UAA committed to helping Tanaina families with transition

by Catalina Myers  |   

By Megan Olson , Vice Chancellor for University Advancement

As the mother of three young children (now ages 5, 6 and 8), I understand firsthand how difficult and emotional it is to select childcare. The trust you place in individuals who care for your kids is precious and cherished. Rock that boat and your whole world quakes.

I was on Tanaina's waitlist for years before finally getting the call that my firstborn could enroll. By then, I had two more children. All three were happily ensconced at another full-time facility in Anchorage. I wished then that Tanaina had room for all my children. I know many families currently on the waitlist would celebrate a bigger Tanaina.

I can empathize completely with Tanaina's families. But for reasons I'll explain below, I understand and support UAA's decision to terminate its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the center. Tanaina needs to relocate to a space of its own and adopt a new, sustainable business model.

I believe this difficult first step can lead to an even brighter future for Tanaina and the kids and families relying on it. For the benefit of our students, staff and faculty, UAA is committed to helping with this transition. We all know Anchorage needs more high quality childcare, not less.

A little history

Since 1979, Tanaina has cared for the children of UAA families and others in our community. In turn, at no cost to Tanaina, UAA gave 3,900-square-feet of rent-free space, with ongoing maintenance of that space and its playground (at a current annual cost of about $39,000). Several years ago UAA invested $65,000 to upgrade and repair the interior space and the perimeter fencing. Just last summer, UAA invested an additional $17,000 to replace the playground's gravel with high-quality recycled rubber tire mulch that is much safer.

UAA's decision to terminate a 25-year MOU was difficult, not taken lightly or quickly. University leaders have long been in conversations with Tanaina management over issues of mutual concern: inadequate space, a marginally suitable playground and the center's inability to expand to serve more families.

Meantime, UAA has grown. Our Anchorage campus serves 15,000 students. Yet, new student recruitment, admissions, enrollment services and financial aid are all located more than two miles away from campus, at the University Center. This is an example of service to our students that we intend to improve.

The pressure on UAA's budget and its facilities continue to mount. As we optimize our space in the interest of students, rest assured we are focused on their success. That is our single most important mission for the State. To that end, for our students who are also parents, we want a successful transition and a viable Tanaina.

To be clear, Tanaina was not a casualty of UAA's recent prioritization process. As a separate 501c3, the center has never been a UAA function. Instead, Tanaina and the university had a mutually beneficial relationship for many years. Now, the pressure on our facilities to serve students has evolved.

Next step forward

Currently, the parents of 60 children need assurance that Tanaina will continue. Questioning the center's future is an understandable first reaction. More helpful would be gathering the strength and brainpower of Tanaina's staff, board and supporters in search of a new location. Cementing the commitment of Tanaina families to this mission will secure that future.

UAA made a very tough call; all organizations must evolve and innovate to succeed in our rapidly changing economic and demographic environment.

Tanaina needs new space and sustainable economics; let's find it. UAA will work toward a smooth transition so that Anchorage and UAA families continue to have Tanaina among their best choices for quality childcare.

Creative Commons License "UAA committed to helping Tanaina families with transition" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.