Quality child care—an essential foundation for children, with a lasting benefit—can cost as much as or more than college tuition, about $17,700 a year in Washington state, on average. But the expense also comes at a time of life when many parents are still relatively early in their careers, stretching their budgets, and often forcing trade-offs between work and family that have lasting impacts, particularly for women.
Audra Jung and Jamee Herbert see an opportunity for financial innovation to help middle-income families navigate the pre-school years, allowing parents to increase their buying power for child care today and pay for it in the elementary and middle school years when their incomes will presumably be higher and expenses lower.
They’re building a startup, BridgeCare Finance, that would make personal loans to families to pay for child care, beginning as soon as this summer. The Seattle-based company will pitch Wednesday evening at the Fledge startup accelerator demo day, alongside five other nascent businesses. BridgeCare recently won the audience choice award at the Seattle Angel Conference. (Jung is pictured above, at left, Herbert at right.)
BridgeCare COO Jung, whose background is in early childhood education, recalls a tense board meeting while working at a cooperative preschool. The teachers needed a raise. (Indeed, child-care work, despite its importance in development, is chronically undervalued.) The parents agreed, but one stood up to say a tuition increase would put the school out of reach for his family.
“It’s just between a rock and a hard place,” she says. “Increasing the buying power of families through finance, like we do for other really important things, to me, makes sense,” Jung says.
It makes sense to me, too. This month, my family is entering a season of peak child-care costs, with two kids in preschool five days a week. Our annualized cost for both kids at a pre-school we love is more than $36,000. In-state tuition at University of Washington, not including living expenses, is $11,578 per student.
Herbert, the company’s CEO, says the ideal solution would be for society to appropriately value child care through public subsidies. The subsidized child care that does exist, however, through programs like Head Start and efforts such as the city of…