Which costs more in a calendar year: child care for an infant in Lincoln or a full course load at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln? The estimated in-state tuition and fees at UNL is $9,246 for the current school year, while child care for infants averages $1,000 per month, or $12,000 a year, according to Prosper Lincoln.

While subsidies to cover some or all child care costs are available for families near the poverty line, a coalition of child advocacy groups has announced its plans to create a program that will offer assistance to many more families whose children attend qualifying providers in Lincoln.

Given the increased cost — and demand — for child care in the current economy, the Lincoln Littles Early Childhood Fund has identified an area of great need. Their proposal to solicit private funding to make this noble goal a reality now and into the future deserves the capital city’s generosity.

As wage growth has slowed to a crawl, the necessity for two-income households, in which 78 percent of children live, per the U.S. Census Bureau, is now greater than ever. Yet the swift, steep falloff from income levels covered by federal and state subsidies to nothing can hinder — or even preclude — a parent’s workforce participation or advancement.

Those at or below the federal poverty line ($25,750 for a family of four) are eligible to receive assistance paying all child care costs, while those up to 130 percent of the level ($32,628 for a family of four) can have a portion of the costs covered. Meanwhile, Lincoln Public Schools’ early childhood programs have a waiting list of 750 children.

To close the gap for those who exceed that threshold, Lincoln Littles aims to provide some subsidies to families making up to 200 percent the poverty level — $51,500 for a family of four. At that point, parents shouldn’t have to choose between their children and their jobs.

This initiative, a partnership between the Lincoln Community Foundation and the Nebraska Children and Family Foundation, is being powered initially by seed money from the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the Kellogg Foundation and various other nonprofits.

But this investment in the community wouldn’t be complete without the community’s help. Fittingly, its inaugural giving day event fell on Feb. 12, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

Lincoln Journal Star