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Childcare & school enrollment

Childcare overview

The cost for full-time childcare in Cambridge and the surrounding areas is one of the top 5 most expensive in the nation. Tuition for full-time childcare in Cambridge can range from $30,000-$51,000 per year, depending on the age of the child.

We share this information to be transparent about costs you may encounter as a family and help you begin your childcare planning process well in advance of your childcare needs. 

Full-time childcare at an affordable price point is very limited and often involves lottery applications and long waiting lists. You should begin to consider your childcare needs at least 8-12 months prior to when you would like your child to begin care. 

Below are childcare resources available to you, including 15 days of subsidized short-term backup childcare, information networks for conducting the childcare search process, and information about the full-pay childcare centers on campus.

Childcare resources

Backup childcare – As an MIT graduate student, you can use short-term backup child care for 15 days per fiscal year when regular child care or school arrangements for your child are disrupted by school closings, vacations, partner travel, provider illness, or when your child is mildly ill. You can also use backup child care when care is not normally available—to allow you to study for exams, attend MIT events, and participate in other school-related activities. You can only book care for your own child.

You can learn more about the benefit on the HR website.

You must have an account to request care.

Plan ahead for summer childcare

Already signed up for summer camp? Remember, camps typically end a few weeks before school begins, and it’s important to plan ahead! You will need to make other arrangements for child care – or plan to take vacation days– to fill the gap in care. 

There is a very high demand for backup child care providers (both in-person and in-center) in August, and they may not be able to fill your request for care. If you need assistance finding child care and/or summer camp options, please reach out to MIT GAIN. Their experts can conduct a customized search based on your preferred schedule, location, budget, and any other criteria you may have.

Care types and costs

The graduate student backup care program is subsidized by the Office of Graduate Education and administered by the MIT Center for WorkLife & WellBeing.

In-home backup childcare*:’s screened and trained caregivers are available to provide care 24-hours per day, seven days per week.

  • The subsidized cost for care is $5.00 per hour (with a minimum of 4 hours per day and a maximum of 10 hours per day).

In-center backup child care*:’s licensed centers, near home or work, provide care during business hours for children from ages 6-weeks to 12-years (please note that due to COVID-19, many centers may not be available for backup care).

  • The subsidized cost for care is $10.00 per child, per day (no minimum or maximum number of hours per day).

* If is unable to fill your Backup Child Care request, you may source a caregiver from your personal network. You are responsible for hiring, vetting, and negotiating rates, as well as applying to receive reimbursement for part of the cost up to $100 per day. Personal Network Backup Child Care is available only in the event that is unable to fill your request for In-Home or In-Center Backup Child Care.

Requesting care


By phone: Call 866-228-2965 during the hours below

  • Monday – Thursday: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST
  • Friday: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST
  • Sunday: 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. EST

Childcare search resources

The Graduate Assistance Information Network – (GAIN) is a huge time-saver in the search for childcare options locally, whether you are looking for home care options or daycare centers; they will provide you with a list of options tailored to your needs. 1‐844‐MIT‐GAIN

Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) maintains a database of licensed family and center-based care sites if you would like to conduct your own search of centers near you. 

MIT Technology Childcare Centers (TCC) The TCC includes four childcare centers in Cambridge and one in Lexington. Full-time and part-time infant, toddler, and preschool care are available at full cost, with a limited number of slots for graduate student families.

School enrollment overview

School enrollment looks different depending on the age of your child and the type of school they attend. This page only covers public school options. You can learn more about charter schools and private schools here (link coming soon). All students must live in the city or town in which they enroll their children.

Preschool & kindergarten

NEW Cambridge Preschool Program (CPP): In Winter 2023/2024, Cambridge will open the application for the new Cambridge Preschool Program, which will begin in Fall 2024. This program will be free and available to all 4-year-olds, and some 3-year-olds (see CPP website for details on eligibility).

Cambridge Public Schools Kindergarten: Cambridge uses a lottery system for Kindergarten placement. Children must turn 5 years old on or before August 31 to be eligible for Kindergarten.

Grade 1-12 enrollment 

Cambridge 1st grade (age 6-7) through 12th grade (age 18-19) programs: Cambridge offers a variety of options, including English immersion programs and longer-day programs. Students are guaranteed a spot at one of the schools in their town and can rank the schools that best fit their family’s needs. Families may not be granted enrollment in their top-ranked school, but can remain on the waitlist while attending the school they have been offered.

We recommend starting the registration enrollment process as early as possible. Registration may be open up to a year prior to enrollment.

School enrollment in other cities/towns

If you live in a neighboring city or town, visit your municipality’s public school site: