KU students sweetened their offer to reinvigorate debate about construction of a child-care facility.
A student-backed plan for financing construction of a new child-care center on the Kansas University campus might make the project a reality.
It's not as simple as the ABCs, but the pledge by Student Senate leaders to increase a student fee for a child-care center has renewed interest in the project. The fee may be hiked from $2 per semester to $6 a semester per student.
Despite years of supportive comments, KU officials haven't made the new center a high priority.
"If the Student Senate had not decided to emphasize this again, we would not have heard a thing," Pat Pisani, director of Hilltop Child Development Center at KU, said Thursday.
In 1996, KU officials hoped the new center could open in early 1998. A more realistic target is the year 2000 at the earliest.
The proposed $4.4 million center would provide a new home for Hilltop, which is located in a cramped, hard-to-find building on the northeast corner of campus. Enrollment is limited to the equivalent of 146 full-time students.
If built, the new center would be near Stouffer Place Apartments where married KU students reside. It would be capable of handling 308 full-time pupils and improve vehicular access for parents.
Hilltop's waiting list now contains names of more than 200 children needing on-campus care.
Grey Montgomery, KU student body president, said some supporters of the project had questioned the commitment of KU officials to upgrading child-care services on campus.
"They felt the university has dragged its feet long enough," he said.
Student Senate this week adopted a resolution that pledged greater student funding for the project if certain conditions were met.
- KU must pay a minimum of 30 percent of the construction cost to receive student funds.
- The number of spaces in the center reserved for children of KU students must be equivalent to the percentage of student money used for construction.
- KU officials should examine the creation of a faculty fee to help pay construction costs.
David Ambler, KU vice chancellor for student affairs, said meetings would be held to assess the financial feasibility of the project given Student Senate's offer.
He said the university wouldn't jump into such a large project without a secure funding base.
"Some people have been wanting us to say unquestioningly, without qualification that we will build a new child-care facility. We simply can't say that until there is a revenue source to support a new, expanded facility," Ambler said.
He said Student Senate adopted the $2 per semester fee for a child-care center several years ago without consulting with KU officials.
"We said, 'You kind of dumped this problem on us.'"
Ambler said the student fee wasn't sufficient to finance a new building. So far, that fee has generated $260,000.
Efforts to secure a large private donation for the center's construction have been unsuccessful, he said.
"The administration and endowment association has a lot of priorities for fundraising," Ambler said. "This would have to be put into that matrix. It probably wouldn't be very high compared to raising money for scholarships and other things the university needs."
Ambler said it wouldn't be feasible to charge all KU faculty and staff a child-care fee. However, faculty and staff with children at Hilltop might pay a fee to help retire construction bond debt.
Pisani welcomed the interest of Student Senate and looked forward to working with KU to develop a workable plan.
"Things are definitely stirring," she said. "We're happy to see someone's talking about it."