Is Sending Your Child to Private School Worth It?
With tuition costs on the rise at private primary and secondary schools, as well as private universities, parents often have to make choices about how much money they can spend on their child’s education—and when to spend it.
If education costs are going to be a struggle, should they invest their money early on in a private school that lays a solid foundation for the future? Or should they save their dollars for college tuition and give their child a head start on life without the burden of student debt?
Many parents, of course, will find ways to pay for everything. They might sacrifice their retirement savings, downsize their lifestyle (maybe with a less-expensive home or fewer vacations), or borrow to help pay for student costs.
But is a private school education really worth it?
Considering the average cost of private school tuition in the United States was approximately $10,676 per year in 2018-2019, the answer is a resounding… it depends.
It depends on your child’s needs and goals, on what you can truly afford, on what’s available where you live, if you’re willing to move, on what you hope to accomplish with a private school education, and so much more.
Here are some points to consider:
Is the Education Really Better at the Private School You’re Choosing?
People tend to assume that you get what you pay for, and that private schools are generally superior to public schools—especially when it comes to academic programs and college prep.
But studies don’t always back that up. When University of Virginia researchers studied data from more than 1,000 students in 2018 , they found the advantages supposedly presented by a private education disappeared after they factored in family income and parents’ education level.
It isn’t just about public vs. private, but also parental involvement and the educational resources available early in life (birth through age 5). Educators also advise looking at teacher certification requirements, curriculum guidelines, and class size when choosing any school.
If your goal is to provide your child with the best scholastic experience available and you can find equal or better programs in your local public schools, you may not need to pay for a private school education.
When the Harvard Crimson surveyed incoming freshman from the class of 2022, 60% said they attended a non-charter public school.
You can search for GreatSchools ratings, student-teacher ratios, test scores, and parent reviews on real estate sites like Realtor.com and Zillow.com . You also can check with your district to see if it offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and if your local high school has Advanced Placement classes and what those entail.
If, however, you can’t or don’t want to relocate to get to a better public school, and your child isn’t getting the fundamentals needed to succeed, you may decide private school is an imperative.
Are You After More Than Academic Excellence?
Parents aren’t necessarily only looking for higher test scores or college prep when they consider a private school. Some are hoping to enroll their child in a school that teaches their faith or certain core values.
Others are looking for help with their child’s special needs—whether that’s a learning disability, anxiety, or autism. And many schools now offer STEM- or arts-focused curricula for students with specific interests or talents.
Private schools also are typically smaller than public schools, so parents—and children—may find comfort in a close-knit community where it seems as if everybody knows their name.
There’s also the expectation—or hope, at least—that the bonds that form at some private schools may become important connections in later years, when college and career recommendations are needed.
Depending on the neighborhood, parents may be able to find these same attributes at the nearest public school. But if you can’t get what you want, you may decide it’s worth the cost to send your children elsewhere.
Can You Afford The Hidden Costs of a Private School Education?
It’s easy to get hyper-focused on the expense of private school, but even if parents can cover the tuition, they may find there are other costs.
Unless the private or parochial school of your choice is near your home, there may be a long commute. In high school, that could interfere with your child’s opportunity to get a part-time job or participate in extracurricular activities.
It also can affect playdates and study time for younger kids. And then there’s the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” factor—If your child is attending school with mostly more-affluent students, how might they feel when it’s time to get a car, go to a dance, or invite schoolmates over for a visit?
• What does your child want? If your child has friends in the neighborhood who attend the nearby public school, sending them to private school may be a battle. If the child is old enough, have a conversation about why it’s an option you want to consider. Is it about safety? Education? Tradition? Ego? Your high-schooler may not be interested in a career that requires private school connections or a diploma from an elite college. If your child is the smartest kid in class, they may see the value in being challenged at a school with higher academic standards—or shudder at the idea of losing that top rank. Make sure the investment in private school is worth the cost.
• Does your family qualify for grants or scholarships that might make private school tuition more manageable? Before you give up on financing a private school education, you may want to look into what kind of financial help is available. If you know what school you’re interested in, you can contact the financial aid or administrative office to get specific information. Some private schools offer a sliding scale or indexed tuition to make their rates more affordable to lower- and middle-income families.
Creating a Nest Egg
For some families, private school is a given. It’s a tradition, they have the money to pay for it, or maybe it’s a dream the parents have long saved for.
But not every family has the resources to make it happen, which can mean setting long-term priorities and making some hard choices. If it looks as if private school tuition would be a burden for you financially, try not to let guilt or pride guide your decision-making.
Take a look at the big picture, see how the investment fits with your goals, and if you decide to move forward, consider getting some help making a plan.
Regardless of your decision, when the time comes to consider how to pay for your child’s college education, you will probably need a bit of help with the financing. That’s where a SoFi private student loan might come in.
SoFi offers student loans with competitive rates and several repayment options, so you can figure out what works best for your family.
To top it off, the whole application can be completed online within minutes, so you can get back to your undoubtedly busy parenting schedule.
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