Think college is expensive? Try child care.

by Emma Nelson

Parents across the nation no longer have 18 years to prepare for college tuition costs. According to a study released Thursday by Child Care Aware of America, infant child care is more expensive than in-state college tuition in 35 states.

Minnesota has the second-most expensive child care in the nation, after New York. According to the Star Tribune, one year of infant care in Minnesota costs $13,579.

The report determined affordability across all 50 states by examining both the cost of child care and median income, CNN reported. New York was determined most expensive because of the high cost of living, as well as extensive regulations for child care facilities.

For many families, child care costs are their largest expense, often exceeding rent payments. According to CNN, the report found the cost of enrolling one child in a child care center exceeded median rent payments in almost half of all states. The cost of enrolling two children is greater than median rent payments in every state.

The cost of child care in Minnesota comes from state requirements as well as increased expectations from parents, said Chad Dunkley, president of the Minnesota Child Care Association and director of New Horizon Academy.

"They want to see child education, not care. They want a combination of both," he told the Star Tribune.

High costs also come from the fact that in Minnesota, most child care centers are located in the Twin Cities. Ann McCully, executive director of the Minnesota Child Care Resources Referral Network, told the Star Tribune that two-thirds of the state's centers are in urban areas, where the high costs of labor and building drive tuition prices up.

The report encourages states themselves to assist families in paying for child care, rather than suggesting that centers cut tuition rates. States with lower rates, such as Mississippi — where costs are $3,900 per year — also have some of the lowest-quality care in the nation.