Is Private School Worth the Money?

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

There’s a certain prestige to saying you attended a private school, or that your kids are attending one. For a long time private schools have been associated with high academics and social standing, but they are also associated with a hefty price tag. If you are considering sending your kids to private school, there are many things you will want to consider when determining whether or not you want to spend the money.

While the cost of private school will certainly be a large consideration, besides the cost itself there are other factors that will contribute to your decision of whether or not private school is worth your money. In addition to having strong academics, many private schools offer other opportunities for students, and for some parents, it’s important for their kids to attend a private school in order to continue a tradition. Consider the following ideas as you determine if private school is the right choice.

1. Academics

Private schools certainly have a reputation for having smaller class sizes, great teachers, and strong academics. While this is true at many private schools, there are certainly exceptions, and there are many public schools that also have these three things. According to Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski’s 2013 book published in 2013 titled The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, mathematics instruction data from the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress combined with a private school control variable, suggests that public schools were actually obtaining higher mathematics performance than comparable private and charter schools.

It’s difficult to determine whether a school is academically better just because it is private, but you can certainly determine if a particular school is the best academic choice based on expert rankings, like these from Niche. If a private school has the best academics, then you may decide it is worth your money, but be sure to look at public schools as well.

2. Local schools

In addition to considering academics at private schools, you will also want to consider the other local options. If there are charter or magnet schools nearby, you may find that you can help your child get a great education for free, but sometimes these programs are very selective. Also, if a local university has a laboratory school, you may also consider applying for those. These schools receive state money, but often college students do their student teaching in the classes, and the class sizes are sometimes smaller than public schools.

Safety and location of public and private schools will probably also affect your decision. You may find that the public elementary school or high school down the road is convenient, safe, and academically rigorous, in which case you might be wasting money if you send your kid to a private school.

3. Social Opportunities

If you want your children to grow close to a group of friends and spend time with them throughout their schooling, then a private school might be perfect for your kids. On the other hand, if you want your kids to meet a variety of different kinds of people and make new friends each year, then a public school might be a better fit. Either way, the specifics will depend on the individual school: some private schools are very diverse, and some public schools are not.

Social opportunities could also include extra-curricular activities. Smaller private schools might have less options, but if they specialize in an activity that your child really enjoys, then your money might be well spent. There are schools that specialize in music, drama, and athletics. According to the Private School Review, while public schools might have to cut programs due to tax cuts, extra-curricular activities are a vital part of life at a private school. Whether you choose a school for a specific activity, or you just want your child to have a lot of options, both can be possible at a private school.

4. Tradition and family needs

If you went to a private school, and your father before you, and so on, it might be important to you for your child to go to a private school. Particularly if your family has a long tradition of attending a specific private school, you may feel that the money is worth keeping the tradition alive. If you attended a college preparatory school, you may want your kids to attend one, too. Your kids’ interest in continuing the tradition should also factor in; if they don’t want to attend the same school as you, you might be wasting your money.

Other family needs will also matter. According to the GreatSchools Staff, you should consider what level of rigor your child needs to be taught at, how your child learns and what type of classroom management you want for your child, how you feel about parental involvement and the school community, and practical matters including schedules and transportation.

5. Finances

Your financial situation needs to be considered as well. Can you truly afford to send your kids to private school? Even if you decide the benefits are worth it, are you sure you want to spend the money? The national average private school tuition is $9,494; the private elementary school average is $8,429 per year, and high school average is $12,856 per year.

Cost is certainly important, and if you can’t afford to send your kids to a specific school, then it really isn’t even an option. If you can afford it but it’s expensive, then you will want to consider the academics at the school, which school your child would attend if they didn’t go to the private school, whether the school has a special activity that your child would benefit from, and whether or not your family tradition or needs would fit with a private school. All of these questions factor in to your decision, and will help you determine if the price tag is worth paying.