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Education Opinion

A Closer Look at Private School Tuition

By Walt Gardner — September 27, 2017 1 min read

Exclusive private schools in New York City now charge $50,000 or a bit more for tuition and assorted fees (“Some NYC K-12 Schools Cross $50,000-a-Year Mark,” The Wall Street Journal, Sep. 19). Even then, they claim they have to rely on fundraising to cover the full cost of the education they provide. Yet parents willingly pay the bill because of their track record in getting so many of their graduates in the Ivies and in other marquee-name colleges.

Several things immediately struck me. First, the lack of evidence that these 45 or so member schools citywide do a better job of educating students than the four elite public schools in New York City that admit students based solely on an entrance exam. Are parents applying for admission for their children to avoid their associating with others from different socioeconomic backgrounds? Second, the high cost of tuition, despite the lack of unionization by teachers. If unions are indeed the villain for driving up teacher salaries, then why is tuition still so outrageous? Finally, the abundance of facilities not directly related to classroom instruction. What is the effect of tennis courts, swimming pools and the like on learning?

I’m glad that these tony private schools are making a concerted effort to reach out to students from families across a broader range of income. I think that’s good for the ultra-affluent students. But I wonder in the final analysis if parents are still shortchanging their students by continuing to apply for admission. They might be better off applying for admission to the exam schools. It’s less expensive for equal or better outcomes.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.