You don’t have to be a parent to truly understand the possibly life-changing value of a service being proposed by Northwestern Michigan College. But it helps.
Under a deal being worked out between NMC and Munson Medical Center, Munson will operate a child care center on the college’s Main Campus.
Munson officials will license and operate the child care center, which aims to offer student-parents 32 child care slots for 3-, 4-, and early 5-year-olds from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
The aim is to make the service affordable and targeted at parents with children who are too young for kindergarten. The center, set to open this fall, will focus on assisting low-income families. Many children can receive tuition through Great Start and Head Start Readiness Programming funding. Tuition for other children will be low, but exact amounts haven’t been set.
The program is a result of a strategic goal adopted by the college’s Board of Trustees last year to increase student child care options. Student government officials also took up affordable child care as a cause through a March fundraiser.
It’s hard to overstate the value such a program offers parents - most likely single, working moms. Finding reliable, affordable, onsite daycare will allow women who may otherwise never be able to get the education they want a better chance to get that done. They’ll be able to attend classes, get to the library or lab without having to scramble to drop off or pick up their child possibly miles away.
Children will learn under a curriculum intended to prepare them for kindergarten; NMC and Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District early child care students will get a chance to get real-life experience dealing with kids.
This is one of those head-slapper initiatives that not only should have been done 30 years ago but should be offered at every community college in the state.
Community colleges exist largely to serve those who can’t or don’t want to attend a big four-year university, and many of those students are parents who juggle work, school and family.
This is smart, proactive policy. The only thing NMC might change is to double the number of available slots.