The University of Montana's enrollment decline has significantly decreased their associated student body cash pool. Now, the future of the UM's childcare is on the rocks after new health regulations add to major setbacks.
In November 2014, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan-supported Childcare and Development Block Grant Act. The law establishes minimum child care assistance eligibility periods, health and safety standards and training requirements for providers. Employee training time will go from eight hours to 15 or more. Right now, only primary caregivers have to be CPR and first aid certified, but that could also change.
ASUM President Cody Meixner says federal and state mandates absorb most of the costs for the new training. However, in order to keep the childcare program low cost and accessible to the community, ASUM subsidizes it with a significant amount of money. Last year it was $120,000. ASUM no longer has the necessary funds leftover in their pot to continue funding this much money without increasing student fees. With the addition of the new infant center they added this year, that dollar sign is only going up.
ASUM is completely student run and teachers at the daycare say the students who sit on the senate have been hard at work trying to exercise all their options. Meixner says a few options they are looking at might help save the program. One of these options would include slashing the program in half and only operating out of one center. Although not ideal, this would allow the program to still exist on some level.
The worst case scenario is the daycare would be shut down in the next fiscal year. Meixner says this is a decision that some of the senators are really considering to be solvent. He adds that none of the options that allow the childcare to keep running are within the current budget. Going forward and being sustainable, the daycare will have to increase their revenue at some point if they want to stay open. Students are also likely to see an increase in the fee they pay to ASUM that funds all student groups.
ASUM Senate's final budgeting phase is on Saturday, February 27th. The decision of what to do with the daycare will likely be made then, but they may chose to vote on it this Wednesday.