SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Parents in northwest Louisiana pay roughly the same or more to send young children to daycare than older children to college based on data from the National Database for Childcare pricing.

Based on data obtained from 2008 until 2018, and calculated into today’s prices, data from the National Database for Childcare Pricing shows the cost of full-time daycare in Caddo Parish is $6,845 per child per year.

The average weekly rate of child care in Caddo Parish is about $131.63, with some centers charging significantly more than the average rates shown on in the database.

Meanwhile, fall and spring in-state tuition at Louisiana State University Shreveport totals $7414.68 for the 2022/23 school year. Leaving a $569.68 difference in price between sending your offspring to college for spring and fall semesters at LSUS or to daycare for a year in Caddo Parish based on the NDCP figures.

“Childcare is extremely unaffordable,” Charmaine Davis, the Director of Regional Programs and Operations for the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, said.

New parents are often encouraged to start 529 college savings plans to prepare for their children’s college expenses. However, saving for a child’s college while paying daycare fees equivalent to college tuition is not financially sustainable for many parents.

Davis said 1.4 million working mothers were forced out of their jobs in the United States at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic because daycare costs have become too expensive to manage.

“This is a problem that not only impacts families but our economy as a whole,” Davis said. “High cost of childcare hits working families hard.”

And the situation isn’t just problematic in Caddo Parish. Full-time daycare costs in Lincoln Parish are $7,491 per child per year, while spring and fall semesters at Grambling State University, including fees, total $7,683. With a mere $192 price difference between a year’s worth of college tuition and daycare costs for the year, there’s little wiggle room in the budgets of parents with multiple children.

The same is true across northwest Louisiana.

One price-saving measure many parents rely on to offset the cost of college is not readily available to offset daycare costs – scholarships.

The lack of scholarships and financial aid for children to attend school from birth through age four suggests that society does not yet understand the benefits of young children learning social and emotional skills and meeting crucial neurological milestones.

Quality early childhood education is key to brain development

Human brains are continually developing in the first five years of life, and more than a million new neural connections are being formed every second after a child is born and until they’re a few years old. The meeting of neurological milestones is critical during the formative years of a child’s life, and forming close relationships with peers and caretakers at an early age gives children an advantage that will greatly help them throughout their lives.   

An MIT study on the long-term effects of preschool vs. no preschool in Boston Public School students found that children who attended preschool were more likely to graduate high school, take the SAT, enroll in college on time, had fewer high school suspensions, and were less likely to be incarcerated as a juvenile.

How childcare connects to the workforce

There is also a connection between the high cost of childcare and the climbing maternal workforce participation rate. Davis pointed out that a 10% increase in median childcare prices is associated with a 1% decrease in maternal workforce participation.

Childcare in Bossier, Webster, and Caddo Parishes costs parents slightly less than $7,000 per year per child, according to the NDCP. But rising childcare costs aren’t just bad for moms in the workforce. It’s also bad news for childcare workers, too.

Davis said the Women’s Bureau cares about the price of childcare, but they also care about childcare workers. She said statistics show childcare employment is about 7.5% below what it was in Feb. 2020, and only five states have seen childcare worker numbers recover to pre-pandemic employment levels.

But wages are still meager for those workers who returned to the childcare sector. According to Davis, the hourly median wage of a daycare worker in the United States is $13.22. That equates to $27,497.60 a year, minus taxes.

“More than 90% of childcare workers are women, and we want to see this female-dominated industry improve,” Davis said.

Childcare industry insiders hope the government will offset what families pay for childcare. More affordable daycare can lead to better educational success for the nation’s youth and give women better workforce advancement opportunities.

The hourly median wage of daycare workers has room for improvement, too.