Skip to navigationSkip to content

In almost half of the US, daycare can be more expensive than college

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Barack Obama talks with a pre-kindergarten student at Moravia Park Elementary School during his second ‘Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour’ in Baltimore,…
By Amy X. Wang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Putting a kid through school is a laborious, money-sucking endeavor… for which new parents should start planning much earlier than they might think.

University tuition, an oft-bemoaned financial drain, isn’t necessarily where the costs start piling up. In 23 of the 50 US states, daycare or preschool can easily be more expensive than college, according to new research from the Economic Policy Institute.

The think tank compared, for each state, the annual cost of full-time daycare for a four-year-old and the average tuition for a student attending an in-state, four-year institution.

Numbers swing wildly. Whereas child care in South Carolina is less than half as expensive as college tuition ($4,651 versus $11,066), childcare in Florida is nearly twice as costly ($7,668 versus $4,423).

The complete compilation of prices is here.

Setting that variance—which has much to do with state-by-state higher education priorities—aside, the fact remains that early childhood care is worryingly out of reach for many American families, wherever they are.

The US government defines “affordable” childcare as that which costs less than 10% of a family’s income; yet only 10 states have average childcare costs that meet that standard, the EPI found, based on calculations with the median income for a family of four.

It should be an alarm to policymakers that educational access is already limited at such an early age. And for parents: maybe it’s even more reason to look seriously into schooling opportunities abroad.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.