Tuition Costs and Policies
Berkeley Parents Network >
K-12 Schools >
Tuition Costs and Policies
Hi- the middle school that we currently attend bills in May and July for the
upcoming school year. This means the entire tuition is pre-paid before the year
starts. Is this how other east bay middle and high schools bill? Is this
My son's private middle school has three options: 1) pay in
advance by May 1 2) pay in two installments May 1 and
unfortunately I can't recall the date for the remainder 3)
pay in monthly installments, with a ''convenience'' fee
attached to each payment. My daughter's private elementary
school does the monthly thing, but I guess one could pay it
all in advance if one wanted. There is no incentive to pay
it in advance. I think it's easier for the school if they
have the tuition paid in advance, presumably because it
makes it easier to pay bills and organize funding for other
projects throughout the school year.
My kids have attended 4 different K-12 private schools over
the years. Three of them billed monthly, dividing the
year's tuition into 10 equal payments. The fourth school
wanted either the entire sum, or half of it,
before school started, with the balance due - I think -
in December or January. At this school, tuition could be
divided up in 10 monthly payments but there was a substantial
"processing fee." You could also pay monthly by making arrangements
for a student loan (the school gets its tuition in full
before school starts, you pay back the loan monthly.)
Have you looked at the web sites for other schools? Most of
them have very detailed information on their websites about
how much tuition is, and when it is due.
We live in the East Bay and our kids are not yet school age,
but getting there. What are the yearly costs for private
school? I've heard the increases are usually about 7% - is
that true? How available is financial aid? We make about
$190k, which may sound like a lot, but we have a mortgage
and would like to retire some day. Would we be laughed at
Each private school is different, but in my experience in
the last 2 years as the parent of a private school
student, the tuition does increase more than the yearly 3-
4% standard cost of living increase, however, our school
has been very mindful of the current economic climate and
has not raised tuition as much as they might normally have
in the past 2 years.
The bottom line is this, choosing to send your child to a
private school is a choice that will require you to have
to sacrifice, period. Unless you are fairly wealthy,
sending your child to a priavte school takes most if not
all of your discretionary income. It means no vacations
or VERY modest vacations, it means that you have to REALLY
watch your money. It is a choice. It is something that
you do because you really believe that your child and your
family will be better off for it.
I understand that in the bay area with a big mortgage and
after taxes $190k doesn't go far for a family, I am in the
same boat. Some schools choose to spread financial aid
around and some reserve it only for the most deserving
families. You very likely could get no financial aid and
if you do get financial aid it will probably be only about
10-20% at best of the total cost of tuition. $190k is
still a lot of money, the median income for a family of 4,
even in the bay area is only $65k or so and let's face it,
a private school education is a luxury. Again, choose a
private school because it is the best thing for your child
and your family. Only you can decide if it is worth the
Our children go to a private school in Berkeley. The cost has increased
about $12K six years ago to nearly $18K for next fall. The availability of
financial aid may vary from school to school, but your income level is quite
I would imagine it would depend on how much equity you have in your home
regardless of the amount you pay monthly for the mortgage. We have friends
who, based on the information you have provided, have been in similar-
sounding situations and they received minimal aid but didn't have much
in the home. Those with more than $200K in equity didn't receive aid (I
that was the amount). The sense of it seems to be that your retirement is
really not something they care about. There are enough people who really
aid (so they can make ends even kind of meet NOW and are probably not even
able to think about retiring ever) that people who just want it so they can
maintain a comfortable lifestyle aren't eligible for much. However, it is
worth asking and applying.
I recently reviewed a financial aid survey from bay area
private schools. Your income of $190k would exclude you from
financial aid at most schools, but there are some schools
that give aid at this level, especially if you have limited
financial assets. 7% per year is not unusual as a year-to-
year increase in tuition, but this would be high as a
sustained rate of increase. Tuition is likely to increase at
slightly above the general cost of living, both because of
the high labor content of schools, and the increasing
expectations that parents have for private schools.
Recent Private School Board Member
I am a parent of two children in private school. My eldest
child is in second grade. We just got the tuition rates for
next year, 2007/2008 and the rate of increase was staggering.
8%. The reason stated in a well-written, well-reasoned
accompanying letter talked about keeping teachers' salaries at
a competative level. Last year the reasons were healthcare and
workers comp increases. Well-reasoned or not tuition will have
gone up over 22% in three increments (kindergarten to 3rd
grade). Our income certainly hasn't gone up that fast and it is
starting to take a real toll on our family's financial outlook.
My question is this? Does anyone have any experience dealing
with a school's finance committee and somehow getting the rates
of increase to slow down? We make a fair amount of money so
won't be eligible for financial aid but school tuition is
starting to be impossible for us as we look towards paying
thourhg eighth grade. We have done financial planning but
didn't factor in increases like this. Any suggestions? (I am
not asking for anyone to tell us to just leave and go to public
school. We love the school and our children are thriving.)
- Feeling mighty pinched and worried about it.
I think the reality of the situation is that schools have a very
tough time balancing the costs of paying and retaining good
teachers with trying to control tuition increases. If you want
to retain good, skilled and experienced teachers that you have
invested lots into you have to keep their 'compensation package'
competitive. On top of that I know that for our business health
care costs have steadily risen around 15% each year for the last
several years. While workers comp took a dip couple years ago
there seems to be some upward pressure on that again also.
The added difficulty of schools and teachers is that it is hard
to 'increase' productivity of teachers. You can't put more
students in the classroom to generate more income because that
destroys the 'small class size' that we're all looking for in
So how do good private schools control tuition increases?!?!
From what I understand it is endowments and fund raising. Old
established private schools convince people to donate large sums
of money to create an endowment that can be invested to generate
income to fund the school.
At least that is how I understand it...
Private School Parent Also
When we were applying to our private school, the director told us
explicitly to expect
tuition increases of around 7% each year. It's steep, but at least we
knew in advance
what we were in for.
This is the main reason we didn't enroll our two children in
private school. We thought we might be able to swing the tuition
but we were not entirely confident that the raise my spouse had
been promised from his employer would materialize. As it turned
out, it took them a year to get around to actually finding the
money in the budget to be able to offer salary increases. By that
time, my oldest was thriving at his local public school so it
didn't seem worth it to move him.
The only advice I can give you is if you are getting close to the
edge (for example, you are contemplating going into serious debt
to make those tuition payments), I think you should consider
registering at your local public school--as a contingency plan.
I don't know what district you are in but many school districts
allow parents to give a preference for what school they would
like and the most popular choices usually have waiting lists.
If you don't need the spot in your local public school, you can
call the school and let them know that they can give it away to
someone else on the waiting list.
If it helps at all, my two children are happy in their public
school and thriving. Most kids do great in whatever school they
attend if parents stay involved and on top of what's going on.
I know many parents of children in private school who are in a
similar situation! I don't have experience dealing with a
private elementary school, but I did bring this subject up with
the administration at a highly coveted preschool that my daughter
attended. The response I got was sympathetic, but I was
essentially told that if I couldn't afford the school and did not
qualify for financial aid, then perhaps I should look at an
alternative, less expensive school. They said they had many
children on the waiting list who could take my daughter's place.
When we were looking at elementary schools for our daughter, we
*did* figure in an annual increase of 3-8%, since the schools
were all very open about this being a normal fee increase. If
you check out the websites of private school, many of them state
this info. in the tuition section. My advice to anyone thinking
of attending a private school is that it's really important to
assume there were will this kind of increase each year. This is
one of the reasons why we did not send our child to private
school, and why many families choose to move if they are unhappy
with their local public school. Private schools are, after all,
businesses (unlike public schools), and if the market is such
that they can ask for an 8% increase and the majority of parents
will pay, you can't blame them for asking for it.
happy public school mom
Much to my surprise, I am considering sending my children to
private school. I never thought I would do this since my
husband and I grew up attending public schools, but times
have changed. Sigh... Anyway, having no experience with the
world of private school tuition, I'm trying to estimate how
much this will cost me. Do private schools raise their
tuition every year? If a private school charges $15k/year
for 2004-2005, will parents really be expected to pay
$30k/year by the time the child is in high school?! (10
years with an average rate of increase of 7%/year)
For parents whose children are now in private high schools
charging $15k/year, did you start out paying $7-8k/year
when they were in elementary school? I'm just trying to
get a handle on the true financial cost I may be in for
if we go the private school route. Thanks for any
information you can provide! (I realize most schools offer
financial aid, but I'm just trying to understand the
- former Economics major!
Dear Econ major mom:
Yes, you should expect that almost every private school
will raise their tuition yearly. As a Director of
Admission in schools over the past fifteen years, I have
never known nor worked for a school that did not.
In July of 1990 I began working at a boarding school that
charged $13,500. That school's tuition today is over
$25,000...and its a lesser expensive one!
Yes, there is almost always some financial aid available if
you qualify. There are also low interest low programs for
I remember advising one of my school's board not to push
through the $20,000 mark because I was concerned about
enrollment and affordability for families. No one listened
to me, families continued to enroll...and now we're moving
on towards (and through) $30,000.
Should you like information on all the reasons why the
investment in your child's education might well be worth
those amazing costs, just ask!
In response to the question about private school tuition,
oh, do we wish we'd asked ourselves (or others) those
questions when we put our oldest daughter into a private
kindergarten nine years ago. The tuition was about $7K
then and is almost $15K now. Of course, our salaries
haven't risen at that rate during the past 9 years. (And,
we now have two kids in the school!) To make matters
worse, we thought our kids would just be in private school
through sixth grade, but then their school added 7th and
8th grades and by the time our oldest daughter got to that
age, no one was leaving for public middle schools. Taking
a 12 year-old away from all of her friends was something
we couldn't bring ourselves to do.
I suspect that because the economy is no longer booming,
school tuition increases may slow down now. Private
schools will have to be sensitive to the change in
financial conditions or they will have trouble filling
their classes. But, it's certainly worth thinking about.
We went the private school route because our daughter
didn't get into either our first or second choice of
Berkeley elementary schools. Since then (1995), the
Berkeley elementary school scene seems much improved.
We've been very happy with the education our daughters
have gotten, and we know they've had more personal
attention than they would have had in public schools, but
if we had it to do over again, we would probably have
decided differently. Fortunately, our daughter will be
going to a public high school next year, and we'll get a
little relief...just in time for college. Good luck with
It seems that private schools (at least some) raise tuition
each year. Our older son has been in private school for 3
years and this is the first year for our younger son (we
didn't start in kindergarten). Each year the tuition has
gone up almost $1,000.00.It's pretty outrageous, but this
is what we've chosen so we adjust our budget around it.
You might try to get financial aid. Some schools have a
decent financial aid budget and you might be surprised even
if you think you make too much money. It's worth a try and
can't hurt....just a lot of paper work. Good luck. We have
never regretted our decision to put our boys in private
school from public.
poorer but better educated
To the parent assessing the real cost of private school--I
am on the other end of your quandry. I have a 13 year old
8th grader and a 17 year old 11th grader. Until this year
both my children had gone to private schools since
kindergarten. This year we moved our son from Lick-
Wilmerding (private)to Skyline High (public) in Oakland
because of the cost. Our daughter will be going to Skyline
in the fall.
The cost of private school has gone up 4-7% every year.
Last year we realized that to keep both of them in private
school through high school was going to cost us another
$150,000--and that was just for 6 more years of school.
We realized that we simply could not blindly keep paying
that kind of money; as we need to be concerned about the
Part of the decision was based on the fact that I am no
longer employed for health reasons, however, I am thrilled
to be out of that rat race. Sometimes I bemoan our prior
choices, even though I was very happy with the schools we
Skyline is working just fine for my educationally
exceptional child. It may not be the best academics in
the world, but my son is learning many other important
things as well--like learning to deal with people who are
different than he is.
I think that had we been able to commit to being active
parents in public school we could have made it work. I am
finding that by paying attention and making myself heard
I am able to get our needs met so far.
If you want to talk more about these choices, feel free to
give me a call.
Is it true that if you teach at a private school, like
Head-Royce or CPS, your children get to go tuition-free?
I don't know about Head Royce, but if you work at CPS, your
child can attend for 50% of the tuition, which is still
pretty pricey, especially on a teacher's salary, but does
make a significant difference.
Head-Royce does offer tuition remission - but it is NOT
free, and the child still has to be admitted. Tuition
remission depends on a variety of factors, including how
many students are using the pool of money, as well as
policy, which is being REVIEWED currently, so what exists
currently may not be true for any new hires.
this page was last updated: Aug 31, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network