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Can’t Afford to Save for College? That’s Because You’re Spending so Much on Childcare

By Madeline Holler |

college tution, cost of childcare

That must have cost a fortune! Childcare costs even higher in some states than college tuition and fees.

Something that’s beat into the heads of everyone who ever decided to have a kid is that we should have already been saving for college. This list of four mistakes from U.S. News and World Report lists “starting too late to save” as the No. 1 error.

Most of us know this and yet, according to statistics, most of us haven’t started saving. Or, in my case, know they’re not saving enough. And of course, like all economic matters in this era, we tend to blame the individual for not taking enough personal responsibility. We blame ourselves for not starting early and not investing enough.

This really interesting info-graphic in GOOD magazine compares the cost of two major necessities — daycare and college — and should put to rest any feelings of guilt over your lack of college savings (and fire up your feelings of frustration over how little support U.S. families get with childcare costs).

We all know that infant childcare typically costs the most. In 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, the annual cost for 35 hours of infant childcare added up to more than a year of college tuition and fees at public institutions in those states. So in Minnesota in 2011, families shelled out more than $12,000 per year on average for childcare for their babies and around $9,000 to send their grown babies to a state college for the year. New Yorkers paid slightly more for childcare and $3,000 per year less for state university.

Daycare and public college in Utah cost nearly the same, though it was $400 per year on average higher for daycare for babies than college for young adults. In D.C., families paid a whopping $17,000 to have a daycare center care for their babies. Sending kids to public university was a savings by comparison — a whole $10K less for a year.

Overall, the nation paid an average of $9,520 for infant care and an average of $7,700 for preschoolers. Even average costs for school-aged kids, $5097, rivaled what some states pay for a year of state college classes.

Here’s the thing about these statistics: it’s not as if daycare workers are going home to sit atop a pile of gold-bar stacked in their basements. They’re some of the lowest paid professions around. Moreover, these daycare numbers don’t take into account a lot of fundraising that parents are asked (sometimes forced) into participating in. These high costs are, while high, also not high enough.

Which is why government subsidies of childcare in the U.S. should be on the minds of policy makers, mom-in-chief and mother-praising speech-givers, and a part of any recovery program meant to create jobs and get money into the economy. One paycheck should not be eaten up by childcare costs, that’s ridiculous. But we put up with it. Childcare costs get in the way of many women returning to work after having more than one kid (doubling down on these costs is impossible). Should the cost of afterschool care really rival college tuition expenses?

How does your state fare? Do you find it hard to pay for childcare and save for college?


More from Madeline on Strollerderby:

‘What to Expect’ Author Expecting a Grandchild

News Outlet Wants to Know How Feminist Author Lost the Baby Weight

Pink Slime Makers Sue ABC News for Defamation

Why Doctors Like the NYC Soda Ban (It’s Not What You Think)

My Kids Can’t (and Don’t) Say the Pledge of Allegiance

Breastfeeding Prof Gets Hounded by Campus Reporter

Free-Range Mom Charges for Unsupervised Non-Playgroup

More on Babble

About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Can’t Afford to Save for College? That’s Because You’re Spending so Much on Childcare

  1. Little Frogs says:

    I had two children in daycare full time up until last year. It cost me almost three thousand a month. It was more than our mortgage and two car payments combined. It was my entire take home pay. And yes, it was more for my youngest than the in-state tuition costs of our state’s flag ship university in the same town.

  2. E says:

    Is your solution to everything for people to take less responsibility?

  3. goddess says:

    No, we chose to sacrifice and have me stay at home while they were too young to go to school, and then I developed an at-home business so I could still be here for them once they went to school. We didn’t upgrade to the McMansion, we drive cars for 8 or more years, don’t have the most trendy home decor, dinner out is an event, etc. But our first kid just graduated with his BS and zero-debt.

  4. Sanriobaby =^.^= says:

    This is why my husband and I chose for me to be a SAHM. Not only was it financially cheaper in the long run, but as a former teacher and nanny myself, I honestly couldn’t bear the thought of someone else caring for my child while I went to work helping to raise another child for pay. Besides, I couldn’t afford to pay a nanny my going rate and expect the same level of care and professionalism that I have without handing over my entire salary and for that reason, I rather stay home. Money is TIGHT, but right now, this is the best choice for our family. Once my daugher (or our youngest child) starts school full time, then I will get a part time job so I can still be there when they get home too. I was grateful to get paid top dollar to care for other children, but I’m more grateful to take care of my own child full time.

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