Isu Yoon likes pink sidewalk chalk, and she cries when her friends try to snatch it from her.
At Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center at Lake Alice, some of Isu’s friends, who are all about 2 and 3 years old, lick the chalk and streak it on their faces.
Her mom, Soon Yang, squats next to her on the sidewalk in the playground. She is a calm adult in the chaos of toddlers in bright tutus who squeal and giggle and chase each other.
Soon, 34, has a routine: Wake up. Make a fried egg and tomato juice for Isu because she doesn’t like vegetables. Drop Daddy off at the Florida Gym for work. Drive to Baby Gator in the family’s one car. Stay until Isu is comfortable. Study. Cook dinner. Clean. Back at 5 p.m. Repeat.
Of the 156 children at Baby Gator’s Lake Alice center where Isu plays, 48 are the children of UF students. And those students cost Baby Gator money, said Baby Gator Director Pamela Pallas.
UF student parents pay a discounted rate for Baby Gator child care.
The group requested about $173,000 from UF for the next fiscal year, which would come from a $0.14 per-credit-hour increase in the student activities fee.
This would allow the group to increase the enrollment of students’ children to 75 and cover the gap between what student parents pay and Baby Gator’s expenses, Pallas said.
Their request was denied unanimously by the UF Local Fee Committee, along with other groups’ proposals to increase the student activities fee.
Matthew Hoeck, the Student Government director of external affairs, said the students and faculty on the committee had to decide if the requested student activities fee increases were priorities.
“This was a year to focus on what’s a need and what’s a want,” he said.
Before the Spring semester, Baby Gator will become even less affordable for Soon and her husband, Youngmin Yoon, who are transitioning from student parents to just parents.
Youngmin graduated in May. When Isu was born, Soon was pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry, but she decided to take a break for personal reasons — and for Isu.
To help student parents, Baby Gator charges them less than faculty for the child care services, which includes hot breakfasts and healthy lunches, late pick-up hours and bilingual teachers, Pallas said.
Because of Soon and Youngmin’s changing student status, their daycare tuition will become $190 per week instead of $170 per week. In a 15-week semester, they’ll shell out an extra $300.
With Soon staying home to study for her upcoming GRE graduate school entry exam to return to school in the Fall and Youngmin’s small adjunct professor salary, the child care tuition is becoming difficult to pay.
The couple’s parents send them money from Seoul, South Korea, their home country. It’s 88 degrees, and they won’t turn on the air conditioning in their apartment. They use food stamps.
About one in four UF student parents’ incomes are below the federal poverty line, according to a 2013 survey distributed to more than 2,000 students by Baby Gator and the PhDMoms organization.
Baby Gator is convenient to student parents: Their children are close to classes and on-campus housing. It’s open late, which allows Soon to spend nine hours in the lab.
Buses regularly pass by the decade-old facility. Plus, it’s a good deal for student parents, Pallas said.
“Our mission is to support students,” she said.
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