University Assesses Childcare Needs

UNC Charlotte conducted a childcare needs assessment study from November 2008 through January 2009. Organizational Science Consulting and Research (OSC&R) included a series of focus groups with faculty and staff, a web-based survey sent to all faculty and EPA staff and interviews with childcare experts in the Charlotte metropolitan area. The report, published in June 2009 and authored by S. Douglas Pugh, Ph.D., Department of Management and Organizational Science Program; and Marisa Adelman, Tonya Frevert and April Spivack, Organizational Science Program, drew these conclusions (quoted verbatim from the report):

The need for childcare affects a substantial proportion of the faculty and staff at UNC Charlotte at some point in their career: 55% of the sample were parents or planning to become parents, 25% of the respondents to this study had children under age 6, and of that 25%, more than 2/3 had a spouse/partner that also worked full time. Of those parents with children ages 5 or younger, 39% had experienced substantial difficulty finding quality childcare. Female faculty and staff report significantly more difficulty with childcare issues than do males.

There is substantial support for on-campus childcare: most survey respondents agree that it would be a valuable recruiting tool, and that it would benefit the entire campus community. The extent to which University-sponsored childcare is seen as a priority is affected substantially by need, and as such the strongest support is found among those with children, younger faculty and staff, and females.

The most important question that will be answered using the data from this report is whether there is sufficient demand for childcare to move forward with the next phase of implementation. Here, the data must be examined carefully. If the facility is very high quality and the cost is at the average rate for 5-star facilities in Mecklenburg County, 56% of faculty and staff report they are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to enroll their children. That number jumps to 77% if part time options are offered, an option that is very desirable to faculty but often not financially feasible for childcare centers. More accurate estimates may be found in the results from our respondents without children but who are planning to become parents, and thus are not already established at another childcare center. Of that group, 72% are somewhat or very likely to enroll their children; 43% report they are very likely to do so at a price matching the average for 5-star facilities in Mecklenburg County.

The data are most clear in indicating that quality and costs drive the decision to enroll. There is demand for childcare at UNC Charlotte, but, the demand is not overwhelming. Although many faculty and staff do report difficulties in finding childcare, in the Charlotte metropolitan area there are other childcare options. When costs increase to levels above the average in Mecklenburg County (but in line with large corporate centers such as Bank of America), demand drops. Thus, a center at UNC Charlotte must match or surpass other options available to faculty and staff. If a UNC Charlotte childcare center is perceived as very high quality, and through subsidization costs can be kept competitive with other offerings in the Charlotte area, there will be demand for on-campus childcare.

Finally, it also is clear that University-sponsored childcare has great symbolic meaning, affecting the organizational culture in ways that extend beyond the purpose of simply providing childcare. Study participants view childcare as representing an investment in employees, an action that will build and sustain the campus community, and a representation that the University is on par with other leading research universities.