Deciding Between Public and Private School

Apr 19, 2023 | Family

Overcrowding, educational needs, and religious preferences are some of the many reasons why parents might consider sending their child to private school. The cost of private school tuition, however, can be a stumbling block. Equally as important as finding the right school for your child is having an accurate idea of the financial commitment. The following considerations should be explored to determine if you can realistically afford private school.

Why Private School?

Given the significant financial cost of sending a child to private school, it’s essential that you have a clear idea of why you want to pursue private school before beginning the search process.  Determine what focus and values you are looking for, and what will align best for your child. Some schools specialize in advanced academics, religious education, or student-tailored teaching styles that are different than those used in public schools. Whether you are looking for small class sizes or unique learning opportunities for your child, it pays to do extensive research before committing to a school.

Financial Commitment

In 2023, the nationwide median tuition for private day schools is $17,310.[1] However, the costs can exceed $60,000 per year.  Generally speaking, elementary grades cost less while middle and upper grades cost significantly more. The exact price will depend on your location and the amenities offered by the school. Important to note for budgeting purposes is that the tuition number does not necessarily include the cost of books, uniforms, technology, or other required fees, all of which can add up quickly.

When thinking about paying for private school, annual expenses are important to review, but you must also consider the big picture.

  • Will your child attend private school for one year, through certain grade levels, or for all K-12 schooling?
    • Can you afford multiple years of tuition?
    • Private K-12 tuition can end up costing more than 4 years of college.
  • How will the tuition rate increase over time and grade level?
  • If you have more than one child, will you send all of your children to private school?
    • If so, can you reasonably assume that cost?
    • If only one child will be attending private school, are you prepared for any possible hurt feelings, sibling comparisons etc.?
  • Will the funding of private school infringe upon your ability to fund college or your own retirement?

Financial Aid

Many private schools offer financial assistance but it’s important to have this discussion with a school at the beginning of the process. Your student might be eligible for grants, which do not need to be paid back, or a need-based or merit-based scholarship. Some families may opt to take out a personal loan to cover tuition expenses.

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts and 529 Education Savings Plans can also be used for K-12 education, but on a limited basis.


There is an assumption that families who attend private school are financially well-off. While this is certainly not the case across the board, it makes sense to be prepared for different social pressures. Will you or your child feel an expectation to keep up with the clothes, homes, cars, vacations, and other lifestyle choices that other students and their families make? Does the school expect parents to participate in fundraising on top of paying tuition?

Additional Considerations

While many private schools have beautiful campuses, buildings, and access to technology, you should also consider if the school meets your student’s practical needs and aligns with your family’s values:

  • If your child has any special needs or currently has an individualized education program (IEP) from the local public school, will the private school be able to fulfill those requirements, and will you retain the same parental rights?
  • If you view college preparation as essential, does the school have a dedicated college counseling staff?
  • If diversity is important to your family, does the school make active efforts to ensure inclusivity of all students?
  • Does the school provide bus transportation?
  • If your schedule requires that your child attend extended care before and/or after classes, does the school provide that?
  • If your children will be in different schools, how will the school calendars integrate relative to other family considerations such as vacations?

SageVest Wealth Management helps guide you through all of life’s milestones including paying for your loved ones’ education. Our advisors work with you to ensure that your short and long-term goals work in harmony and that your future financial security is protected. We invite you to contact us to learn more.

[1]Hanson, Melanie. “Average Cost of Private School”, March 25, 2023,

Prepared by SageVest Wealth Management. Copyright .
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