High Fees in Private Schools

Except for low-fee private schools, most private schools require much higher fees than public schools. Nevertheless, private education is becoming more and more popular, with the number of private schools all over the world. Now private schools have broad coverage of kindergartens, primary schools, middle schools and high schools. As more people are getting accepted into private schools, these schools are also accepting increasingly higher fees.

Although I am psychologically prepared and aware of the range of high tuition charged by private schools, I am still shocked by the 50 most expensive private high schools in the United States listed on this website. The tuition for day-time students in the top 1 school is $43,314 per year, and even the school which ranks 50 also requires $35,755 per year. [1] Obviously, the tuition is much higher than the cost of attending some universities and colleges.

Meanwhile, the same phenomenon happens in China. In Beijing, sending a child to a private kindergarten with bilingual programs costs about 9,000 RMB (about $1,500) per month, which is also much higher than the cost of universities and colleges. [2] To be honest, the extremely high tuition has gone beyond my ability to understand and accept it.

What kind of knowledge is worth such high tuition? After pondering this question initially, I thought that high tuition is simply ridiculous. But when I looked over the description of the top 50 expensive private schools, something else caught my attention. For example, some schools say that they have perks to top college destinations, including Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Johns Hopkins and so on. [1] Among those schools on the list, some can provide opportunities for students to study abroad, and some have abundant extra-curricula activities for students. At that time, I realized that high teaching quality and superb facilities are not probably worth as much money as, these additional perks. Likewise, Chinese parents who send their children to receive bilingual (Chinese and English) education at a high cost may believe it would be a good start for their child’s bright future.

Moreover, there are some other reasons for parents sending children to private schools. Private schools have smaller class sizes than public schools, which is the reason for some parents choosing private schools. For those introverted kids, a too large class size is not adequate and may prevent children from developing their strengths. Meanwhile, a smaller class size will make them feel comfortable and develop their strengths. [3]

Interestingly, when parents talk about high tuition in private schools, most of them think it is worth it. Laura Dean, a mom living in Bay area, spends $40,000 a year for her two kids’ private school tuition. Although they live in one of top-rated school districts in California, Dean still thinks private schools are better than those public schools and the quality of education in private schools is “worth every penny”. [4] One of my aunts sends her son to a private middle school in China, which is far away from home, meaning she has to spend much time traveling, in addition to paying the high tuition cost. And she also thought it was worth it when I asked her.

For many parents, the main reasons for choosing private schools are the high teaching quality and superb facilities. However, many parents are struggling with the high fees of private schools. For example, in Beijing, it is almost impossible to find a reputable kindergarten with less than 1,000 RMB (about $150) per month, which is nearly a quarter of an average salary, putting much pressure on middle-class families.[5] Because of this, it is difficult for parents to afford high tuition. Xiao Zheng, a Chinese mother who has a three-month-old baby, said “my husband and I began to save money for our baby after our marriage.” [5] Along with this issue, it is not surprising that private schools have lost huge numbers of children because of the high fees. For those children whose parents cannot afford the cost, they choose state schools or public schools because were fees are lower.

Whether in China or in United States, many people still regard public schools as a second choice because of the lower teaching quality and facilities. Currently in China, high tuition in private schools is a problem for many families, while the lower teaching quality in public schools also needs improvements in order for students to receive high quality of education at little or no cost. To address this issue, the government needs to take more measures.


[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/most-expensive-private-schools-2012-9#50-the-taft-school-watertown-conn-1

[2] http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20121014000044&cid=1503

[3] http://theweek.com/article/index/244142/is-private-school-worth-ithttp://privateschool.about.com/od/secondaryschools/qt/reasonstogo.htm

[4] http://theweek.com/article/index/244142/is-private-school-worth-it

[5] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2010/0223/In-China-kindergarten-costs-more-than-college

One thought on “High Fees in Private Schools

  1. As someone who has taught at a private international school in China (and elsewhere), I can say that this article is spot on. Great job! One thing you didn’t mention is that private international schools have to pay for the cost of foreign hired native English speakers which often includes flights, housing, healthcare, and sometimes utilities.

    -Amanda at http://teachingwanderlust.com/

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