Childcare Now Costs More Than College Tuition In More Than Half Of US States

We should all be outraged, whether we have kids or not.

dad with three kids walking Vitolda Klein / Unsplash 

The messaging we receive about the U.S. economy being strong is at direct odds with how most citizens experience their current financial situations. We’re being told the economy is in a great place, yet most of us feel stretched thin, struggling to make ends meet, despite working full-time jobs. 

There might be no better example of this particular financial dissonance than parents’ struggle to afford childcare.


Childcare now costs more than college tuition in over half of the United States. recently released results from their 2024 Cost of Care Report. The 11th annual report is based on feedback from 2,000 parents, and the outcomes it conveys are actually jaw-dropping.

About 47% of parents are spending up to $18,000 annually on childcare. 20% of parents reported spending over $36,000 annually. 35% of parents are spending their savings to cover those costs, with 68% of them reporting they only have 6 months' worth of savings before their accounts are completely emptied.

RELATED: Married Couple Making $180,000 Have A Hard Time Making Ends Meet After Paying $80,000 A Year In Childcare


Childcare Now Costs More Than College Tuition In More Than Half Of US StatesPhoto: Jason Sung / Unsplash 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the above costs for college would set a family back $24,030 in the 2023 to 2024 school year. The cost of care for babies and toddlers is more than parents would pay for a 4-year, in-state public university, including tuition, fees, and the cost of room and board.



On average, families spend 24% of their income on childcare, a number that well exceeds what the Department of Health and Human Services states is affordable childcare, which should cost families no more than 7% of their total income. 


Parents are paying an average of $1,031 more a year for childcare than the cost of public college tuition.

At the top of the spectrum is Hawaii, where annual childcare costs come out to $21,016. In-state college tuition in Hawaii costs $5,021, which means that childcare is $15,995 more than college. At the lower end of the spectrum is Oregon, where childcare costs $10,039 a year, and college costs $8,333 a year, making the difference $1,706 a year.

Brad Wilson, the CEO of, spoke eloquently and forcefully about the crux of the issues at hand: The exorbitant cost of childcare in the U.S. affects everyone, not just parents.

"Within the first five years of their child's life, parents are being forced into a financial hole that is nearly impossible to climb out of. A healthy economy depends upon the ability for people to save and spend, but given the crushing weight of child care costs, those pillars are crumbling," he stated. 



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“The childcare crisis should be a major red flag for everyone, not just parents,” Wilson continued. “It is a systemic failure that will impact our nation’s economic growth, and that affects us all.”

Economist Keisha Blair spoke to Newsweek about how the U.S. systemically fails parents, and all of us, by being “the only industrialized country that doesn't have national paid leave for childcare.”

"The United States has the most educated workforce of women in the labor market but the lowest labor force participation rate of women," Blair said.

Childcare Now Costs More Than College Tuition In More Than Half Of US StatesPhoto: Thiago Cerqueira / Unsplash


Childcare was a struggle even before the pandemic hit, yet the toll of COVID-19 on daycare centers can’t be understated.

Our nation is literally standing on the edge of the childcare cliff, waiting to see what happens next. $24 billion in pandemic-era funding was essential to keeping childcare programs open and accessible since 2020. With the expiration of that funding in September 2023, both childcare jobs and spots for kids in need of care are set to disappear. 

For years, parents have been screaming into the void about how much it costs to raise their children, and now, we’re truly on a devastating precipice. For all the parents, mostly moms, who’ve had to quit their jobs and leave the workforce, there are men like Dave Ramsey essentially denying their reality.

This is an issue that goes beyond families: It centers around what we expect from our institutions, and how we’re cared for by the powers that be. Here’s hoping this is the tipping point, and some form of sea change is on its way. 


RELATED: Mom & CEO Shares Her Theory About Why Federal Childcare Funding Was Cut — And It Will Have You Seeing Red

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers parenting, pop culture and all things to do with the entertainment industry.