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When Your Child’s Daycare Costs More Than Your Own Tuition

What makes new parents sweat more than a pending college tuition bill? It’s not that posh Peg Perego pop-up stroller. Nor is it a diamond-encrusted pacifier, or a Gucci diaper bag.


No matter what items William and Kate had put on their registry, it barely compares to the annual cost of childcare in the United States. The Washington Post recently reported that in 31 states, infant daycare costs more than in-state college tuition.


Do you live in a state where you’ll pony up more for childcare care than you will into 529 savings account? Check out the dark brown:




(Conversely, South Carolina and Vermont suddenly look a whole lot more appealing!)


New York is the worst offender in the childcare versus college gap: Daycare for young children costs $8,000 more than in-state college tuition.


Many variables determine who comes out on top. It always helps to have a father who graduated from Harvard (legally admissions is a thing). Or maybe, as our favorite light bulb inventor said, success is ninety-nine percent perspiration. But when it comes to highly motivated, yet resource-strapped parents, the next-best-thing is affordable childcare.


As communities become more spread out and multiple generations no longer tend to live under the same roof. Today’s families are extraordinarily busy: Student parents work 29.2 hours, on average, compared with 21.6 hours among non-parents. That’s on top of spending +30 hours on childcare per week.


Oftentimes, harried parents must research potential schools and daycares one by one, adding up to hours of time invested in making the right decisions for the family’s economic future. Luckily, there’s now a widget designed to take away the guesswork: Degree Solution’s newly launched Student-Parent Childcare Resources.


The variation in pay rates and formats is eye-opening, ranging from cost-per-month to hourly rates to weekly minimum hours. Different campus childcare centers also have different requirements, as well.


For example, a Seattle parent searching for schools within 10 miles of downtown will find that while one community college’s south campus charges $4.45 to $5.25 hourly, its north campus charges $5.50 hourly for toddlers – and requires a minimum of 20 hours weekly.


The costs vary enormously between all six schools within the Seattle search area, which means one thing: There’s hope for your childcare and college budget.


There are, of course, other barriers to consider:


Public funding such as childcare subsidies are an option, but often tilted towards those on the bottom of the income spectrum. Also, even if you had disposable income, there’s the problem of availability. Think Ivy Leagues are obscenely competitive? Compare their rejection rates to how many of America’s community colleges childcare centers hold long waiting lists: 80 percent, with an average of 90 children waiting to be enrolled.


Student parents attend community colleges more than any other type of institution (50 percent),

and make up 29 percent of all students at community colleges. According to Degree Solution’s latest infographic, in 2011 only 47 percent of community colleges reported having on-site children’s centers. This is a 10 percent drop.


So, what else is out there fill in the childcare gaps that every student caregiver needs? Flexible online courses offered by for-profit schools are one alternative.


It’s no coincidence that eighteen percent of student parents enrolled in for-profits, compared to only 6 percent of non-parents. Furthermore, student parents make up nearly half of enrollment at for-profits (source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research). None of this is mere coincidence, since many for-profit schools have the upper hand in offering flexible scheduling.


Unlike many community colleges (only 47 percent of which reported having on-site children’s centers), for-profit schools lead the pack at meeting unique student needs by offering online courses.  They also have much shorter (if any) waiting lists for competitive programs like nursing. This lets parents get back into the workforce much sooner.


Calling all New Yorkers! Instead of spending an average of $8,000 more annually on childcare than on tuition, could you reduce your cost by taking online courses and one-stop shopping around for cheaper campus childcare centers?


When it comes to the long-term benefits of salary increases and experiencing our children’s childhoods, the benefits can be priceless.

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