December 7, 2021

The High Cost of Childcare and How Congress Can Help Student-Parents

Monica Konaté
Policy and Advocacy

The high cost of childcare is an issue that substantially impacts the economic circumstances of many low- and middle-income families. Because of these costs, parents are often forced to make choices between high quality care and cost, being a stay-at-home parent or working, or working full-time versus working part-time. For student-parents, the choices often center around trying to manage the cost of tuition, the cost of childcare, and the ability to be fully engaged in coursework while also parenting.  In addition, because of the lack of affordable on-campus childcare, student-parents are also sometimes forced to make decisions between persisting in higher education or dropping out.  Parents should never have to forgo pursuing economic opportunities or higher education because of the cost of childcare and, with the Build Back Better Act, Congress has an opportunity to meaningfully help parents by lowering the cost of childcare for millions of struggling low-and middle-income families.

For years, families have struggled with the rising cost of childcare. Over the past decade alone, parents have seen these costs increase by 25 percent while the cost of infant care now exceeds the cost of in-state tuition at public colleges in the majority of states and the District of Columbia. Even more alarming is that despite the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommending that families spend no more than 7 percent of their income on childcare, many single parents are spending closer to 37 percent. In fact, a recent article by the New York Times highlighted a story about a family whose childcare costs were far greater than their mortgage payments and accounted for a third of their income.

This financial burden does not just fall on parents in the workforce. Twenty-four percent of undergraduates and 32 percent of graduate students are parents. For this population, access to affordable childcare is a critical component in determining whether they will have the time or the money to complete or even begin to pursue a degree.

That is why the Build Back Better Act’s provisions providing free universal preschool and ensuring that families who earn below a certain amount pay no more than 7 percent of their income on childcare is so critically important. These provisions would not only help working families participate more fully in our economy, but they would also help student-parents meaningfully pursue higher education by giving them the ability to devote more time to their studies. It is clear that the growing cost of childcare is unsustainable, but Congress has a chance to provide critical support to struggling low- and middle-income working families and student-parents by passing the Build Back Better Act.


Read our letter of support for president Biden’s commitment to supporting student-parents.  

Read our letter of support for the Child Care for Working Families Act.