28 States Where Childcare Costs More Than College

A mother watches her child put money into a piggy bank


Kayla Heisler
Kayla Heisler1.16k

Though the dramatic increase of college tuition has been a hot topic over the last decade, I hate to report that parents can expect to start breaking the bank far sooner than they may think. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, affordable childcare should not cost more than 7 percent of a family’s income. Yet despite this assessment, a new analysis of childcare costs in the U.S. reveals that families in every state pay far more than that, and the amount parents pay for childcare rivals the cost of public university in-state  tuition plus fees in 28 states! 

A precise estimate of the national average childcare cost  is a difficult number to come up, as families use a variety of services to ensure their little ones are taken care of. Still, the closest estimate for the national average cost is believed to be in the range of $9,000 to $9,600 annually.

One contributing factor to the high costs of childcare is the scant amount of public money America supplies to fund child care and early education. While the average OECD country spends .7% of its GDP on early childhood education and care, the U.S. allocated less than half that amount in 2013. The only country out of the only country that spent less out of the 36 member countries was Turkey.

The impacts of the steep cost of childcare stretches far and wide. The U.S. has been experiencing a declining fertility rate, and over half of young adults who participated in a New York Times survey provided the high cost of childcare as being the top reason why they expect to have fewer children than they would like.

The high cost has also led to more women taking a step back from their careers by working part time to offset the cost—women are twice as likely to pursue part-time employment than men are, and 6.5 percent of women cite problems with childcare as being their cause for working part time. Only .8 percent of men stated the same.

Interest in the government contributing more money to child care and early education has been expressed from both political parties. Until that idea becomes a reality, these are the states where childcare cost exceeds in-state tuition and fees at their public four-year universities:

28. Idaho, $7,296

27. New Mexico, $8,412

26. West Virginia, $8,528

25. North Dakota, $8,875

24. Florida, $9,018

23. North Carolina, $9,254

22. Utah, $9,708

21. Missouri, $9,802

20. Iowa, $10,131

19. Wyoming, $10,394

18. Kansas, $10,955

17. Nevada, $11,137

16. Alaska, $11,832

15. Wisconsin, $12,268

14. Nebraska, $12,272

13. Indiana, $12,312

12. Oregon, $13,292

11. Rhode Island, $13,370

10. Hawaii, $13,404

9. Virginia, $13,728

8. Washington, $14,208

7. Colorado, $14,960

6. Maryland, $14,970

5. New York, $15,028

4. Connecticut, $15,132

3. Minnesota, $15,704

2. California, $16,542

1. Massachusetts, $20,415

More on the childcare costs: 


Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.