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Is K-12 Private School Really Worth the Cost?

by : Matt Powers
posted on : 10/14/2013

Private School Education: Worth the Cost?

It used to be that parents would only have to worry about the cost of tuition for sending their children to a private college or university. Nowadays however, many parents are deciding to send their children to private school starting as early as pre-school and kindergarten. The cost of one year of tuition at some K-12 private schools can be as high as or even more costly than a year of college tuition.

Why would parents choose to take on the extra debt and expense of a private school tuition when they have a free public school option available to them? Are private schools really that much better than public schools to warrant the additional cost?

Why people choose private schools over public schools?

There are many reasons why parents will opt to send their children to private school rather than public school. Here are the top 5 reasons cited by parents:

  1. Geography – The public schools in their area are not highly rated. Often times, highly rated magnet schools can be so distant that the commute is not feasible for many families.
  2. Religious Beliefs – Many parents opt to send their children to private religious schools to ensure there is a desired religious aspect to their children’s education.
  3. Class Size – The class sizes in private schools are typically smaller. Many private schools can have class sizes as low as 1:10; whereas public school class sizes have swelled to as many as 1:40.
  4. Academics – There is a belief that private school curriculum is more rigorous and of higher quality than public school.
  5. Special Needs – Many private schools are better equipped and staffed to effectively teach special needs students.

How much does private school cost?

The cost of private school has been skyrocketing over the last decade. Today the average private school tuition in the U.S. for a non-sectarian elementary school is $15,945 a year. For secondary school, the cost rises to $27,302 a year. Catholic elementary school is a relative bargain at an average cost of $4,944 for elementary school and $7,826 for secondary school; while other religious schools average $6,576 for elementary and $10,493 for secondary school.

AVERAGE COST OF PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN AMERICA

The monthly cost of private school tuition can range from a low of $400/month for Catholic elementary school to a high of $2,250/month for Non-sectarian secondary school. To fund a student from 1st grade through 12th grade at a Non-Sectarian private school could cost upwards of $228, 000.

Perception v.s. Reality

Today nearly 9 out of 10 American students receive a public school education. Even though there’s a broadly held belief that public schools are inferior to private schools.

Where does this belief come from? Is it based on statistical facts or is it merely wishful thinking brought about by years of powerful marketing?

There are some experts who are openly skeptical about the merits of a private school education over that of a comparably strong public school. In fact, they argue that a good public school can offer a good student the same standard of education—and equal chances of gaining entry to a top university as a private school student— for free.

In an area with a highly rated public school, most parents shouldn’t even consider a private education. The decision is easier of you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a good school and engaged parents. What if you aren’t though?

In a 2007 study, “Are Private High Schools Better Academically Than Public High Schools?”  the Center on Education Policy (CEP)  found that once key family background characteristics were considered, public high school students do as well as private school students.

“When we controlled for other factors, family background was
the biggest determinator of how a kid was going to do.”

Deputy Director of the CEP.

The 2007 study also found that:

  1. Private high school students scored no better on achievement tests in math, reading, science and history than their counterparts in public high schools.
  2. Private high school students were no more likely to attend college than their public high school counterparts.
  3. By age 26, young adults who had attended private school enjoyed no more job satisfaction than those who had attended public high schools and were no more likely to be engaged in civic activities.

In the end, parents make the difference

The most important finding of the 2007 CEP study was that, all things being equal in a student’s household, the biggest determining factor of academic success in children was the attitude and role of their parents.

CEP found that private schools simply contain a larger proportion of children whose parents have characteristics (such as higher levels of education) that contribute to learning than do public schools. These characteristics are what appear to make the difference.

MathRise Founder Todd Crosner adds:

“All three of my children attended public school, as did my wife and I. We are all leaders academically and socially. By providing children with the tools for success early in life, parents can help their children to grow into successful, independent teens and adults.”

So, in the end, no matter what type of school you choose, private or public, remember it is you who will have the most important influence on your child’s academic outcomes. If you are an involved parent who instills the importance of education, your child will do well regardless of whether they attend private or public school.

The 1-on-1 Alternative

If you think your child would be better off going to a private school, first consider how you are going to fund their education. If enrollment proves to be too costly, there is another alternative to consider.

A growing trend among proactive, involved parents is to supplement their child’s education with an effective 1-on-1 after school student enrichment program.  After school student enrichment programs typically offer instruction in math and reading, and are more challenging and faster paced than standard state curriculum.

Enrichment programs are geared towards parents and students who:

  1. Want professional 1-on-1 instruction without the distractions of a crowded classroo
  2. Want to accelerate their child’s learning and move beyond grade level concepts
  3. Want dedicated instruction for special needs students who require extra attention

The cost of 1-on-1 after school student enrichment programs are far more affordable than the cost of private school tuition. They also provide a safe, interactive learning environment where young students can explore, learn, and ask questions without the “peer pressure” fears that occur within larger classrooms.

The best way to find a quality after school enrichment program in your area is to research locally online. Once you find a program that meets your requirements you should call to take a tour of the facility and meet the instructors.

Parents in the greater Phoenix area can taking advantage of one such program offered locally by MathRise Learning Centers. With locations in Glendale and Litchfield Park, MathRise works with students in an individualized, structured environment designed to increase comprehension, retention, verbal skills, and overall confidence.

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