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Is private school worth it?

AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats 1940 replies18 threads Senior Member
My oldest kid is a senior who is going to take a gap year to do travel. My youngest is far from that stage. Only in 3rd grade. She does excellent in school, but I really dislike the public school she goes to. The facilities are dirty, some of the supplies are old and worn, and there are fights among the kids. I want to transfer her out of this hell hole to a better school. But the school of my choosing is way out of our zone. Should I consider a private school education? Is it really worth it to spend $25,000 a year on her education when that money could be saved for her to college? Hubby and I bring in about $300,000 per year and that may seem high, but we have a large home to take care (because he wanted to impress his parents) and several vehicles. So is private school worth it?

Will the quality of education really improve her chances of getting into a good college and being successful in life?

Are there any inherent differences between public schools and private schools?

Thanks parents for helping me out :)
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Replies to: Is private school worth it?

  • katliamomkatliamom 12851 replies169 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2014
    Of course there are inherent differences between public schools and private schools. Class size, facilities, tone, expectations and many other things can vary dramatically between the two. But you seem to be comparing a particularly poor public school to an elite private: two extremes. Have you explored other public schools in your area? Do you have 'school of choice' and magnet/charter schools? Many offer interesting alternatives. In many areas, there are also cheaper privates (Catholic schools often cost less.)

    No one can tell you definitively if it's "worth it" to spend $25K on a primary/secondary education -- that's an absolutely personal choice based on many factors. It sounds like you could afford it, but the choice would require some significant changes in how you live/spend your money -- so I suppose the question could also be, is your child's education (and your peace of mind) worth making those changes. Again: it's a personal choice.

    I do think that risking your ability to send your child to college because you spent a fortune on K-12 seems like a poor decision.
    edited May 2014
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  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats 1940 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @katliamom Here's the thing: the school isn't poor. I know how much my neighbors and I pay in taxes so they have the money. It's mainly the administrators, so should I hold out and hope they change? I have complained to local officials about this.
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  • katliamomkatliamom 12851 replies169 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2014
    The school may not be poor, but it does sound like it's poorly run. Personally, I wouldn't hold out any hope for change (it's usually long in coming in the public sector), unless you do something besides complaining - like getting involved, along with other parents.
    edited May 2014
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  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats 1940 replies18 threads Senior Member
    Thank you! @katliamom
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  • DrGoogleDrGoogle 11022 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2014
    Oops, delete
    edited May 2014
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  • moonchildmoonchild 3266 replies30 threads Senior Member
    Both of my kids went to private high schools, and for us, it was worth it. I would not have spent the money on elementary school, however, unless the situation was dangerous. It's so easy to supplement their education during the early years, and once they can read, there really is very little they can't get outside the classroom, as sad as that sounds.
    I could see starting in middle school, as those are years when growing pains are very real, and a pleasant environment with some good friends can really help. Also, the curriculum is beginning to be more challenging- at least it should- and study habits are learned during this time.

    Why did we feel it was worth the cost for high school? The academics were much stronger in our private school, especially the writing instruction, which I feel is so very important no matter what your kids wind up doing professionally.
    Socially, my kids also benefited from being with a cohort where academics were taken seriously. My Dd didn't have to hide whole parts of herself in order to fit in with the crowd. My son would have fit in anywhere, but he really appreciated that the students seemed to really respect one another, and their teachers. He would have been fine at the public, but he thrived at the private. The instructors were wonderful-and most had advanced degrees. Both of my kids are still very close to their high school buddies, even though they have both graduated college.

    Not all privates are fabulous, and not all publics are sub-par, by any means. But for us, yes, the $20K a year for the four years for each (wow, that is a lot of money..) was definitely worth it.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Remember that $25K/year will go up over time, you could very well be paying $30K/year by the time she graduates.. In our city there are several private schools, and there is some variance in price. Our kids went to a private school, but it was not the most expensive in town. And we didn't live in a super expensive home or have "several" vehicles (2 adults, 2 vehicles, kids drove ours when we weren't driving them, much to their dismay). It doesn't sound like money decisions are made on a particularly rational basis in your home...

    Ideally you will sit down with hubby and lay out a budget that include home expenses, vehicle expenses (and replacement costs), living expenses, retirement planning, and college savings planning. And figure out how the tuition fits into that budget together. Otherwise in a few years he will be sniping about how you wanted your kid to go to a pricey private school, and you will be complaining about the expensive house and vehicles. And there will be no solid plan to pay for college and retirement.

    $300K ought to be plenty to do all of those things IF you are thoughtful about it and on the same page with your spouse.
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  • bomerrbomerr 1952 replies4 threads Senior Member
    I agree with old fort.

    I would also add if you send them to a good private that is known for students wanting to transfer to top 20 Uni's your child will be at a disadvantage compared to a more poorly run HS.
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  • moonchildmoonchild 3266 replies30 threads Senior Member
    I would also add if you send them to a good private that is known for students wanting to transfer to top 20 Uni's your child will be at a disadvantage compared to a more poorly run HS.

    I disagree with this. Very good private schools send a large percentage of their students to top colleges.
    Students who are better prepared tend to do better on the required tests and tend to write better essays. Students from private schools have the advantage that their teachers know them well and can write more personal, less generic, letters of recommendation. Students from better schools, public or private, have an advantage in the college admissions game.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78986 replies701 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2014
    AnnieBeats wrote:
    Are there any inherent differences between public schools and private schools?

    One kind is public, and the other is private.

    But that is irrelevant -- what matters is the quality and cost of the (public and private) schools available to you. Looks like the public school(s) available to you are unsatisfactory in your view. You need to determine if the private schools in available to you are better, and worth the added costs.
    AnnieBeats wrote:
    Hubby and I bring in about $300,000 per year and that may seem high, but we have a large home to take care (because he wanted to impress his parents) and several vehicles. So is private school worth it?

    Spending to impress others is rarely cost effective. You could sell some of the vehicles, sell the house and buy a more suitable one, and have plenty of money left to pay for the private school. Or, if the new house is in the right place, you will have access to better public schools.

    Think of it this way -- if, on $300,000 of income, spending $25,000 on private school for a kid is a financial stretch, that should be a warning to re-evaluate your spending habits. What if the kid wants to attend a $35,000 high school and $65,000 college later?
    edited May 2014
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  • shawnspencershawnspencer 3098 replies12 threads Senior Member
    ^ I agree with the above. And if the house is located in a district with a poor education system, perhaps moving and going somewhere with a reputable education system should be of consideration. That way there is saved costs from living in a less expensive home, and it solves the issue of the public schooling as well.
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  • twogirlstwogirls 7375 replies7 threads Senior Member
    In my neck of the woods our public schools are better than many privates. My neighbor confirmed this because her daughter goes to private school and her son went to our public HS. She said that there is no comparison; our public HS is extremely rigorous, and that there is a lot of grade inflation at her daughter's school. I am not sure why she keeps her there, although the school does have a good reputation as far as recruited athletes go so maybe that's her reason.

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  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats 1940 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @ucbalumus Well, it isn't really a stretch to have her there for one to four years. The bigger stretch would be keeping her there for elementary, middle, and high school. And when the students reach the upper school, the tuition goes up by about $12,000.

    Also, I fully agree that we need to switch some things up regarding the house, but he is really stubborn. I've been running the idea by him for years and he won't budge. I guess I shouldn't have given in!

    @juillet Do you feel like you would've gotten into a better school if you weren't in a public school? Or were there some opportunities you missed out on?

    @oldfort Well, the goal is more so a better education (anything is better than what she has now) and I guess further down the line, it would be for a good college,
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  • amarylandmomamarylandmom 623 replies8 threads Member
    I have two sons that I have sent to private schools from nursery school. We moved once during their school careers, so have actually had them in two independent schools, one of which I would classify as "elite". I, myself, went to public school through 9th grade and then transferred to a mediocre private school. Here's a few observations I have that may help you with your decision making - - these are only one person's opinion so take it with a grain of salt.

    - If your child is very studious, public school can be a hard place socially to thrive. I appreciated being in and having my children in a place where academics are held up on as high a pedestal as athletics and other pursuits. Kids in private school respect the intellect of their peers a lot more.
    - The education is all over the map at private schools. One school our sons went to was WONDERFUL academically. Unfortunately, I didn't appreciate that until we moved. Then they went to an "elite" private where the education is considerably worse, but the reputation and college list is waaay better. It's hard to actually determine the quality of the academics unfortunately prior to sending your child, but do as much research as you can (call families who are currently at the private and ask for some names of those who have left to call as well). That being said, privates generally do a better job at teaching writing and communication skills - - both very key to future success.
    - Private school students tend to be very well mannered and confident. I think they pick it up from one another. It's a rare few that come into our home and don't greet us with a handshake, use our last names, and are confident and friendly. My boys both played baseball with many public school students, and I do think there is a distinct difference.
    - On the flip side, both my boys were pretty modest students in the private school venue (especially at the more elite private). There are some extremely bright kids, and even though both my children were bright, they were not as hard working nor were they as innately gifted as their peers. They were solidly in the 50th to 70th percentile at best. That component is tough. You work hard because it is a MUST, but the psychological awards of doing well and getting A's are only accessible to a few.
    - I have one in college. It's hard to really say how much going to a name brand school helped him get into college, but what did really help him was the network affiliated with the school. A lot of people on the board, teachers, etc. have college affiliations that were very helpful. I will say the top percentage of students did extremely well in college applications. In a class of just over 100, every single Ivy league school and Stanford and all the military academies were represented in the acceptances, some more than once. If your child is truly elite intellectually, I think these schools can give a huge boost.
    - The network at a private school with deep community roots may be the MOST valuable part to your student. My college age student has leveraged it to help get into the college of his choice and to get a great summer internship. It's been enormously useful already, and he's only 19. The boys' friends are very talented, going to great schools, and are headed on very successful paths. I expect these connections will serve them well for life.
    - The cost is tremendous, and honestly from a pure academic perspective alone, I probably wouldn't do it again for the entire school careers. They could have transferred at middle school age and received all of the benefits at a significantly lower cost. The risk you take is your child may not want to move schools at the older ages.
    - Also for me, private school was a tremendous blessing. I felt like a fish out of water in public school. Even at a really mediocre private school, I was so much happier. Both my children are/have been extremely happy in private school . . .however, I think my younger one would have probably thrived just as much in public - - maybe more because he could have been more of an academic star in public, and he's very charismatic so the social component is not an issue for him. My younger one doesn't care about an elite college nearly so much either so all the money spent may be for naught. Of course it is somewhat impossible to say!

    So, I'd say look at all the components of the picture - - your child, her personality, her hopes and dreams for herself, and try to gain a true perspective on the academics at the institutions you are interested in seeing her attend. Good luck!!!

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  • mamommamom 3683 replies24 threads Senior Member
    My S attended private from preschool all the way through HS. My D is currently in 8th grade and has also always attended private. There is a wide variation in the quality of privates. In hindisight my S's private middle school was a waste of money, nice school for rich mediocre kids. My D's private middle school is incredible. Well worth the money. If you are considering a private elementary school I would ask to see the ISEE test scores for the kids moving up to middle schools and ask what private middle schools are those kids getting accepted to.

    I have had many parents tell me they do not send their kids to private schools because they would rather save the money for college. Fact of the matter is, most do not save that money for college. Well at least the few who financial situation I know about.
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  • compmomcompmom 10915 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Pulbic elementary schools are often fine. Middle school age is tough anywhere and there can be social reasons for private then. High school private may or may not involve better learning and college results. These days, the teach to the test culture in public schools, on a national basis, has, in my own opinion, significantly impacted quality, though there are always teachers who transcend. If you do public, get involved: volunteer, attend school committee meetings, help out in the town.

    I have to admit, I thought your post was a joke at first. At least the part about making $300K, owning a big home to impress relatives and owning several cars. I know people who have made significant sacrifices to send their children to private school. You would not have to sacrifice anything much. On the other hand, if you want to save the money, definitely move if the local public is not satisfactory.

    Chances are, your husband is also going to want to impress relatives with college admissions. My own kids went to a public that wasn't exactly inspiring educationally but we did a lot at home. They did fine with admissions. I wish i had had the money for private though, honestly. The best thing I can say is that they got an education that did not coddle them and they learned a little about the real world, that the world isn't fair, that you have to make your own opportunities and so on.
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  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats 1940 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @amarylandmom‌ Wow! That was very helpful. Thank you!
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  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats 1940 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @compmom You are definitely right with the "big name school to impress family" thing. But I find that I am really taking charge on the private school thing. He's too consumed with work to care about elementary school, so I'm really trying to make an informed decision on this one for my daughter

    @mamom What is your reasoning behind keeping your kid in private school?
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