Is Private School Worth the Cost?

When parents contemplate private school education for their children, it’s often the result of one or two primary factors:

  • Their child has a unique quality or talent that needs to be nurtured in the right environment, or
  • Their child’s current school environment is negatively impacting his or her learning experience.

By the time children have reached middle school or high school, their parents have likely tried to improve the situation by working with teachers, counselors and outside resources.

When this doesn’t work, parents turn to private schools for specially designed curricula and unique environments in which their child can thrive. However, paying private school tuition is a serious undertaking.

4 Questions to Ask When Deciding If Private School Worth the Cost

Here are four questions to ask yourself when you’re considering private school. These questions will encourage you to organize your thoughts, stay focused, and help you determine if private school is worth the cost for your child.

1. Does the Private School Meet my Child’s Specific Needs?

First, get clear about why your child’s current school situation isn’t working.

One or more problems might impact a student’s progress, well-being, or ability to learn.
Some children lose focus in restrictive desks and lecture-based instruction. Others feel overwhelmed in crowded hallways and feel shy in large classes.

On the other hand, your child may not have any problem at all. Perhaps he or she is exceptionally talented in the arts, but your current school’s art program is lacking.

Whatever the case, get clear about what specific needs you want a private school to meet. Avoid considering schools that clearly won’t meet those needs, even if the school is highly rated. If your child withdraws in large environments, the best private school in your city won’t be worth the money if it has a large student body.

Stay focused on your child’s needs as you narrow your search, and you’ll be more likely to select a school that will be worth the cost.

2. What Does the Private School Deliver?

If you’re paying for your child’s education, then keep track of what exactly your money is going towards.

Each private school offers something a little bit different; it’s one of the benefits of private education, but it can be a lot to digest, too.

As you search, create a spreadsheet on which you’ll record everything that each school provides. Think of this as the school’s “deliverables.” What is each school “delivering” to you in exchange for tuition?

Give your columns the following titles:

  • Name
  • Tuition cost
  • Philosophy or Religious Affiliation
  • Graduation Requirements
  • In-School Support Systems (post-secondary counseling, retreats, peer tutoring, accommodations for students with disabilities, etc.)
  • Special Programs (STEM, the arts, etc.)
  • Sports and Clubs
  • Parent Involvement
  • Facilities
  • Notes (for additional thoughts)

Be sure to add a column for the particular needs you want the school to meet for your child, as well as any other deliverables you wish to find in a private school.

Later, you’ll have a great tool to help you see what each school delivers for the money you’ll pay.

3. How Are Parents Included in the Private School?

Open any drawer in a private school, and you won’t find a single roll of red tape.

Administrators and teachers are not bound by the red tape of bureaucracy; they can work with parents to arrive at creative solutions to concerns that might arise in their children’s education.

Parents at private schools are generally quite involved in the operations and advancement of the school. After all, they have a vested interest in seeing the school and its students succeed.

As you search, ask about parent-teacher organizations (PTO), and find out what activities they do on campus. Many PTOs make their meeting notes readily available to anyone who wants to read them.

Be direct with teachers and ask how easy it is to communicate with them about your child. Class sizes are generally small enough that teachers can communicate with parents daily if needed.

Remember that your tuition check doesn’t pay only for books and supplies, facilities and instruction. It pays for your spot in the village that educates your child, too.

4. Do I Believe in the Private School’s Mission?

Many private schools are rooted in a mission that guides their educational philosophy and the ways they cultivate community. Some schools are driven by a set of religious beliefs, and others focus on a particular style of teaching.

Being rooted in a mission is an incredibly valuable gift to provide students, especially in the formative years of middle school and high school.

A school’s mission or philosophy enriches a child’s educational experience by grounding them in a set of principles. This can instill a sense of discipline and help develop their character. Students think beyond themselves, grow in their confidence, and develop a sense of personal identity.

Rallying students around a mission is a benefit of private school education – selecting a school with a mission you believe in can make paying the cost of tuition more than worth it.

Making the Decision: Is Private School Worth the Cost?

Ultimately, deciding to send your child to private school will serve immediate and long-range ends. You will likely see growth and improvement as your child learns in an environment that seems personally designed for him or her.

New opportunities may unfold because your child is simply in the right place. These developments will prepare your child for the long-run, when he or she will be self-sufficient, making decisions and laying the groundwork for his or her own future.

The bottom line is that paying for private school education isn’t so much about that immediate transaction – it’s about setting your child up for success.

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