There is a never-ending debate between going to public or private school. Is private grade school and private university really worth it? I’m not so sure in this day and age of high inflation and free online education.
Personally, I went to international private school while my parents were stationed abroad until I was 13. Then I went to public school for high school, public college (William & Mary), and public graduate school (Berkeley) for my MBA. I found each type of school to have its pluses and minuses.
In this post, let’s objectively analyze the decision to attend public or private school using real tuition dollars. We’ll also talk about the opportunity cost of paying so much to go to private grade school and private college.
Public Or Private School Dilemma
This article is for:
- Students who want to understand the true cost of their education and the sacrifices their parents make in order to make better choices with their careers.
- Parents who make too much to get financial aid, but not enough to feel like they can comfortably afford private school.
- Students and parents who feel bad for attending or sending their kids to public school or have a tinge of envy for those kids who do go to private school.
I’m going to share with you the actual cost of going to private school over public school. We can then have a more subjective discussion on which type of school is better.
My Bias Towards Public Schools
I’ve been a big proponent of attending public schools over private schools because I’m biased. In fact, I think more public schools will start ranking higher than private schools over time. As an example, the latest Forbes college rankings for 2021-2022 has UC Berkeley shooting up to #1.
I attended international private schools when I lived in Asia, attended a public high school, and went to a public college. Therefore, I’ve experienced a good variety of schools.
I found very little difference in education between my private middle school and public high school. Upon graduating from William & Mary, I got a job at the #1-rated investment bank in NYC. After 13 years of diligently saving and investing, I reached financial independence at 34. Life has been good post public school.
The Only Guaranteed Of Going To Private Schools
We all know there’s no guarantee of doing anything special or being anything special just because you went to a private school.
With the internet making education free, it’s hard to justify paying record high tuition for a private education unless you’re rich (make 10X the private school tuition per kid).
Yet, many parents pay for religious reasons, fear of missing out, the desire for smaller class sizes and more attention for their kids, and the need for a more customized program if their child has special needs.
These reasons all make sense, and I respect them.
However, if you send your child to private school and pay full tuition, there is one guarantee. It is that you will spend a small fortune if you don’t get grants and scholarships. A lot of parents who advocate for private school got grants for their children to attend. That’s wonderful.
But I’m talking about the parents whose children don’t get need based grants because they make a little too much, but not enough to feel wealthy. You know, those families making around $150,000 – $350,000 a year, depending on where they live and how many children they have.
Forgoing One Million Dollars To Attend Private School
Given I’m biased for a public education, let’s remove my bias by simply doing some math. Let’s calculate how much it will cost to send your child to private school from K-12 and four years of college.
Below is a graph I put together with the tuition costs of real private school tuitions in San Francisco. Further, families generally have to pay an additional $1,000 – $5,000 in donations, books, excursions and so forth. These tuition rates are very similar in other big cities such as New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Seattle.
The Cost Of Private School On The West Coast
As you can see from the chart, if you plan to send your little one to private school in San Francisco starting from Kindergarten, you will eventually spend at least $774,924 in tuition through college graduation. You can increase prices by 5% a year.
However, if you can earn just a 2% annual compound return during the entire private school duration, private school tuition actually costs over $1 million!
But if you returned a conservative 5.4% a year, the average return of a 100% bond allocation since the 1920s, your opportunity cost rises to $1,471,000.
Forgoing $1 Million To Send Your Kid To Private Schools
Therefore, it is highly reasonable to assume a total cost of over $1,000,000 for a private school education, especially since I haven’t even calculated the ever rising cost of tuition or the add-ons in my chart.
If you are like most investors, you’ll likely have a majority weighting in stocks over bonds. With a 60/40 stock/bond allocation, you might see a compounded 7% – 9% annual return leading to a total cost of $1,735,000 in 16 years for your child’s private school education.
Now of course you must pay for public college tuition in lieu of private college tuition. That amount comes to $13,500 a year for a school like UC Berkeley, which still makes the total private school cost over $1,000,000.
Related: The Proper Asset Allocation Of Stocks And Bonds by Age
The Cost Of Private School On The East Coast
Here’s another example I put together for a parent who wants to send their kid to The Dalton School in NYC and then Yale in Connecticut. You can easily bump up the figures by 10% for 2023.
As you can see from the chart, the cost of tuition is even more than my West Coast example. With a 10% annual compounded return, we’re talking over $2,000,000 in private tuition costs for your child!
Tuition Costs For Other Private Grade Schools Around The Country (2021-22)
This example of San Francisco tuition rates is comparable to other private grade schools around the U.S. Here is a snapshot of costs for other private grade schools during the 2021-2022 school year, based on tuition rates published on each school’s website at the time of this writing:
The Brearley School (K-12, NY, NY): $56,300
Horace Mann School (K-12, NY, NY): $57,200
Trinity School, (K-12, NY, NY): $58,505 – $59,170
The Cathedral School For Boys (K-8, SF, CA): $38,150 – $39,000
Lick-Wilmerding High School (9-12, SF, CA): $52,700, with Flexible Tuition based on income ranging from $700 – $46,200
Nueva School (Pre-K-12, Hillsborough, CA): $31,780 – $55,050
Forsyth Country Day School (K-12, Winston-Salem, NC): $14,990 – $24,990
Punahou School (K-12, Honolulu, HI): $27,716
‘Iolani School (K-12, Honolulu, HI): $26,150
Maret School (K-12, Washington DC): $36,780 – $42,355
Sidwell Friends (K-12, Washington DC): $45,610 – $48,050
The Roeper School (K-12, Bloomfield, MI): $23,550 – $26,450
St. Mark’s School (K-12, Dallas, TX): $27,881 – $34,862
The Bush School (K-12, Seattle, WA): $31,345 – $40,195
St. John’s School (K-12, Houston, TX): $26,545 – $31,820
St. Stephen’s Episcopal School (6-12, Austin, TX): $30,050 – $31,670
Harvard-Westlake School (7-12, Los Angeles, CA): $42,600(plus $2,000 new student fee)
Ransom Everglades School (6-12, Coconut Grove, FL): $43,420
Pine Crest School (Pre-K-12, Ft. Lauderdale, FL): $24,915 – $36,550
Phillips Exeter Academy (9-12, Exeter, NH): $45,859 (day), $58,714 (boarding)
Phillips Academy Andover (9-12, Andover, MA): $48,020 (day), $61,950 (boarding)
Private School Is Expensive Everywhere
As you can see, private school is expensive no matter where you live in the United States. Interestingly, adjusting for cost of living, private grade school tuition is relatively cheaper in expensive cities such as NY, SF, Honolulu, Seattle, and DC.
If you’re on the fence about sending your child to a private grade school, make sure to inquire about financial assistance. With a stronger focus on diversity, there should be more money available for different types of students.
Imagine What You Could Do With $1,000,000
Instead of graduating with student debt, imagine if your parents said at the after party, “Congratulations for graduating college! You’re free to pursue your dreams, live wherever you want, buy a house, and even start a family because here’s a check for $1,000,000.” You’d be set!
If you graduated at 22 years old, invested the entire $1,000,000, saved and invested $20,000 a year, and earned a 5.4% annual compounded return, you would end up with $3,192,000 by age 40. Finally, you will have achieved real millionaire status. Making more money gets easier the more money you have.
Being financially independent by 40 with minimal effort is pretty nice. But what’s really wonderful is having the freedom to do whatever you want at the beginning of adulthood. Yes, there’s a possibility that having $1,000,000 so young will make you a dead beat loser.
On the other hand, having a financial safety net could make you the biggest success ever because you can take huge risks.
Look at Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who could afford to dropout of college because their families were already rich. Their safety net was kicking back at their respective family’s multi-million dollar vacation homes before going back to school.
Educate Your Kids About Money
The key to making sure your kid has his head on straight with regards to money is having regular conversations about all aspects of money. The more you can talk about various financial topics growing up, the less of a shock it will be when you hand over the $1,000,000 check.
You can always spread the money out into multiple tranches based on various conditions that need to be met if you feel your son or daughter still needs time to mature.
At the age of 22, I would have used $200,000 for a 20% downpayment on a $1,000,000 property in NYC. Then, I would have invested $100,000 in alternative investments like real estate crowdfunding. For the remainder, I would have invested $500,000 in stocks and $100,000 in bonds.
The $1,000,000 would probably be worth $4,000,000 today. The NYC property alone would be worth ~$2,500,000 and be fully paid off.
Now Imagine What Parents Can Do With An Extra $1,000,000
If you decide not to give your child $1,000,000 upon graduation, think what an extra $1,000,000 can do for your retirement timeline.
You could literally retire 10 years earlier based on a $100,000 annual spend. And for some folks who live in an expensive coastal city and average closer to $200,000 a year in expenses, saving five years off work hell could be a godsend.
Saving time is truly the best thing you can do when you have a financial windfall. Each year you live takes up a larger percentage of time you have left. Think about how much money you’d be willing to give up to rewind time or live a life of leisure.
If you want to try and contain inflation, then one solution is to send your kid to public school, trade school, or community college.
Deciding To Go To Public University
I decided junior year in high school that I was going to attend a public university. William & Mary only cost $2,800 in tuition. This way, my parents could retire earlier if they wished. Further, I could pay them back more easily.
I knew their rough salaries as federal government employees. Therefore, to attend private university just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t understand how they could afford $20,000 a year in tuition at the time. Nor could I easily pay them back if I graduated with a regular $30,000 a year job.
Given I’ve been unemployed since 2012, having an extra $1,000,000 wouldn’t dramatically change my life. But it could help improve the lives of others. I’d use some of the money to treat my parents and in-laws to a luxurious round the world cruise.
My father in-law always wants to update his old log cabin in the woods. And then there are several charities dealing with underprivileged youth I’d donate to. With what’s left, I’d conservatively invest the rest to help pay for my son’s education through a 529 plan. Even public universities can now cost an arm and a leg over four years.
Public Or Private School Is Your Choice
If you’re rich or have awesome merit based scholarships, then send your kids to private school all you want. But for the majority of people who don’t have an endless amount to spend or who aren’t as academically gifted, it’s good to run the numbers like I have here.
Make sure you go to the school that best fits your child’s needs. I personally think trying the public school route first to see if it works is the best bet. Then apply to private school if public school isn’t a good fit.
The only downside is that by the time you apply to one of those K-12 private schools, there might not be any spots left for you. Deciding between public or private school is a personal choice. Find the school that best fits your budget and your kids learning style and you’ll be set.
Private Or Public School During The Pandemic
One thing to realize about private schools during a pandemic is that, overall, they are hurting. Small businesses are getting shut down and many families are trying to save on private school tuition. As a result, there’s been less applicants for private schools. Therefore, if you want to go to private school, you should have an easier time getting in, at the margin.
Further, many families, such as ours, have decided to home school our children until there is herd immunity. So far, we’ve been saving $2,000 a month in preschool tuition since March 2020 homeschooling our almost 4-year-old. We ended up doing so for 18 months.
We’ve found that homeschooling is wonderful, albeit exhausting. You get to teach at your child’s unique pace. You get to go on field trips whenever you want as well. If your child has any type of disability, you will easily provide better accommodations.
Providing your kids the best education possible is a gift. The irony is that homeschooling might be the best education of them all and its free! If you are a college-educated parent, you might as well unlock your education’s full value by teaching your children everything you learned in college.
At the end of the day, every parent just wants their children to have the best education possible. When children are happy and thriving, the ability to pay private school tuition goes way up.
Related posts about the public or private school debate:
What If You Go To Harvard And End Up Doing The Same Thing As Everybody Else?
How To Stop Worrying About Your Child’s Future In This Brutally Competitive World
How To Get Into A Great Preschool Or Private Grade School
The Differences Between Private School And Public School People
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Max Briggs says
There are several studies that show that all of the performance discrepancies between private and public schools can be explained by taking into account the parental income of the student bodies. In other words, rich kids that go to public schools do just as well as rich kids going to private schools and poor kids going to private schools do just as poorly as poor kids going to public schools. This means that private schools are not adding any value, they are just taking credit for the baked in advantages of their student bodies.
I also think that the article sells itself short on the opportunity cost of private school. I think it may be more realistic to continue the compounding until typical retirement age, or even until your own life expectancy. This will show how much you are losing in retirement income or in inheritance that you can offer your child. Adding another 20-40 years of compounding puts the opportunity cost of private school well into the range of $5M-$10M per student.
I don’t think that it is an exaggeration to say that paying full tuition for private school is the greatest killer of upper middle class wealth. I hope that the people that make that decision are doing so because the school has provided them lots of convincing evidence that they are an outlier and actually do provide real value add over public school alternatives. Otherwise you are potentially giving up 10’s of millions of dollars on a hunch.
As a freshman in college, I graduated from a very reputable public HS rather than a private school because although it is private, it is located in a district where you can only live in that area to go to that school. Yet, many of my peers still lived in that town and paid the taxes as if they were going to that school but went to a private one. The reason they did that was because they needed more individualized attention targeted to their specific needs/disabilities. Otherwise, public vs private school, unless it is located in a poor area, won’t make a difference and will not play a huge part in college admissions process. But, it is still rigged and if you do go to an elite private school where you have access to tutors 24/7 and classes tend to be much easier since there are smaller classes, you have an advantage. If you go to a private school, most likely your parents are able to also afford donating money to a college of choice to help you get in so much easier time getting into your top tier college choice. Homeschooling is not even an option. I don’t see the value in it and would be a waste of time. School is more about learning tangible skills, it is about learning how to collaborate, communicate, and expose yourself to new people/learn to experiment with others. Unless your parent has experience teaching, your child will most likely not be motivated to learn on their own without a teacher’s discipline. Unfortunately, most students only focus on grades and teacher’s dictate that.
James Borst says
I like your recommendation to invest money that you would spend on your childs private school into a stock bond. My wife and I have considered sending our daughter to private school so that she can get access to better language programs. We may consider looking at different private elementary schools and compare them to the public schools in our area.
What a great post!
Thanks Sam to have taken the time to put very useful table to show indeed the craziness of private education in the USA and highlighting how the game changed with internet
Private school attendees and their parents are often incredibly alike in terms of expectations in character building and character “signalling” (for better or worse), public schools tends to be much more..diverse, especially in California.
I attended secondary schools in Silicon Valley in the 90s. Sex education and pressures and expectations regarding romance and sex differs drastically in public vs private schools around here. And of course, it can vary by individual and family, but it’s definitely worth thinking about as a parent for no other reason than the fact that modern US culture puts incredible and often unnecessary stress on teenage dating, especially adolescent girls. Being “sheltered” is actually a way to filter that stress until people are better prepared or prepared in the way considered appropriate. And HS experience tend to have an impact on the individual especially during college/early career/serious dating phase if not beyond.
People invest for private schools for monetary and prestige ROI as well as a value system inheritance ROI. The last has no price point.
Maple Flat says
Not a chance I’d put my kids in public school. What an utter waste of time. You’re asking if I’d make my kid endure prison? Um no.
I see two options. Good private school (which cost me only 6-10k a year) or homeschooling or homeschool cooperative (parent run school) (very low cost other than time).
All the outcomes on homeschooling are far superior.
This is a great article but I vaguely remember a previous post about you stating you’d choose private school for your child in Hawaii or that you were looking at them? Maybe I’m confused or was there a change in your outlook between private and public schools?
Tom Tolan says
IMHO, secular private schools are, as stated, a poor investment, all around, unless the public school district is pretty bad, which is unusual for the audience targeted. And public universities are every bit equal to private ones. OTOH, religious public schools can be well worth the money, and the average Catholic school runs 1/2 the cost listed, even without subsidies. Yes, class sizes are large (sometimes over 40 pupils), but the scores and education are as good as the best public schools, even in some of the worst areas. This is due both to parent’s that care enough, and to teachers that universally care about teaching, even if they make low wages. At any public school, half or more of the instructors are there to pay the bills in an highly secure job, even if you fail miserably,with guaranteed raises.
I had some great teachers in public elementary and Jr. high schools, some so-so teachers, and some teachers I had to ignore in order to get an education, and this was in the 70s, when the unions weren’t as adversarial to the parents as they are now. OTOH, my 4 years at Bellarmine (San Jose), had nearly uniformly high quality teachers, and I am certain I would not have the mental fortitude I now have, if I had gone to our local public HS. (Not being CoEd may have helped the focus on classes a bit!)
Financial Samurai says
Is Bellarmine private? How much did you pay for your education and what are you doing now? Where did you go to college?
Hedgefund Tony says
Wow. America is becoming as bad as Britain. And that is REALLY bad.
Seems your Establishment thinks it can pull the wool over people’s eyes too.
FTR, having rich parents does NOT mean you are smart. Having a vast sum of money distort the exam system in your favour, because your parents are rich does NOT make you smart. Going to an expensive university because it is biased in favour of the wealthy/private school kids does NOT make you smart.
America is sowing the seeds of its own destruction with this form of apartheid. When you need life saving surgery do you want a clueless silverspoon rich kid to do it? Or someone who’s genuinely talented? Likewise with the investment of your pension.
Finally, I have a blanket rule. I won’t employ anyone from a private school when there’s a state school kid available. Why? Because I don’t like the overprivileged declaring war on normal people for the “crime” of not having rich parents. And because the rich kid has hardly achieved if he got everything he has through cronyism and money.
Grow some balls America. If you want to be a world leader, support talent, support MERIT. Not the sort of croney capitalism of 19th century Spain. Remember what happened to them? AND the British Empire!
Financial Samurai says
I thought education in the UK was largely subsidized or free? The discrepancy in costs here are much wider (Free vs. 10s of thousands of dollars a year for grade school).
I live in Hoboken and work in NYC. The property tax at a good NJ suburb (saving city tax) is north of 22k. Add to that the commute and other nuisance like owning two cars, so let’s round that to $25k. Caveat – I have decided to only have one kid.
In this case, I strongly feel that private school is a better deal, with letting the kid pay his own way through college with loans. Although getting a top NYC school on this list is probably a dream for a regular grunt NYC office worker like me. I am a little paranoid that the wave of automation and AI is going to wipe out the vast majority of office and service jobs. I have seen some kids who went to private school and even if they ended up in mediocre colleges, they use their private school connections to land internships and ultimately cool gigs. Likely a million is not going to be worth anything in 18 years – hell it’s not worth much in NYC today. But sadly its probably better for your kid to hang out with other rich spoiled brats.
My wife and I just had our first child, so we’ll be facing the private vs public school decision in about 5 years. Of course, I’ve already started looking into schools and costs.
There’s two private schools nearby. The one she wants to send him to, a Catholic school, has tuition of about $4k a year. The one I like, a Montessori, is about $7k a year. Much less than the SanFran schools you talked about (we live in SW Ohio). Also, there’s the public school option which is tuition-free.
Since we do have 5 years to decide, we’re not dead-set on any particular school. Moving to a better public school district hasn’t been ruled out, either. It’s just that I, or we, have no idea how to tell how good a school is. I know I hated public grade school education, but loved my state college education. Because of how much I hated public school, I’m leery of sending my son to the same.
Hello Financial Samurai.
I am currently debating between UC Berkeley out of state(~200k costs over 4 years) vs UT Austin in state(~100k over 4 years) for Computer Science.
Do you think Berkeley’s proximity to the bay area and the fiercely entrepreneurial mentality of the people there along with its worldwide prestige as a ‘Big 4’ CS school is worth it? UT Austin is great too but doesn’t carry the same weight as Berkeley and doesn’t have the awesome location.
Thanks so much.
Financial Samurai says
Congratulation on your acceptances! I would say look at the company placement statistics for last year‘s class and see where they went. If you see a high conversion rate for a particular company you want to work for, then that university is probably better. It is booming here, but there’s no reason why a computer science degree from university of Texas at Austin can’t compete as well.
Berkeley really does have a good name, and a global name. But I will tell you that nobody really cares that I went to Berkeley for my MBA in 2006. What they care about is what I can produce today.
I’ve worked in tech in the Bay Area and there are plenty of CS folks from all over the country (e.g. Austin, Michigan, etc) so save your money! Also Austin is quite the tech hub these days and many of our companies relocate there after getting their funding here.
yes i would . then i would take that money and go to Mission San Jose High SChool in Fremont, CA. one of the best public schools in the country
I attended private religious schools. I do feel I was well prepared for college. But so were my friends that went to the local public schools.
For various reasons, our older child attended private K-1 and shifted to a public gifted magnet in grade 2. Both schools were/are a good fit and we have been happy. Our local public school would not have been a good fit for the older child, but will be excellent for the younger child who will start K in the fall.
There are a wide variety of magnets and charters in our area also. We’d prefer public school but would consider private for middle or high school, depending on available options.
The OP Parent says
You’re mistakenly conflating two completely different markets with distinctly unrelated needs: K-12 secondary education versus college education.
I am addressing Secondary Education specifically here. This is when character is developed based on peer group association, academic curriculum, extra-curricular activities, teaching system, etc. The factors that make for a great elementary/secondary learning environment is not the same as a successful college environment. For the parents who can afford it, that $ million is well spent and worth the “investment”. Why? Your children are getting EXACTLY what you expect based on your familiarity with the administrators, teachers, school mission, alumni, etc. Public school on the other hand changes drastically every two years as administrators/supervisors come and go, teachers come and go, standards/curriculum requirements come and go, etc. When I was in public high school, I was required to take language, fine art, practical art, PE, etc. Now all that has changed. What if I wanted my child be well rounded? Public education will short change that expectation.
Moving into a “better neighborhood” doesn’t necessarily change the problems plaguing public high schools, which is they are specifically mandated to prepare students for standardized tests and other “check list” items in order to receive federal funding.
Financial Samurai says
How did your kids turn out going to private grade school, where did they end up going to college, and what are they doing with their lives?
The OP Parent says
My son just completed private school K-8 (all boys military academy) and is now a freshman in a private high school here in Orange County, CA. The private school he attended was wonderful because it allowed him to progress at a pace that matched his intellectual capacity and ambition; with classroom size of no more than 10-12 boys, it was possible for the teachers to do this. He and his friends finished 8th grade at 10th grade level math. They easily tested out of geometry and algebra, and are currently doing very well in 9th grade. Additionally, the boys spend about 2 hours per day focused on leadership/discipline/accountability (the military part). Their success was not due to tiger parents pushing, but rather the personal attention and encouragement each boy received every day from teachers and administrators – truly a gift to be in a small classroom where the teachers are able to pace boys accordingly. As a result of their competency, my son and his friend both scored highly in the private school placement exam and received significant merit based scholarship to help pay for all 4 years of their high school tuition.
Obviously, it’s still too early to judge whether private school was the right path, but so far I have been very happy with the development of character and leadership. Part of his junior high curriculum was public speaking tournaments, drill team march competitions and giving commands to junior classmates. Consequently, he is now much more comfortable speaking to strangers confidently and interacting with others (a weakness in many adolescent boys). He is also seriously considering the Service Academy as a college option – there was no way he would have even entertained the possibility of West Point or Annapolis if he was in public school.
As an expat family in Asia, I too had the opportunity to attend an international school in junior high (Jakarta International School) and then finished at a well regarded public high school district. I did very well for myself (first tier undergrad, first tier law school), but looking back at my experience and those of my current peers (who attended private school) I can clearly see the shortcoming of my public school education that required me to “catch up” on certain skills I was missing later in life. Specifically, I was a beast in the classroom but absolutely undeveloped in social management skills. I was awestruck at how some of my peers were so comfortably effective at “networking” events in college and law school while I was just happy to say “hello” to a stranger. It wasn’t until I compared their upbringing with mine that I understood the difference. Their parents (successful professionals and businessmen) focused on leadership skills, self confidence and social grace in their K-12 experience which included private school, and all the attendant activities that accompanied that environment. In public school my two closest friends and I focused on only one thing: straight A’s, AP scores and the SAT. The three of us graduated #1, #2, #3 in the class and we all attended great schools for both undergrad and grad school (Berkley, UCLA, USC, Caltech, Chicago, etc.) – but guess what? All three of us totally sucked at navigating the corporate politics that separate highly paid executives from well paid managers. I eventually quit the corporate race to start my own business while my two friends are still working stiffs (managers who are never chosen to be VPs).
TLDR; the right private schools are more likely to prepare your children to navigate corporate social hierarchy because the social skills required of VPs and CEOs are the exclusive domain of children raised within this social circle. The best public schools only get them into a good college, but does not prepare them to deal with corporate politics.
Just a note that on the administrative side, private schools have a different set of issues. Because these schools depend on generous donors who are also on the board of trustees, that group can end up highjacking the school’s mission. When there are problems (ie bullying) that involve a VIP family, I have watched admin struggle to resolve things since they are eager to keep peace with specific families.
All good public schools start with an engaged principal and a PTA that can raise tons money. When you tour schools, it’s immediately clear if there is a strong principal. They are liked, available, and know the students and their families. Therefore, when things go south administratively, it generally means a change in principal. As for the PTA, they can be a difficult group to navigate, regardless if private or public.
very perfect insight.
I don’t know if this is insightful or sad. So what you’re saying here is that ceos/vp self select people like them who also went to private schools. In other words, on average you better be rich if you want to make it to the top, hard work alone ain’t gonna help you. I don’t know what this says about the values of a society that keeps selling a story of success through hard work, when in fact, the game is rigged from the get go.
After five years of public school with our two daughters, we were incredibly frustrated. We loved the community and social aspect but were astounded at the lack of academic rigour … we parents started spelling clubs and maths clubs to try to ensure some basic building blocks were occurring. However the kids saw these pursuits as crazy parent fetishes since the importance of these topics was not reinforced by the school around them. They were learning great things about gardening, cooking, meditation and creativity though. Both children complained of boredom regularly.
Anyway, after much angst they have now been at a very academic school for four years ($25k/yr each) where they are in heaven, highly motivated and embracing the deep joys that study (academic, musical ect) and consistent effort can provide. As previous commenters have said, each school is different. The school they are at suits them (and us) entirely and one can’t ask much more than that.
Early on when we started down the private school route I was struggling to overcome sticker shock (the feelings of paying so much hurt more than my spreadsheet indicated that it would), and to help overcome the angst I would interview other school parents about how they justified the rationale for paying so much. One father’s attitude has been immensely comforting over the years …. he said that he sees that he is giving his children their inheritance early when they need it most, in the form that is most valuable to them.
Financial Samurai says
Good advice at the end from the father. My mother, who does not make much or have much always tells me this when she tries to give me money. She knows that I’m doing OK, but she keeps generously giving me money to help pay for anything random or to help pay for our sons expenses. And she always says that she feels good to help give us the inheritance now while she is still alive.
Good advice at the end from the father. My mother, who does not make much or have much always tells me this when she tried to give me money. She knows that I’m doing OK, but she keeps generously giving me money to help pay for anything random or to help pay for our sons expenses. And she always says that she feels good to help give us the inheritance now while she is still alive.
I think we should recognize how fortunate we are to be able to have enough wealth to transfer to our kids.
Great to hear the new school system works for you guys. $25,000 seems so much cheaper than $45,000 here!
Maple Flat says
You can live anywhere so why not move? In my town an excellent private school is 10k a year! Worth every penny!
“Would You Accept $1,000,000 To Endure Going To Public School Over Private School?”
The Title just threw me off, as a parent.
It is the “parent” who go through the pain of sending a child to private school, or college.
You make it sound as if its the child.
There goes all parents, working hard and saving to provide best education to their children.
Financial Samurai says
It’s a question for the child, and then there’s a question for the parent to make as well. Why not have a discussion where both debate the merits since both are involved?
I am spoiled since I live in Arlington VA. Urban lifestyle with suburban schools. In fact it has some of the highest rated schools in the state (and often show up in the top 100 for HS’s on the national stage).
Which schools in Arlington are you referencing? I live in Alexandria and have compared both Arlington and Alexandria schools. The public schools rate very low. For this reason alone my wife and I will be moving back to the North East where public schools are rated well, and we won’t be forced to go private.
Brian McMan says
In my experience be careful of going to private school just because you have merit based scholarships. It was too late when I realized the public school I was considering would have paid the $6500 a semester out to me, but the private school I went to had a rule where the max payout is $1000 per semester and kept all the rest of the money for themselves, paying nothing out past the first year.
So yeah I had to take out student loans dollar for dollar to cover what they stole from me, and if I had to do it again I woulda went to public college in a heartbeat. Can never get that time back I spent working them loans off.
I don’t find this comparison very meaningful. Not all private schools are created equal just like all public schools are not created equal. It doesn’t even necessarily have to do with the quality of education but the personality of the child and the values of the family.
I’m a public school kid and my husband is a private school product. I was at a top rated public school that was culturally suffocating and regressive. My husband went to a top rated private school that was culturally accepting and diverse. We both ended at Ivies and with equal incomes but I still believe he had the better deal. I would have gladly relinquished $1,000,000 for a happier childhood. Now that we have kids, we made a list of priorities, toured both public and private schools, and decided from there. One size does not fit all and if you have the financial means, choose a school where your child will thrive and succeed. Money isn’t everything.
Financial Samurai says
What did you decide Will your kids?
Money is not everything when you have money. But money is a lot for those who are torn between this decision and who have to make aggressive sacrifices or take on dad to send their kids to private school.
Private school for right now but we will readdress it in the future. We love where we live but it has terrible schools. Like most urban areas, there are good schools in very selective expensive neighborhoods. Alternatively, it’s juggling the charter or magnet game. What drove the decision is the desire to have them in a play-based environment with more one-on-one attention the early years.
We are the typical family where everything comes at an opportunity cost and sacrifices need to be made. I mean that’s the vast majority of us. However, I draw the line at debt. We have zero debt and no desire to take on any. This just means we probably won’t take on a mortgage. If we bought a house, the property taxes and maintenance will already equal one tuition. In essence, this just means coming up with tuition for the other kid. I have no illusions that what works now will work in the future. Life changes. Jobs change. Their needs change. Schools change. The only thing that would be nice about public school is that I could then afford a part-time nanny. Not having any help indefinitely is a bit stressful.
Also, we aren’t enrolling them in a private school based on some proven college matriculation record. We chose the school because we liked their approach to early childhood education. In the end, none of this may matter. It’s always that eternal debate of nurture vs nature. However, I am not one to believe that money is ever wasted on education for those who have the will to learn. If you have a bad kid, then all the money in the world also won’t matter. So raise a good a kid and arm them with tools to be financially independent, whether that may mean private or public school.
Financial Sloth says
Thank you Financial Samurai for helping to reignite the “discussion” between me and my wife :-)
You may have swayed me, but I went to a number of private schools from highschool through university, all on merit or financial aid. I dont know how much better the education was, but I do know that I made some connections with people that I don’t think I would have interacted with otherwise. And some of the school names I attended definitely provided a point of conversation at job interviews or just let me be at certain tables.
Would I have gotten those same opportunities had I graduated with $1MM bucks? Probably. But all I have is my experience.
My wife is the totally opposite. Public through and through and has gone on to do great things as well.
So now that we have kids and are in a position to actually have the option of whether or not to cough up the money, we are torn. Our little ones are still young, but it is a topic of conversation.
This is one of those topics that we are just really not sure of. Thanks for adding more perspective to our debate.
You always pick great topics!
As a product of public school education in the Midwest, I’d easily take the $1 M and go to public school. I’ve met people who’ve gone to both public and private school and we all tend to end up at the same destination. I feel like instilling a good work ethic in your child is more important than what a school is rated as. I learned how to read a textbook vs. paying attention to the teachers, which helped me succeed when I got to college, where the professors just handed out assignments and provided minimal one on one guidance.
Brandon wood says
If one can afford it sure do it. Bottom line though the schools don’t raise children the parents do. There are so many entitled brats out there because of latch key children and iPads being put in front of their face 24/7. Regardless of the school (within reason) involved parenting will win in the end. My mother is a retired southern CA public school teacher. I am a product of public grade school, attended cal state system for undergrad, however did attend a private university for graduate school. I did just fine attending public schools and ended up with a great career and work life balance. Unless you’re in a neighborhood that isn’t a representation of what you stand for as a family then go public.
Consider a subscription to Scientific American Magazine for your kids and make sure they read it each month. Not only is it written in a way that is progressively challenging (each article is more difficult starting with the first article being the easiest) but also one of the standardized college aptitude tests I took as a youth had an entire section of the test based on an article from this publication. I had read that issue of SA and spotted the content right away. Needless to say I scored higher than I might have if I was not a reader. SA is also the oldest magazine in America for what that is worth.
Ten Factorial Rocks says
Sam, I think the choice if obvious once you frame the question as $1 million difference. The grey area comes if the difference is say, only about $300K or so, when all costs (including higher taxes and COL in good public school district) in some areas. As you know, even private schools have widely varying costs. In my view, a good public school is better even in that case of $300K delta but for many, it may be a toss up at these levels of a cost difference, spread over a decade or so.
Asan Australia who went to public primary then private high school followed by public uni, I’ve found it really difficult getting over the guilt I feel. I was never quite good at tests enough to get into the better selective schools and my sister just went to one of those, so I was always going to be the bigger financial burden (~$180k). Given that my parents are retired now, I think that sort of money could have really helped them shore up their finances. Admittedly I did really well there and got scholarships to Uni, so the effective cost of my entire 3 year degree was just ~$7.5k. I guess its swings and roundabouts…
Financial Samurai says
The cost is only $7500, then you should have no guilt or shame spending that money. You can easily pay your parents back even at minimum wage, which is what I planned to do if things didn’t work out.
Long term reader, first time poster from Europe says
Given that I am 28, MBA, comfortably living off interest, dividend and rental income with investments currently worth less than $500k in Czech republic, I would accept $1 000 000 and attend public school without any questions, that would put me in the top 0,3 % (less than 30 000 people out of 10 600 000 have net worth above $1 000 000 in the Czech republic). $20k a year is enough to provide person with above middle class lifestyle, while living outside of Prague area, if you go to work on top of that and make another $20k, you are in the upper class bracket. Most expensive private school fees for higher education (bachelor/master degrees/MBAs/LLMs taught in English) are between $8 000 and $20 000 in total here, $1 000 000 is insane amount of money even for Cambridge/Oxford studies.
I have been to US several times (New York, Chicago and Florida), living standards are comparable, the biggest difference between US and the Czech republic is in the price of services (which is insanely high in the US), low emission vehicles in Europe, close proximity of regions (village/city every few miles), better technology in housing in the CZ (we use mostly bricks/AAC blocks with high thermal insulation values, triple glazing, integrated HRV systems are becoming very common), lack of skyscrapers, wide roads, less silicone breasts and of course huge difference in demographics (97% of population is white, ~2% are gypsies, ~0,5 % are Vietnamese).
I could work my ass up in LA/Silicon Valley/New York area in rat race to keep up with Joneses until I drop death, or I can live comfortably in Czech republic retired/part-time working in my 20s/30s with insanely low property taxes (~0,01% p.a. for residential property, ~0,05% p.a. for commercial property) and smaller capital taxes (15 % to 19 %), smaller crime rate, free healthcare services (about $100 month while living of investments/free if retired or below 26), lower unemployment rate (2,3 %, lowest in the EU), free education which is usually very expensive in the US (e.g. medicine, nuclear science, …), better family environment (free kindergarden/schools/hundreds of hobby courses for kids very cheap, castles/bike trails/mountain trails everywhere), no earthquakes/tornadoes/terrorists/muslims/school shootings/deserts/dire animals, great environmental quality, one of the lowest Gini index in the world, 2 hour flight to London/Paris/Zurich/Amsterdam. Almost all of population below 35 speaks English. What more can you want? The only con is the lower class population mentality which is still struck by 40 years of communism, which promotes socialism as a valid regime (such as EU), on the other hand the situation is not as bad as in Spain/France/Italy or Sweden. Out of those countries, Czech republic has better market environment for business and lowest forms of market regulation.
Financial Samurai says
My wife and I love Prague. We met a Rieder there a couple years ago and we love drinking the beer and eating the boar sausage. Such a beautiful place with friendly people.
Maybe more people should retire to Prague?
Long term reader, first time poster from Europe says
Prague is very good place to retire if you like art, culture and history. However real estate market in Prague has gone mad over the last ten years. Also cost of services and necessity goods is about 50% above national average in Prague. Even below average 700 sq ft two bedroom apartments are selling for more than $200 000. From my point of view, the best way to retire in Prague is to find detached house/villa with large garden in town/village within 45 minutes away from Prague by car. If you do, you have more peaceful life, out of city buzz and tourism industry, while having comfortable distance to visit Prague whenever necessary.
Frank Anonymous says
I know why you posted this, and let me tell you from personal experience –
just let your wife have her way and send your kids to private school
Financial Samurai says
Haha, nice. Listen to the podcast at the end of the post and you might come to a different conclusion.