If you’re a parent, you’ve probably already realized that your child’s education can become a major expense. This time out, let’s consider the costs of public versus private school. Besides tuition, there are other associated fees and expenses that may arise throughout your student’s years in school.
On the surface, public school may seem like a free education. However, any public school parent who has faced Back to School sticker shock knows that each new semester can come with its own fee schedule. Across the country, students and their families are shelling out for science lab fees, math and language workbooks, and even registration fees. All these costs add up, so it’s no surprise that many parents opt to educate their own kids at home, via homeshooling or even “unschooling”.
Fees on the Rise for Public Schools
These fees are in addition to costs for sports, band, and other activities that are meant to round out a student’s basic education. Some parents are even devoting thousands of dollars to their children’s public schools. And despite schools’ attempts to raise money through tax increases, voters have increasingly rebuffed these efforts at the polls (makes sense if you don’t have school-aged kids of your own and feel that taxes should be diverted elsewhere). As a result, schools without the tax support and squeezed budgets may feel compelled to charge fees they hadn’t imposed in the past. There isn’t a school around that isn’t doing a fund raiser, going door to door to sell or asking for donations outright.
Besides the usual expenses, there are also some hidden costs for some students as some families can end up moving to a different residence in pursuit of a better public school or school district.
What About Private Schools?
As an alternative to public school, private schools may be able to offer amenities like smaller class sizes, expanded courses, more enrichment programs, and strong athletic programs. Tuition costs can differ from location to location. For example, Holland Hall is a Tulsa private school that offers classes from pre-school to 12th grade. Tuition varies depending on the students’ grade levels. For grades 4 and 5, a year’s tuition is $14,625. There are also fees for activities, transportation, books. You’ll need to pay for uniforms as well. By contrast, Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. charges $31,960 for lower school tuition and $1,000 more for middle and upper school tuition. Over on the West Coast, Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles charges $29,200 for tuition and has additional fees that can add close to $5,000.
Or you might be interested in a Montessori school for your student. Christian Montessori Academy in Tulsa charges $565 per month for its middle school program and you can get a discount for paying a year’s fees in advance. If you prefer parochial or Catholic schools, the average tuition is $3,383 for elementary students and $8,787 for secondary schools, according to the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual data report. Schools with a religious emphasis don’t necessarily exclude those outside the faith or denomination, so if you’re interested in an alternative to local public schools, you can try to approach Catholic or other religious schools.
Tuition Plans & Scholarships
Fortunately, you’ll probably find that the private schools in your area don’t expect you to pay all your fees at once. There may be payment plans that let you spread the cost of tuition through the semesters or they might have a monthly plan you can sign up for.
Financial aid might be available, too. This aid might cover one semester or several. Also, don’t forget to see if scholarships are available from local or national organizations. You should be ready to provide income and other information for any financial aid paperwork. If you’re thinking about boarding school or a school in a non-local district, the cost of housing or transportation may be factors. For more information about the financing process and requirements, check out the National Association of Independent Schools or this article on receiving federal student aid.
One more trend in schooling might be on the rise in your area: online schools. K12 is an organization that helps students learn at their own pace at home. You may have already heard of K12 because it’s backed by financial figures like Michael Milken and others. It’s possible to enroll students in either public or private school depending on availability. Also, parents can purchase more than 200 courses.
Other Factors To Consider When Deciding Between Public vs Private School
We pondered over which school to place our child in as many of us here want to prioritize a child’s education above many other family needs. I know that this has been a controversial subject tackled by other financial bloggers, as people have different, and sometimes very passionate views about their children’s education. Here are some factors that many families take into consideration when determining the right school for their child:
- Quality of the school, whether public or private
- Resources offered by the school
- How well does the school fit the child’s needs, and vice versa
- The child’s profile: is he or she gifted? Does the child have learning issues that require special education resources? Is the child typical?
- The school’s class size
- The availability of the school to supply the right resources for your child
- Your ability to pay for tuition or to get financing
- Peer pressure — where does everyone else send their child? Do you feel compelled to follow suit?
Let’s look at things in perspective here. Preschool in the general vicinity of San Francisco is $1,000 a month. If it’s 3 times a week, half day, you pay $700 – $800 a month. It’s crazy. Private school tuition ranges from $7,000 to $30,000 per year. When the governor is threatening to cut funding to our schools, we parents naturally feel quite concerned about what to do about primary school. We ask ourselves: should we check out private school as an option? Tough choices here…
It’s likely that each family has a different response when it comes to choosing public versus private school. If you’ve been trying to decide between the two, factor in the benefits as well as the expense.
Research help provided by Millie Kay G.
Created September 22, 2006. Updated June 26, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.