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Education

Preschool in the U.S. now costs more than college, report says

Preschoolers
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The cost of full-time preschool now exceeds the in-state tuition rate at many state colleges in the U.S.

If you plan on sending your kid to full-time day care or preschool, you better start saving.

That's because the average cost of child care in the U.S. now tops the average cost of in-state college tuition, according to a new report from the think tank New America.

Nationally, the average annual cost of enrolling a kid age four or younger in full-time day care or preschool is $9,589 per kid. The average cost of in-state college tuition is $9,410, according to the report.

That means a family earning the median income has to spend 18% of its income on child care. And it's even more dire for minimum-wage earners, who have to shell out about 64% of their income.

In four states - Kentucky, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin - the cost of full-time care is more than the median rent in the state. In 11 states, full-time care is greater than 90% of the typical cost of rent, according to the report.

Tanyell Cooke is with the Economic Policy Institute. She told The Wall Street Journal:

High-quality child care is out of reach for many families. This crisis is not limited to low-income families, nor is it unique to certain parts of the country. It affects everyone, in every state.

The quality of child care is very important. High-quality early education improves a kid's health and promotes their development and learning. Patricia Cole is with Zero to Three, a nonprofit devoted to advancing early childhood development. She told The Huffington Post:

Day care is not just a place where children can go so parents can work, but it is important for the brain development of children. Infancy and early childhood are when brain development is most rapid.

But a lot of child care in the U.S. is not so great. Only 11% of child care centers nationwide are accredited. And a 2007 study found that just 10% of U.S. day care providers offered high-quality care. Most providers were ranked as providing care that was only fair or poor.

As my colleague April Van Buren previously reported, while financial assistance is available, child care subsidies in many states are reserved for the poorest of the poor. Michigan's income cut-off is just over $24,000 for a family of three. Van Buren wrote:

A lot of low-income working parents find themselves in a catch-22. If they keep working, they're on the hook for an average of $200 per week in child-care costs. If they drop out of the work force to take care of children, they're eligible for subsidies they no longer need.

So how do we make high-quality care more accessible for families? New America recommends:

  • Universal paid family leave;
  • Expanding and improving cash assistance programs;
  • Implementing high-quality universal pre-K programs; and
  • Focusing resources on programs aimed at dual-language learners.

You can read New America's full report here.

And you should probably start putting some money into that preschool fund now.

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