In July our Student Community Government (SCG) convened and made a decision that would have profound consequences for RIC student-parents and their path to higher education. The decision was to cut our Rhode Island Cooperative preschool program, the same program that has served our student-parents, faculty and their children for over 4 decades. Yes, you heard that right. Our student community government wiped away forty years of dedication to educational equity by those in our institution from under our noses and with no recourse
for their harsh decision.
To underscore more how little SCG valued RIC student-parents, they decided to not notify
us. Instead, they called the teachers in for a meeting and let those teachers relay the message. It is especially concerning to me, as a veteran who has dedicated years to protecting democratic values, to witness a lack of consideration for a democratic and inclusive environment within the institution I selected.
One would expect that given the seriousness of such a decision, a democratic process would follow, one that would allow those impacted to discuss alternative funding solutions or at least a
meaningful conversation between SCG and those impacted. It would appear that questioning decisions or even discussing reversing a decision is not the norm at Rhode Island College.
Given RIC’s 87% commuting student body, most of us just don’t have the time to involve
ourselves in student organization issues, nor do we find their decisions to be that impactful.
However, now that SCG has made it very clear that their funds are not for the working, the student-parents or those of us students trying to build social equity and mobility for
their families, we must rise to demand our inclusion in this institution. Our inability to run in a student government because of our schedule and obligations doesn’t give SCG the right to prefer other students’ needs more, the same students who would rather use their funds for a bounce house just in the name of student engagement.
Our preschool program was created by two student parents in the 1970s who took turns watching one another’s children. Eventually more parents and children joined and it began running out of basement classrooms at Rhode Island College. As the only preschool in the state exclusively for college students, it has gone on to become a recognized licensed preschool
We are now connected to high school pathway programs. We have over twenty RIC
work/study students from various departments including psychology, early education and social
work. We use a cooperative model which enables parents to participate for 4 hours a
week as teacher’s assistant and have a role in their child’s program.
Most importantly, it has remained a vital resource for parent students in their path to higher
education and gives them a community to lean on. This program has been drastically undermined for its ability to garner student applicants and thus has been severely under-marketed to potential students.
Despite SCG’s reluctance to hear our concerns, they met with parents on November 8th. We requested an open meeting for transparency, but were denied that opportunity. Despite all odds, we put our best foot forward. Student-parents came together, collected impact statements and many support letters from our previous co-op students-parents and faculty who have used our program. We made packets with a meeting agenda and an entire budget proposal, encompassing graphs and charts that would help offer solutions for their budget concerns as well as give us the opportunity to continue our program. Our proposal not only cut our costs by almost $50,000, but it also demonstrated that with our current child tuition revenue, which is currently under our enrollment capacity, we would eliminate our operating costs. Our only contingency was that they fund our teacher’s salaries one more semester, until we could find funding elsewhere. This would give us a little less than a year to find funding.
Despite our sincere effort to lay a path forward, we were met with no intent to consider our proposal. How could a student community government take the federal and state funds allocated because of its reputation of fostering inclusivity, educational equity and diversity, yet remove those funds from a program that does just that?
When are RIC administrators, some who sit on these decision boards, and our elected student parliament going to realize that the backbone of RIC are the non-traditional, first-generation, student-parents and commuter students, not the students who they so desperately keep trying to attain?
We don’t have time for frivolous spending for student entertainment. We are trying to break generational cycles of social inequity. Maybe if RIC invested more money into programs like ours, our enrollment rates would go up.
Even if our student-parents took this loss and decided to persevere, most would have to find full time jobs that can accommodate RICs limited course schedules. With hardly enough degrees offering online classes, night classes, and online degrees, what options do we have?
Not only does this impact the student parents at RIC, but it opens the conversation for what diversity program is next on the chopping block. If they can remove the jobs from preschool teachers who have devoted over 15 years of their lives and careers to developing such a quality program for this institution, is anyone safe? These teachers have taught our education and social work department students while facing years of job uncertainty and pay cuts, yet they still show up for student-parents and children because of how vital they are to our success. It’s time for our RIC community to show up for all of us now.
This decision perpetuates a system that disproportionately burdens those who are already facing significant challenges in their pursuit of higher education. The impact of this decision goes beyond the current students who use it but also affects those whose lives would have changed had they had the opportunity to use it. It’s time to live up to your reputation, Rhode Island College.
RIC Business Student and Veteran
RIC Cooperative Preschool Parent