Child Care Costs Surpass College

By Elisha Freeman, Executive Director

The average cost of child care here in North Carolina is $9,135 per year for infant care and $7,774 for a 4-year-old. This is more than the tuition at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, where tuition alone equals $6,392 per year, or Western Carolina University, where tuition alone equals $8,135 per year.

It’s shocking, isn’t it?

Yes, there are other fees related to college that drive the price higher, but we don’t often stop and think that, at a base level, child care is more expensive.

Child care is a major expense in family budgets. Parents are rarely prepared for the cost, which hits at a time in life when they are likely at their lowest earning potential. Research shows that the cost of child care is, on average, at least 10 percent of a dual-income family’s budget and 34 percent of a single parent’s budget.

I took a little poll around my office to see what two real-life scenarios looked like.

One employee is married and both she and her husband work. They are young professionals with master’s degrees. Child care for their child takes 12 percent of their annual budget. They feel the pinch, but they have things under control.

Another employee is a single mother, also a young professional with her master’s degree. Child care for her son takes 40 percent of her annual budget! This leaves very little to manage for housing, food, medical expenses, clothing, automobile or other basic living expenses.

Like many parents in our community, she receives a child care social service subsidy to help her pay for child care. This subsidy covers 58 percent of her bill and she covers the remaining 42 percent, which is about 10 percent of her salary, making child care more affordable and more in line with the percentage paid by the two-income family.

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