Daycare Is Now More Costly Than College Tuition in Most States
byEricka SouterOct 28, 2016
Photograph by Twenty20
There was a time when saving for
college was the biggest educational burden for parents. Not anymore.
According to a report from think tank New America, the average yearly cost
of daycare is more than in-state college tuition. So, basically, it costs
more for your 3-year-old to play with blocks and sing nursery rhymes all
day than for a freshman to take Psych 101 and Intro to Chemistry.
right? If only collective outrage was the biggest issue with those
figures. Unfortunately, U.S. parents are going broke trying to pay for it.
Nearly one-third of the families who have a fee for childcare say it
has caused major financial problems for their households, according to a
new poll by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Harvard T.H. Chan
School of Public Health and NPR.
In Kentucky, Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin, daycare fees are more than rent. And in Idaho,
Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, the cost is more
than 90 percent of the rent. It's worse in West Virginia and Mississippi
where having someone care for your children takes up 40 to 45 percent of your
income. It begs the question: How exactly do families afford it? It certainly
isn't easy. It requires major cost-cutting. That means not even
considering family vacations or even outings to the movies in order to
squeeze by each month. Bottom line is, there is no room for frills.
flies in the face of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
claim that affordable care should amount
to just 10 percent of family income. NPR profiled families struggling with
childcare costs, including a Wisconsin couple that spends nearly $2,000 a
month for their 3-year-old and 4-month-old. That's 34 percent of their
household income. By comparison, rent is just 25 percent of their monthly
Those steep costs means sacrificing other things, such as putting
money toward retirement, getting cable or top-of-the-line smartphones
and only going out for meals on rare occasions.
don't have enough in the budget to save anything for their college,"
said the mom. "I'm basically paying for it right now."
They would like to have
one more child, but are hesitant for financial reasons. With
three, daycare costs will exceed what she earns. Now they think they'll wait until she can
take a year off work or their oldest child starts elementary school.
story is far from unique. Many families are struggling every day. Even
flexible spending accounts—which allow employees to set aside up to
$5,000 pre-tax dollars a year for children care —does little to stem the
burden. Relief, however, will come when the kids reach public
preschool age. Until then, the best way to survive is to create a
budget and stick with it, said a Cincinnati mom of three who was profiled for the NPR series.
going to be something that pops up, but if you've got a plan in place, you
know how the numbers will fall," she added. "And it is a comfort at night
when you can go to bed and say, 'OK, at least I know I can afford my
house, my kids in a safe place, the utilities and groceries. Everything
else? Not that important.'"