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The Daycare Ripoff

That the College is run for the benefit of the staff will be of no surprise to readers of this space, nor to students obliged to pay through the nose for over-priced DDS food or the second highest tuition in the Ivy League. But let’s not forget how faculty are gouged in different ways, especially for childcare.

While the various private daycare providers in the Upper Valley offer similar rates for, say, infants, that range from $1,150-$1,350/month for fulltime care, the College obliges more highly paid employees using the the Dartmouth College Child Care Center (DCCCC) to subsidize the rates of lesser-paid staff. Under the DCCCC sliding fee scale, a pair of professors earning the minimum starting salaries in the humanities must pay $1,914/month for the care of their baby: that’s $22,968/year. To have that kind of money, they need to earn about $40,000 before income and payroll taxes. However, a staff member earning the union minimum pays only $714/month for the same care — about half the going Upper Valley rate, and only 37% of what two professors are obliged to pay:

DCCCC Fees.jpg

DHMC offers a similar sliding scale for employees of the hospital.

Step back for a second. What is the logic for penalizing young faculty members in order to make the lives of less fortunate staff members easier? Sure junior professors make more than dishwashers, but they are a lot more important to the College. Shouldn’t we be helping professors, rather than asking them to make sacrifices for the staff?

Needless to say, the employees of the Dartmouth College Child Care Center are paid the same inflated wages as other College employees, along with a hefty pension benefit, a Cadillac healthcare plan, and five or more weeks of vacation — compensation that is far above the going rate in the Upper Valley daycare provider labor market. Faculty and students come and go, but the staff lingers on.

It’s time for a change in this area. Today when young faculty look at where to teach, the College’s daycare policies make Dartmouth distinctly unattractive. Phil should be resetting our priorities; advantageous daycare rates need to be put into place to attract the best young professors, and slots in the DCCCC should be reserved for them.

Addendum: The D did a story on April 18 on local daycare options. Regrettably, the paper’s reporter did not check on the prices charged by the private daycare centers in the Upper Valley (in contrast to DHMC and CRREL) — including the one that I own, which has more than 40 children in it, and where we give all of our employees a 50% discount off the public rate (and where we make a profit):

Dartmouth’s child care center has a sliding fee scale that gives discounts to parents with annual incomes of up to $120,000. Monthly tuition ranges from $343 for part-time care after kindergarten for the lowest income bracket to $1,914 for infant care at the highest bracket.

The high sticker tag reflects national trends, and Moody said he would like to see child care facilities throughout the country made more affordable, potentially with taxpayer money.

The College subsidizes tuition even for parents paying at the highest level, child care services director Jeffrey Robbins said. He added that while costs vary regionally, the College’s child care center is similar to other options in the area.

“Our fee scale is competitive, or lower, than comparable institutions in the area, but it’s a lot of money,” he said. “If you’re at the bottom of the fee scale, you’re stretched to meet all your expenses.” [Emphasis added]

Professor Moody’s proposal that taxpayer money subsidize daycare costs is laughable; he is really proposing that taxpayers subsidize the above-market wages and benefits of the College’s daycare employees — just as student tuition and the Collge’s endowment support the the rest of the College’s employees’ inflated compensation.

Addendum: The Times had a story last week on the high cost of daycare in which the following comment appeared:

More anecdotally, day care costs for middle-class New Yorkers can easily equal from $25,000 to $30,000 per child.

Such alarmist figures for the highest cost city in the country put the DCCCC’s high fees in sharp relief. An infant charge in Hanover of $1,914/month works out to be $22,968/year — almost NYC rates in low cost New Hampshire. That figure is almost as absurd as the fact that tuition, room and board, and fees at the College trail only Columbia in the Ivy League.


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