Families in Mississippi spend an average of nearly $2,000 for just five weeks of enrollment in a summer learning program. That cost amounts to 16 percent of the median summer income for a two-parent household and more than double what is considered affordable by the federal government, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress.
If parents in the state want to enroll two children in summer learning programs for the full summer, or about 10 weeks, they can expect to pay an average of more than $3,700, the report found, or 33 percent of a household’s median summer income. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers child care affordable if it is 7 percent or less of household income.
The lack of affordable summer learning programs is troubling in Mississippi, where nearly 30 percent of children live in poverty and opportunities for summer learning vary greatly. Low-income students are especially at risk of the “summer slide,” or losing valuable progress in academics, due to a lack of education programming during summer vacation. Research shows low-income youth lose up to three months of reading achievement and two months of math achievement during this time out of school. Higher-income youth, by contrast, often make small gains in achievement over the summer.
The high cost of summer programs may help explain why so few students are enrolled. The Afterschool Alliance reported in 2014 that nearly 50 percent of Mississippi families surveyed said they wanted to enroll their child in a summer learning program, yet less than one-third of families actually enrolled at least one child in a summer program.