Editorial: The cost of education


Meredith Cullen

A recent study by the national organization Child Care Aware of America showed that in 31 states across America, early child care costs more than public in-state college tuition.
In New York, it costs around $8,000 more for the average family to put their child in preschool than to send them to a public university each year. This is resulting in more stay-at-home mothers, up 7% from 1999, just to make sure their child is taken care of, the study also found. An article published in The Washington Post on this study joked that parents have to start saving for their children’s daycare and higher education when they are eight years old.
These numbers are shocking. They also relate to a previous article published by Patricia McGuire, president of the Trinity Washington University, in The Washington Post. She pointed out that while the funding for Pell Grants (grants given to high-achieving, low-income college students) is great, it is being directed in the wrong way. McGuire argues that this money should be redirected to early education programs, instead of rewarding low-income students from breaking the barriers in education. While we should celebrate the incredible achievement these students have made, we need to spend that money on helping students from low-income families be successful, instead of leaving them in the dust and rewarding those who have beaten the odds. If more money is funneled to preschools, more low-income students would have opportunities to receive a better education, therefore having a greater chance at a higher education and working their way out of poverty.
The most important years in a child’s learning have been proven to be before the child enters kindergarten. Money needs to be re-directed to pre-K efforts so that all children may get a quality education early in life to set them on the right track. Unfortunately, only high-income families can afford a pre-K education. Lower-income families have a higher percentage of stay-at-home mothers, because they cannot afford to start their child’s education before kindergarten. More money needs to fund pre-K education so that any child, regardless of family income, can receive a quality education early in life. This will help set the precedent for better learning later and bridge the divide between education of high-income and low-income families.
Too much money today is being directed at rewarding high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds through scholarships, and as this recent study points out, the divide between income levels only deepens as the cost of daycare rises. Education is the gateway to success in all parts of society. However, we cannot disregard the high cost of early education. Helping lower-income families afford to send their children to preschool will help them be more successful academically later in life, and help more families rise above the poverty level.