Child Care: More Costly Than College?

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A new report finds that in many states, a year of college at a public school is cheaper than a year of infant child care.

At least teenagers can get scholarships. Babies? Not so much. In many states, child care costs more than college or a place to live, CNNMoney says.

It took a look at a new report from nonprofit Child Care Aware of America, which found that for about two-thirds of the country, average child care costs are higher than annual tuition and fees at a four-year public college in the state.

“Center-based infant care for one child was greater than median rent payments in nearly half of the states, while fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) exceeded rent in all 50 states,” CNNMoney adds.

Costs vary widely, however. “Center-based care for a 4-year-old hit a high of $12,355 in Massachusetts and a low of $4,312 in Mississippi,” CNNMoney says. One reason for higher prices is stricter government standards for care. Massachusetts requires one teacher per three infants, compared with a 1-to-5 ratio in Mississippi.

Another reason for the high cost: rising operational expenses, such as higher insurance rates and food prices. The average cost of infant care in a center increased 2.7 percent between 2011 and 2012, the report says.

The report also came up with the five most expensive states for child care by comparing the median income for married couples with the average cost of center-based child care. The five least affordable states are Oregon, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Colorado. In those states, child care eats up at least 15 percent of income.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers 10 percent of family income for child care as a benchmark for affordable care,” the report says.

Of course, as we noted a couple months ago in “Cost of Raising a Kid Is $240,000? More than 20 Tips to Cut It in Half,” only a quarter of families used organized facilities for child care in 2011. For those who aren’t flush with cash, stay-at-home parents or relatives often fill that role for far less.

Do you think these child care figures are reasonable? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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