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Student research: W&M's on-campus child care center best in the area

  • Quality care
    Quality care  New research from the Mason School of Business has revealed the extraordinary business operation and quality of care being offered at the Sarah Ives Gore Child Care Center, which is operated by Williamsburg Campus Child Care (WCCC).  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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New research from the Mason School of Business has revealed the extraordinary business operation and quality of care being offered at the Sarah Ives Gore Child Care Center, which is operated by Williamsburg Campus Child Care (WCCC).

Recently, three William & Mary students enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Field Consultancy Program conducted an efficiency audit of WCCC, an independently run business operation located on campus. The child care center was made possible through a gift by Sarah Ives Gore ’56, an alumna and former member of the Board of Visitors, and began primarily serving William & Mary faculty and staff members as well as some members of the community in the early 1990s. The building, located in the heart of campus, was dedicated in 1992.

“I am delighted that the child care center got such a sterling review in the recent audit,” said Gore. “The child care center clearly is being well run by staff with a long term interest in the children. High quality child care makes an enormous difference in children’s wellbeing and their ability to learn. Congratulations to the staff of the child care center for their excellent work!”

The students found that WCCC teachers have twice as many years of experience as the national average for child care providers and have been with WCCC much longer than industry averages. They also found that staff members at WCCC have better working conditions, including better pay and more time off, than other child care providers in the Williamsburg area.

“Data from our competition analysis helps WCCC know where they sit in the competitive market and understand how their operation fits in locally, regionally and nationally,” said team leader Jacob Ommen, a second year MBA student concentrating in finance and entrepreneurship. “From a pricing and quality of care perspective, the center is performing admirably and now has a benchmark to go by when examining operations and future planning.” 

Professors Ron Monark and Dick Ash from the Business School oversee the Entrepreneurship Field Consultancy Program, now in its 10th year. Monark said a total of 38 students are enrolled, hailing from the MBA program, the undergraduate business program and the law school.  Eleven different companies from across the mid-Atlantic region have contracted with the Business School, said Monark, from various industries such as education, energy, technology, food and beverage and not for profit.

Jeremy Martin, assistant to the president and provost who currently serves as president of the WCCC Board of Directors, said the audit derived from discussions of market pricing for child care services.  Martin said after WCCC increased tuition for several years, the board became concerned the center might be pricing their services out of the market.

“The students found WCCC provides a higher quality of care and at a rate in line with other centers in the area,” Martin said.  “We are grateful for the students’ excellent work, and their recommendations will make the center even better in the future.”

Having an on-campus child care center is common at many universities throughout the U.S.  Not only does it serve as a benefit for employees, but it is also used as a lucrative recruiting tool to attract top-notch talent to the institution.  

Currently, WCCC is one of several independently run businesses under the university’s Auxiliary Services umbrella. John Byxbe, who serves as William & Mary’s liaison for campus contracts and an ex-officio member of the WCCC Board of Directors, said this is his fourth project working with the Business School’s Field Consultancy Program.

“It’s a win-win for everyone involved to utilize William & Mary’s in-house student consultancy team,” said Byxbe. “The students bring a tremendous amount of knowledge and gain real world experience and the operation has a chance to review the business from a different, holistic standpoint,” he added.

Second year MBA student Alyssa Smith said the program is a great benefit to business students seeking practical experience.

“It was very helpful to get hands on experience working with a real organization facing real issues,” she said. “As a consultant, I had the opportunity to learn the unique business structures daycare centers operate under along with the structural constraints and rules and regulations they must take into consideration for daily business operations.”

For example, the students found WCCC has one of the best learning environments of any center in the area. The center also voluntarily participates in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, which is a set of standards for child care centers above state regulations. Ratings are largely based on classroom interactions and the teachers’ relationships with students.

WCCC Director Janet Yang said the students’ research provided the staff an immense amount of useful information to help the business budget rates for the upcoming fiscal year and run the center more efficiently. For example, the center has switched vendors and is now purchasing the same infant formula at a reduced price, she said.

“But most importantly, the students showed us where we are doing things really well, such as the very low staff turnover rates, which research shows is linked to a higher quality program with better outcomes for children in terms of their overall development. That type of information is important for our families, staff and customers to know,” said Yang.