Private School Tuition Worth It?

The American education system boasts free public schooling for all students between the ages of 5 and 18. While this education is meant to enforce common standards, many parents choose to enroll their children into private schools instead. Private schools offer parents the ability to introduce faith based education into their child's classroom and all but guarantee that their children will have stronger and more consistent standardized testing scores, ultimately leading to placement into four year colleges directly after high school.

Better Education

Many parents feel that a private school gives their children a better curriculum than public schools. The United States scores 30th in the world for proficiency in mathematics and 23rd for science, prompting many parents to find alternative education for their children to excel in these subjects.

NAEP Results

During the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test administered to students throughout their schooling career to determine their proficiency in reading and mathematics, the NAEP found that a significant number of private school students scored higher percentages of proficiency in basic, proficient, and advanced categories than their public school counterparts at the same age. The NAEP also found that in subjects that are less studied in public schools like civics and geography, private school students consistently outperformed public school students.

Religious Reasons

Private schools often have a large tie-in with religious purposes. Almost 80% of all private schools in the United States have some religious affiliation, with Catholic schools and generally conservative Christian schools playing a dominant role.

Small Classrooms

Only 10% of American children are enrolled in private schools. In comparison, almost 25% of all schools are registered in the United States as private. Because of this disparity in enrollment and availability, many private schools boast small classroom sizes, which leads to higher levels of student-teacher interaction. This direct interaction has been linked to higher test scores, higher retention of information, and higher overall happiness in the classroom. 60% of students currently studying in a private school setting have reported that their would give their school an "A" grade.

Private School Tuition

The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) recently published a study outlining the average price of private school tuition. On average, private schooling for K-12 institutions hovered around $14,000 per year. Religious schools had a much lower average at just under $7,000 per year and secular educational programs averaged $22,000 per year.

Not Just Wealthy Enroll

Although private school tuition is high compared to average income in the United States, data compiled from the last US census showed that families who earned more than $75,000 per year did not have a statistically significant higher enrollment rate than the rest of the population. Approximately 83% of upper-middle class families had children enrolled in public school and 13% were enrolled in private programs.

Property Tax Dilemma

Critics of American public schooling often argue that the reason many wealthy parents choose to keep their children enrolled in public school is because the public schools in affluent school zone are significantly better than the school district's average schools. This phenomenon stems from how public schools are funded. Public schools receive funding from the county's school board, money appropriated by the federal government, and from property taxes. Taxes collected in each school zone are passed on to individual schools, meaning public schools located near affluent communities will have higher portions of property taxes appropriated to them than schools found in low-income communities. Political influence often helps decide school zone boundaries and which neighborhoods will be included in each zone. If only affluent neighborhoods are included in a particular school's zoning, they will receive the majority of that area's funding, causing lower-income neighborhood schools to receive disproportionately less money each year than their affluent neighbors.

College Bound

An overwhelming majority of students who attend private high schools make their way to 4 year colleges to complete degree programs. While the national average for high-school graduates completing college is 40%, 67% of private school graduates apply to and attend four year colleges their first year after graduating high school. These higher acceptance rates are attributed to higher SAT scores, presumably achieved because of the higher standards of education in private school settings.

Private College Tuition

Parents who can afford to send their students to private schools during the K-12 years often opt to send their children to private colleges as well. Private college education is significantly more expensive than public universities, but offer smaller classroom sizes and more specific educational programs that public colleges can't cater to. In 2014, the average private college tuition in the United States was $32,000 per year, significantly higher than in-state public university attendance which costs about $8,000 per year.

Higher Private Tuition Worth it?

Although private school tuition is significantly higher than the cost of sending a student to public school, many parents still wonder if the extra cost is worth it. Students in affluent or well-educated households tend to perform well in public schools regardless of the achievement gaps found in classrooms because of race or parental wealth. However, private school's smaller classroom sizes and diverse course offerings make them an attractive option for parents who would like their children to receive a more varied education. New policies outlined by former President George Bush and Barack Obama have tried to help close the achievement gaps between public and private schools. School funding has increased and better teachers have been hired in struggling school districts to try and boost the national average of educational standards. The hope is that eventually parents won't have to decide between public and private education at all.

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