College costs loom large in the parental mind. According to a 2013 report by Sallie Mae, half of parents are putting away money for their kids' education. Those who aren't are fretting about it, saying that they feel "frustrated," "overwhelmed" and "annoyed" when they think about college savings.
But most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.
A report by Child Care Aware of America, a national organization of child-care resource and referral agencies, found last fall that the annual cost of day care for an infant exceeds the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges in 31 states.
The biggest gap is in New York, where day care will set you back nearly $15,000 a year but in-state college tuition averages just $6,500 — a difference of over $8,000.
Maryland, Massachusetts, Colorado and Oregon also have large gaps. Maryland, for instance, is ranked fifth in the nation when it comes to the annual cost of putting an infant in day care, at $13,055. But it's in the middle of the pack with regards to in-state college tuition, at $8,220 per year. This means Maryland parents will pay nearly $5,000 more per year, on average, to put a kid in day care than they will to put the child through college.
At the other end of the spectrum is South Carolina, where in-state tuition is higher than the cost of day care by about $4,000 a year. This is in part because the state cut funding for higher education by 67 percent from 1980 to 2011, according to the American Council on Education, forcing parents to pick up the slack in the form of higher tuition.