University of Wisconsin student-parents voiced their support for segregated fees to fund child care, allowing people to attend class while knowing their kids are receiving care at a Student Services Finance Committee meeting Monday.

The Child Care Tuition Assistance Program provides financial grants to support high-quality early care and education for children of student-parents, said CCTAP Director Cigdem Unal.

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Nichole Etchart, a UW Ph.D. student, came with her daughter Mar Rodriguez-Etchart to strongly advocate for the program.

“I wouldn’t be able to do any of my education at all if it wasn’t for the program,” Etchart said. “As a woman, I think that had we not had the CCTAP program, then it would have been very likely that my husband would have gotten his Ph.D. first, and I would have probably had to wait.”

Etchart said most of her money goes to rent and day care, so she and her husband are able to pursue their degrees.

Brandon Shields, a second-year UW student and father to a 2-year-old son, commended CCTAP for allowing him to put his child in one of the premier child care centers affiliated with the university.

“Without this program, I would not be able to afford that, especially as a single father,” Shields said.

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Etchart and Shields aren’t the only UW students who feel strongly about the program. A 2017 student survey showed 90 percent of students said they wouldn’t be able to afford the care without CCTAP, Unal said.

The program’s top priorities are promoting accessibility to affordable child care, supporting students and fulfilling the university’s goals, Unal said.

More than one quarter of undergraduate students across the nation, about 5 million people, are raising children while in school, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. More than 90 percent of student-parents graduate in the same time frame as their nonparent peers, Unal said.

Jen Templin, CCTAP program coordinator and parent resource specialist, said part of the group’s mission is to expand accredited child care programs. Of the 315 students who applied to CCTAP for 2015-16, 253 received funding.

CCTAP also facilitates the Odyssey Project, which eases students into life at UW through three-credit classes and funds evening care. They also provide backup care during sick days for about 70 families.

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In the upcoming year, CCTAP plans to expand its reach so all student-parents know what support may be available to them and increase funding for families, Unal said.

“We haven’t been able to increase funding for our students the last two years, but the child care cost is increasing 2 to 5 percent every year, and we haven’t increased the grant,” Unal said. “So the copay they need to pay is just getting higher and higher, and some students won’t be able to afford even the copay.”

Though the proposed total budget is less than the 2016 budget, the child care grants increased by $32,500.

Two new SSFC members joined the committee in considering CCTAP’s budget request, Reps. Brooke Evans and Forest Wu.

Dana Kampa/The Badger Herald

“I’m pretty fortunate that the first budget we’re looking at is CCTAP, because it’s a such wonderful program and it’s an extremely narrow, focused grant,” Evans said.

Evans said she is excited to fill the remaining two seats on SSFC, one at-large representative from the general student body and one appointment from Student Council. This appointment was left vacant by graduate student and Rep. Frankie Frank.

SSFC will decide CCTAP’s funding at its next meeting.