Day Care Costs More Than College in 31 States

Sunday, April 13, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley)

As expensive a college education for children can be for parents, there is now an even greater financial expense for those starting a family: Day care.


In 31 states, the cost of day care is greater than public college tuition and fees, according to a report from Child Care Aware America, which provides information on child-care resources and referral agencies.


Residents of some states, like New York, face budget-busting costs to put their kids into day care. There, such services average $15,000 a year. Meanwhile, the expense of in-state college tuition is only $6,500 annually. Massachusetts has an even higher average per-annum day-care cost: $16,500


Other states with significant gaps between the costs of day care and college tuition include Colorado, Maryland and Oregon.


Looking for a state where day care doesn’t trump college costs? Try South Carolina, where the gap is $4,000 a year in favor of a four-year postsecondary education.


However, Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post found that part of the reason for the difference was because South Carolina slashed higher education funding by nearly 70% from 1980 to 2011, which jacked up the tuition burden, according to the American Council on Education.


Ingraham also noted that the rising cost of day care is causing some parents to quit their jobs and stay home with the children, figuring it’s less of a financial hit to lose the second income in order to avoid paying a center to watch the kids.


Another report, by the Pew Research Center, showed that nearly 30% of mothers now remain at home. That’s up from 23% in 1999.


“For many families it simply makes more financial sense for a parent to stay home with a young child than it does to incur thousands of dollars in day-care costs,” wrote Ingraham, who pointed out that only 5% of married stay-at-home mothers had at least a master’s degree and family income exceeding $75,000.


“This suggests that stay-at-home motherhood is primarily increasing among the lower and middle classes, and that it's driven primarily by having too little money, rather than too much of it,” he wrote.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Start Saving Now: Day Care Costs More Than College in 31 States (by Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post)

Parents and the High Cost of Child Care 2013 Report (ChildCare Aware of America) (pdf)


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