Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy) | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Are child care costs higher than tuition?

The statement

"In 31 states, decent child care costs more than college tuition."

President Barack Obama, in a speech June 23

The ruling

We tracked down the source of the claim: a 2013 report by Child Care Aware of America, which describes itself as the "nation's leading voice for child care."

After surveying child care providers in all 50 states, the report concludes that "in 2012, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year's tuition and fees at a four-year public college." Among the 50 states, the costs for infant care in center-based care ranged from $5,467 in Alabama to $16,430 in Massachusetts. Tuition and fees ranged from $4,278 in Wyoming to $14,576 in New Hampshire.

That seems pretty close to what Obama said.

It's worth noting some clarifying language in the report — "for an infant in center-based care" — that is absent from Obama's statement. This is actually the highest-cost example of the four cases the report looked at.

If you look at the cost for a 4-year-old in center-based care — rather than an infant — it costs more than in-state college tuition and fees in 19 states. That's 39 percent fewer states compared with statistics for infant care.

The report also looked at costs for home-based care, which is often a less-expensive option for parents. For infants, the cost of home-based care is higher than college costs in 14 states. That's a 55 percent reduction in states compared to Obama's 31.

And for 4-year-olds, the cost of home-based care is higher than college in 10 states. That's a 68 percent reduction in states compared with Obama's 31.

So Obama chose the most dramatic number of the four presented by the report — a bit of cherry picking.

It's also worth noting that Obama's claim doesn't factor in tax credits and federal assistance for child care.

For instance, according to the child care group's study, "about 2.6 million children received federal subsidies through one of several funding sources including the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Social Services Block Grant. Additional public funding that supports early care/education is allocated for programs such as child welfare initiatives and special education."

In addition, the report said, "parents and businesses can take advantage of tax credits for supporting child care, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and Dependent Care Assistance Programs."

All of these would reduce the cost of child care for many families. Of course, there are also tax credits and federal grants on the college side of the equation, and it's possible the benefits for college are more significant than those for child care. Still, because we don't know the impact of discounts either for child care or college costs, it adds another layer of uncertainty into Obama's seemingly crisp summary.

On balance, we rate the claim Mostly True.

Louis Jacobson, Times staff writer

Edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Are child care costs higher than tuition? 07/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 4, 2014 2:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest


    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.