Child Day Care Now More Expensive Than College In Most States

While much has been made in the last year about the soaring cost of a college education, it’s also worth noting that the price of full-time child care has continued to increase, even while many parents have struggled to make ends meet. And a new study finds that the average cost of day care in 35 states and the District of Columbia is now higher than the price of in-state tuition at a four-year college.

According to a report [PDF] from D.C.-based advocacy group Child Care Aware of America, New York is the most expensive state for parents with kids in day care. The average yearly cost for an infant at a child care center will run parents $14,009, while care for a 4-year-old costs an average of $11,585. Meanwhile, College Board data says the average tuition and fees for a state college in New York is $6,213 per year. Thus, the cost of day care can be more than twice the cost of a university education.

Even in states where day care is more affordable, it’s still more expensive than higher education. For example, infant day care in Wyoming runs $7,727 a year, while Wyoming students can go to a public college there for $4,125 per year.

Of the 10 states with the most expensive infant day care averages, only one (Indiana) came in at under $10,000 a year. But when you consider that the median income for a single-mother family in Indiana is only $22,178, that means day care would take more than 44% out of a single mom’s wallet.

“Families need child care in order to work,” said Ollie M. Smith, Child Care Aware of America’s Interim Executive Director. “But, child care today is simply unaffordable for too many families. This is not a low income issue. Families at nearly every income — except for the very wealthy — struggle with the cost of child care.”