Tuition Costs – 19 year olds versus 4 year olds

I’ve been hoping to get back into blogging about UW things, which isn’t really a focus of ForwardLookout. Most of what I want to write about isn’t that time-critical, but I saw something the other day that I wanted to write about without delay.

As David Ward’s term as interim Chancellor has been extended another year, he’s gotten some extra media attention. The Cap Times has two pieces in this week’s issue – one detailing funding and pay issues UW Madison is facing, and one with some of the campus and system political intrigue with the extension of the term.

The piece that I want to point out was Deborah Ziff’s interview with Ward. Check out this answer:

Q: You’ve said you’ve heard from almost everyone that salaries are a huge problem. Do you have a plan for bringing back raises or a pay plan?
A: I do think the morale-salary relationship is a problem. Having said that, I think everybody has to recognize that outside the university, it’s not seen as a problem. In a recession, looking at a relatively high-paid, upper-middle-class occupation, if you’re in a rural community or if you’re in Racine, or even perhaps the East Side of Madison, there’s something odd about this. I think there’s an enormous communication problem in trying to express that issue. And by the way, the same is true of tuition increases.

(Bolded emphasis mine)

When people start to really dig into the numbers, the optics become much more difficult. I was talking with a professor friend of mine about tuition, and he asked me if I knew what day care costs were. It turns out, it costs a family about the same to keep their 4 year old in day care as it does for their 19 year old to attend college. Using the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies’s numbers, it’s:
4 Year Old: $7,661 (average for an in family child-care home. In a care center, average cost is $9,039)
19 Year Old: $7,652 (average annual tuition and fees for a 4 year college)

To look at more Madison specific numbers:
4 Year Old: $9,990
19 Year Old: $10,478

The 4 Year Old is the rate at Red Caboose Daycare, the center nearest to my house. That’s using the steepest discount they offer (available to a single parent with a gross income under $26,964 a year) and at only 50 weeks a year, not 52. The undiscounted rate is $13,050 a year. (For an infant, it’s $14,550)
The UW Madison tuition is in-state plus seg fees, but not including books and other required materials, which the Financial Aid office estimates at $1140 a year.

I didn’t include room and board. Both of them have to eat, though admittedly the caloric intake of a 19 year old is greater than that of the 4 year old. There are also some tax credits available for both child care (Child Tax Credits and Child and Dependent Care Credit) and college tuition (Lifetime Learning Credit) worth about $2000, though the college credits aren’t refundable so they’re not quite as good. Because they’re basically the same, I call it a wash.

As near as I can tell, financial assistance for subsidized child care is only available for people making under about $29,000 a year (more if you’ve got multiple children) and after that you’re on your own. I could be wrong, because the patchwork of programs are very confusing.

So Ward is right. For everything we say about how the tuition is too damn high, to a family out in the suburbs, when they actually look at the numbers it’s hard to convince them that this is a real problem. And, there are more families struggling to figure out how to secure day care than there are families struggling to pay for college.


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