by Ryan Reinhardt
In 2021, Wilson College’s distinctive Single Parent Scholar Program (SPS Program) suffered a loss when the on-campus daycare that provided subsidized child care to all single-parent scholars was permanently closed. The building where the child care center was previously located now acts as the esports arena, the foundation of the esports team at Wilson College.
Recognizing that single parents are underserved under the current organization of higher education, Wilson College’s SPS Program provides single parents with up to two children with housing accommodations in Prentis Hall.
Students in this program are still required to pay tuition, fees, and other costs of education, but the guarantee of housing for single parents and their children is a unique offer that many colleges do not have.
In addition, the children of these students eat for free in the dining hall and, though there is no longer on-campus childcare guaranteed to these students, the program still subsidizes off-campus childcare.
Despite the continued subsidization of childcare under this program, the discontinuation of guaranteed childcare on campus pushes further burdens onto an already overloaded student group.
With this in mind, the decision to close the childcare center was not made in light. After speaking to President Wesley Fugate, the financial losses associated with operating the daycare center partnered with the decrease in student enrollment throughout the pandemic were the major factors considered when closing the childcare center.
Though the combination of these factors had prompted conversations about the practicality of continuing the childcare center on campus, the loss of employees was the element that finalized the closure of the daycare facility. President Fugate stated that the decision to close the childcare center was almost forced when one of the last staff members left making the staff-to-child ratio unfit for operation.
Before this decision was made, the esports team had been in development but was in search of a suitable space for an area.
The esports program was initiated by President Fugate due to the draw that esports teams have when recruiting new students. On top of this, the esports industry is a billion-dollar industry that continues to grow daily. The esports program can then have an important impact on the success of the college.
After securing funding for equipment for the esports team, the only thing left to find was a space for the team to play. A sad serendipity struck when the decision to close the childcare center opened up the space to be used for the esports arena.
Though the timing of the closure of the childcare center and the development of the esports arena makes these decisions seem like they were made in conjunction, President Fugate informed me that the development of the esports team did not affect the closing of the childcare center.
Though these decisions were in no way made in tandem, their existence illustrates the fact that higher education institutions in America are forced to act as businesses rather than purely educational facilities.
With student bodies decreasing in size after the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities, whether private or public, have incurred more financial burdens, forcing institutional values to shift so that they can simply survive.
The SPS Program lives on and provides free housing and a chance at education to single parents, though access to childcare on-campus is no longer offered. In an ideal world, providing quality education or career training to any person who desires it should not conflict with the survival of an educational body, but the current organization of higher education forces these kinds of decisions to be made.