The Isabel Patterson Child Development Center on the Cal State Long Beach campus could be getting a substantial boost in federal funding in the next fiscal budget year.

The child care center, which has primarily served children of enrolled CSULB students for the past 50 years, is eligible for potentially $3.5 million in funding.

The funds would go toward the necessary maintenance at the center.

For the facility, which includes four individual buildings and several play yards throughout, and offers the capacity to serve 180 families among its licensed infant and toddler, preschool, and school-age programs, its deferred maintenance costs currently amount to around $8 million, said Miles Nevin, executive director of Associated Students Inc., a CSULB nonprofit that runs a variety of services including the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center.

The potential funding “would tackle the most immediate needs, and about half of the needs,” Nevin said.

According to Nevin, the plumbing and irrigation that undergirds the land is failing and doesn’t drain properly, which becomes problematic, particularly when it rains.

Additionally, the funds would support the replacement of the main electrical panel and all the related circuits, which has become a risk-management issue, Nevin said. It will also replace all of the flooring, heating, ventilation and air conditioning units across the center.

While it varies when each item has last been replaced, most are either original or haven’t been replaced since the ‘80s. “It’s all very old and needs to be replaced immediately,” Nevin said.

ASI runs a variety of facilities and programs across the organization, and there just isn’t enough funding to address everything, including deferred maintenance, Nevin said.

While state and federal grants are utilized for the operating budget, “this capital budget is not really addressed anywhere,” Nevin said. “That’s one of those items that tends to get pushed to the lower end of the priority list when we’re doing our budgets.”

While some items get addressed each year, it is never to the level needed, Nevin said. In the current year, for example, $100,000 was budgeted for deferred maintenance items.

“Obviously $100,000 per year, it’s just not going to catch up to $8 million ever,” Nevin said.

However, the potential $3.5 million will not only address deferred maintenance and make the play environments safer, but it will be utilized to modernize the center and make it a “contemporary” space for the children, he said.

An empty playground with a toy house and other forms of child entertainment.
A playground sits empty at the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center and Cal State Long Beach Thursday, April 21, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The improvements will also decrease the center’s annual utility and overall budget costs, allowing the center to invest more resources into program materials and into staff, which includes hiring more student employees, rather than thinking about investing in capital outlay, Nevin added.

The funding is part of Rep. Robert Garcia’s recent Community Project Funding submission to the House Committee on Appropriations.

As an alumnus of Cal State Long Beach, and as the former ASI student body president, Garcia is familiar with the organization and has remained connected since graduating, Nevin said.

“He was proactive in coming to us and further discussing these issues,” Nevin said. “So we collaborated with his office on this application, and really worked in partnership with him and his staff to get the proposal in.”

Garcia, for his part, said the need for the funding was clear.

“As an educator myself, I know supporting more accessible child care makes it easier for parents of any age to work and achieve their educational goals,” Garcia said in a statement. “The Isabel Patterson Center at CSULB provides critical child care and education to our community and campus. I’m grateful to submit this important funding request.”

Following approval from Congress, more requirements lie ahead before the funding can be put to use, such as conducting an environmental review and working with campus professionals to plan out a detailed project and timeline, Nevin said.

The funding will then be issued as a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant in fiscal year 2024, although, at this time, it is unclear when exactly the funds would be dispersed, Nevin said.

While the funding has not yet been guaranteed, “it’s for urgent facility needs at a large child care center on a public university campus—it’s important for early care and education. It’s important for our local workforce development concerns,” Nevin said. “So I’m actually very confident and hopeful.”

While the center is already an attractive space that operates at capacity, the improvements will further garner trust and goodwill in the community and across the university, Nevin said.

“Child care is one of the great barriers to our students, not only here, but across the country,” Nevin said. “And when you have a center like this, that’s serving 180 families and doing it in a very high quality environment, it’s an important component of getting an education here.”

“Just being able to provide early care and education, being able to be part of the workforce development ecosystem in our region, where we are taking care of children so that people can work and go to school—that is super critical,” Nevin said.