The annual cost of day care for infants in most states now exceeds a year of public college tuition, an issue that has become a significant problem for the nation’s labor force. Because day care devours at least 30 percent of a minimum-wage worker’s earnings in every state, getting the job training necessary to move up the income scale is effectively impossible for many parents.

The potential for surging child-care costs to stifle workforce development has prompted the Labor Department to step in, offering $25 million in grants next year to programs that make it easier for parents to find quality care while they attend college or learn a new trade.


Data doesn’t tell us how many U.S. parents are enrolled in job-training programs, juggling bedtime stories with night classes. But we know that more than a quarter of American undergraduates are raising children, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. That’s roughly 4.8 million degree seekers who are responsible for much more than their grades.

For these students, studies show that the cost of day care is a barrier to graduation. Fifty-nine percent of a sample of Mississippi mothers who dropped out of community colleges told researchers that access to more stable, affordable care could have kept them in school.