School

Crib note: College a bargain? Just compare it to daycare

Aug. 20, 2012 at 8:38 AM ET

The bad news for parents is that paying for college just keeps getting more expensive. Even worse -- college may actually seem like a bargain if you’re used to paying for daycare. According to a new report by Child Care Aware of America, daycare costs for an infant are now higher than a year of in-state tuition at a four-year public college in 35 states and D.C.

Even if your kiddos are a little older and you’re no longer paying the newborn premium rate, there’s still a good chance you’re paying more for daycare than you would if they were earning college credits.  After all, daycare costs for a 4-year-old are still more expensive than a year’s worth of college tuition in 19 states and D.C. These comparisons are for childcare centers. In-home daycares, while still pricey, often tend to come with a bit less sticker shock.

As The Consumerist pointed out, daycare in the most expensive state, New York, averages $14,009 a year for an infant and $11,585 for a 4-year-old. Compare that to College Board data, which says average tuition in the Empire state is $6,213; and suddenly higher education is looking like a bargain. Even in relatively cheaper states, like Wyoming, you’re still paying more for daycare than college. A year of infant daycare in Wyoming will set you back $7,727, while a year of in-state college tuition will only cost $4,125. 

If you and your bank account aren’t depressed enough already, the next bit of statistics ought to do you in. In 40 states, a two-parent family, forking out for infant daycare, is likely to spend more than 10 percent of its household income on daycare. Now just imagine what that means for single parents. As The Consumerist noted, a single mother in Indiana, earning the median wage, would spend more than 44 percent of her income on infant daycare.

Hey, but at least it’s still cheaper than housing, right? Wrong. According to the same survey, chances are, you’re also paying more for childcare than you pay for rent. Parents with two kids (say an infant and a 4-year-old) in a daycare center, are paying more than the annual median rent in all 50 states and D.C. Oh, but you own your home? Sucks to be you, too. Daycare is still more expensive than a typical mortgage, for residents of 20 states and poor, old D.C., once again.

 So, which states are the least affordable when it comes to childcare costs? Many of the states on the list might surprise you. In looking at median incomes and comparing that to the average price of infant childcare, the top 10 most expensive states for childcare are:

  1. New York
  2. Minnesota
  3. Oregon
  4. Colorado
  5. Hawaii
  6. Kansas
  7. California
  8. Illinois
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Wisconsin

Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom who’s feeling extremely grateful not to be paying for daycare right now.

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