Back-Up Care Changes the Landscape at UC Berkeley

back-up care

Think back to your college days of classes, exams, study groups, labs, lectures, etc. College life was exhilarating, hectic, and demanding. Now think about those days again, only this time add a young son or daughter to the picture. It is almost too overwhelming to even imagine, let alone actually live out. Today, however, more and more students are also parents ; and first-time parents to boot.

The changing face of the college classroom

In 2011, a study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research said that parents make up nearly a quarter of undergraduates students in the U.S. And universities are starting to take note. The University of California, Berkeley recently announced a pilot program that will offer back-up care to undergraduate and graduate students - the first public university to do so (back-up care is already available to faculty). It's an auspicious development for the school and the students. 

After completing many consulting studies with institutions of higher learning, I could fill pages with the frantic comments from students who are desperately trying to make good grades AND be good parents. I have heard student parents talk about trying to study in the middle of the night when their child is sleeping because that was the only time they knew it would be quiet (I remember studying in the middle of the night but I could hit the sack after my 8:00 a.m. exam. rather than care for an energetic toddler). I've also heard many, many student parents talk about missing study groups or reducing their participation in cooperative projects due to a lack of child care available at atypical times. This inability to fully participate in the educational experience, they said, had a negative impact on their studies, their contribution to other students' learning, and sometimes even their ability to complete their degrees. It is clear that these student parents need support and Berkeley is responding.

A much-needed support

Berkeley's back-up care will allow a student to secure care with as little notice as four hours and can be utilized to cram for an upcoming exam, attend an evening study group, or simply attend class if their regular child care arrangement is not available. Not only will it provide a quality care solution, it will also save the student hours when trying to secure care. Horizons Workforce Consulting recently completed a survey of those using our Back-Up Care Advantage Program and heard that each eight-hour day of back-up care saved students a total of 16 hours of work time (in this case, it could be class/study time). Eight hours were saved on the task of securing care alone. Because parents simply have to make one phone call to the Bright Horizons call center (a consultant will then do all the work to find a provider who has both the required skills and the availability during the times needed), there is no need for the parent to waste time calling multiple providers hoping that someone is available and calls back in a timely manner.

A positive reaction

As you can imagine, the initial student reaction to the Berkeley announcement is very positive, with many already registering for the service. And kudos to the University for being one of the few offering back-up care to student parents. It's a smart move to help those who are striving to complete their degree in between the responsibilities of parenthood, and to recognize the expanding demographic of those in undergraduate programs. Berkeley is already seeing a positive return in the response from student parents. The bigger picture is that it will likely create a significant impact on the University's ability to recruit and retain the brightest students in years to come. That makes it a smart move for everyone.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.