services. It's been at maximum capacity for years.
In 1993, KU students assessed themselves a $2 annual fee through the year 2000 to support Hilltop's expansion. About $500,000 will be generated by the fee.
John Scarffe, director of communications for KU Endowment Association, said KUEA had sought a donor capable of making a leadership gift of $1 million or more to generate momentum for the project.
"That hasn't happened," he said.
Scarffe said raising money for a KU child care facility was hard because a constituency willing to back the effort hadn't developed.
State government won't appropriate special funds for the building, Ambler said. He said KU officials were reluctant to charge families with children at Hilltop steep enrollment fees to finance the project.
"We have not been able to come up with a revenue stream to make it possible," Ambler said.
Meanwhile, the number of children pressing paint-covered hands on the waiting-list poster grows.
"We really hope that it will be built someday," Pisani said. "I continue to get calls daily."