A Quiz About Private Schools

Updated February 10, 2016 |
A Quiz About Private Schools
Here are five questions the answers to which will introduce you to the world of private schools.
I have targeted the first three questions at parents who are just starting to think about private school for their children. I can remember what it was like when we looked into sending our eldest daughter to pre-school. We had two primary concerns: paying for her schooling and understanding what the school would teach her. I know that parents today essentially have the same concerns.  Possibly the last two questions might stump people who are familiar with private schools. My intention here is to offer some facts and figures as I compare private with public schools.
 
1. How many private schools offer financial aid?
 
The short answer is that just about every private school offers some form of financial aid. They do that because they are well aware that many families cannot afford to pay the full tuition and fees which they charge. Also, they don't want to admit only children from families who can afford to send their children to private school. Most private schools these days want to have as diverse a student body as they can. Consequently, there are over a dozen schools which now offer full financial aid to families with incomes below a certain income. These thresholds vary from school to school but typically are in the $75,000 range
 
I am saving the best for last. The United States has a handful of free private schools. A dozen or so munificent, visionary citizens founded tuition-free schools in the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. Several of these schools are boarding schools. Paying for a private school education is a major concern for most of us.  So, don't wait until the last minute to discuss this issue with schools on your short list. Also, don't decide that private school is out of the question until you have explored all your options with the various admissions offices at schools in which you are interested.
 
2. How many boarding schools are there in the U.S.A?
 
The Association of Boarding Schools lists approximately 300 boarding schools, most of which are in the United States with a dozen or so schools in Canada. You are probably reading this question and thinking that you would never send your child away to a residential school, so why bother reading on. Let me share with you several thoughts about boarding schools. 
We decided to send our two daughters to boarding school because we were both juggling parenting with full-time careers. We lived in a rural part of Connecticut where you had to drive 20 minutes just to get to a food store. The local public schools maintained high standards but also had lass than 500 students in Grades 7 through 12. That meant that they offered only basic academic courses and just a few extracurricular activities. We wanted our children to take more Advanced Placement courses as well as to participate in a wider variety of athletic and extracurricular activities. 
 
When we began exploring boarding schools, we were pleasantly surprised at what they offered. What pleased us the most was the idea that our children would be supervised 24/7 while at school.  Not knowing with whom our children might be driving or where they might be after school gave us both many a sleepless night. Boarding school began to make a lot of sense after we thought about it more seriously.
 
3. How many private and independent schools are there in the U.S.A.?
 
The National Center for Education Statistics shows that 30,861 private schools served 4,494,845 students in 2011-2012, which was the last year this data was compiled. In fall of 2015 more than 50.1 million students were expected to begin school at approximately 112,000 schools. Typically you will find more private schools in urban and suburban areas. The northeast has the highest concentration of boarding schools.
What about charter schools? Don't they operate like private schools? Our tax dollars fund charter schools. They do not charge tuition. Private schools charge tuition for their services. Most charter schools seem to function under the supervision of state education departments.   
 
4. Which is the oldest private school?
 
The oldest American private school is Collegiate School in Manhattan founded in 1628.   The reason I have asked this question is to point out the fact that private schools preceded public schools in our country's history. As various religious organizations, communities, and local leaders saw the need for educating their children, they established schools to serve that purpose. Collegiate School describes its founders' purpose succinctly: "so that first of all in so wild a country, the youth be well taught and brought up."  The Ursuline School in New Orleans was "convinced that the education of women was essential to the development of a civilized, spiritual and just society, the Ursuline Sisters influenced culture and learning in New Orleans by providing an exceptional education for its women."  Private schools laid the foundations for education back in colonial times. The desire to better society and equip it with a well-educated citizenry is the reason these first schools were founded.
 
5. Which private school is the most expensive?
 
I am playing to the popular media's misconception that private schools are only for rich kids. That might have been the case in the middle of the 20th century at some schools. Happily that has changed at just about any private school of which I can think. The watchword from the top down in most private schools is diversity. Private schools are trying very hard to create communities which more faithfully reflect the world around them. The world's most expensive school? As far as I can tell, Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland takes the prize. It caters to a very wealthy clientele drawn from all over the world. The rich value service and privacy. Le Rosey provides both in abundance for a tariff of $115,000 which does not include sundries. 
 
Questions. You may contact me via Twitter. @privateschl


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