UK Student Government Association’s childcare roundtable reveals student parent struggles


Autumn King, Reporter

The University of Kentucky’s Student Government Association (SGA) held a childcare roundtable on Monday, April 24, in the Jacobs Science Building from 6 to 7 p.m. 

The meeting offered a chance for SGA to try to connect with students who are parents and improve communication, sense of belonging and overall experience for student parents on UK’s campus. 

Pizza was offered along with markers and coloring pages for any children that came along.

The meeting consisted largely of mothers, a good portion of whom were graduate students and students of the College of Pharmacy. 

Amelia Pace, a senior and the outgoing vice president of SGA, said she believes that childcare advocacy is an area that’s somewhat untouched by UK’s Administration.  

Pace used a presentation which asked the parents questions about what having children while being students has been like, how it’s impacted their experience as UK graduate students and what could have been done to improve that experience. 

Pace discussed why she finds it important to make sure that students who are parents are heard and that their quality of life as students is improved.

“Students don’t come, especially when they’re in a position where they have children, they don’t come to school and make these life decisions just to make them for themselves. They’re doing it for their families. So this is critical in my opinion to having a decreased barrier to education,” Pace said. 

The parents had taken part in a survey conducted by Hunter McCormick, a senior and the director of assessment and economic inclusion for SGA. 

McCormick is the child of a single mother and has a 5-year-old brother, who he’s watched his mother raise. 

McCormick said he wants students who are parents to have a clearer pathway to getting the education they want without having to face as many hurdles or stigmas. 

He also said he would like to be able to use the data gathered from the roundtable and the survey as part of what will later be presented to university administration. 

Parents had opportunities throughout the meeting to discuss how they felt about the topics and questions being asked. 

“I’ve literally been told… you need to either choose if you want to be a student or a mother,” Rebecca Renier, a student in the College of Pharmacy, said.

Throughout the meeting, other mothers present shared similar experiences to that of Renier’s. 

“I’ve had a professor when I asked for my accommodation tell me that it’s not fair to the other students who didn’t decide to be pregnant or to have a child,” Abelline Fionah, a chemistry graduate student, said.

Multiple women at the roundtable said they had interactions with professors, advisors and other students within the College of Pharmacy and at the university that led to them feeling less valued than other students due to them being parents. 

“And I told him over and over, I was like, I feel like I’m getting literally punished for being a mother and being in this program,” Renier said.

Tiffany Adams, a doctor and master’s candidate in the College of Pharmacy, described an instance where she had a neurology final to complete and her daughter tested positive for COVID-19. She was told by the professor of the class to either come in and take the final or drop out for a year. She came in, was quarantined while she took her final and was sick that evening. 

The parents at the roundtable, such as Adams and Renier, stated how they weren’t aware of most of the services that UK offers to parents, such as the childcare grant, which covers $1,000-$1,500 for one school year depending on the number of dependents that those applying have, according to the SGA website. The parents at the meeting were quick to acknowledge that, for most, wouldn’t even cover a month of childcare.

“Babysitters nowadays can run anywhere between, you know, $18 and $25 an hour and we need a whole week just to prep even before everything else, you know, and that’s like five, six, seven, hours a day almost, for that whole week,” Renier said. 

Renier and Fionah discussed the struggle to find a way to do activities such as their labs. Some of the parents present were single parents who believed they didn’t have a strong support system. Even those at the roundtable who had a strong support system agreed that there was a struggle to maintain getting an education and childcare. 

“A childcare center would be the ideal outcome, but we know that that takes, that that would take several years to accomplish and a lot of funding, so realistically, we’d love to be able to see a community where students are able to find other students that are kind of in that same support network and be able to provide childcare, whether that’s on campus or off campus to kind of, to be able to, you know, decrease that barrier,” Pace said.