What price for a K-8 education?

Personal finance

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I was perusing one of those miscellaneous email threads at work today and came across one asking about a local school for gifted students called the Nueva School. It’s K-8, private, evidently very well-reputed (everyone on the thread had wonderful things to say about the place), but I was shocked to see the price tag for 2006-2007:

Grade Tuition Trips Total
Prekindergarten $15,885 N/A $15,885
Kindergarten $21,240 $40 $21,280
1 st Grade $21,240 $100 $21,340
2nd Grade $20,840 $300 $21,140
3rd Grade $21,200 $350 $21,550
4th Grade $21,245 $350 $21,595
5th Grade $22,170 $1,190 (Southwest) $23,360
6th Grade $23,030 $1,940 (Washington, DC) $24,970
7th Grade $23,030 $885 (Ashland and backpacking) $23,915
8th Grade $23,430 $3,480 (Japan) $26,910

For most people, the tuition rates for this school are well beyond their means. Up until today, the highest pre-college costs I had heard of were for a handful of elite high schools, not elementary schools. I’m sure I’m revealing my ignorance as a non-parent and non-teacher here, but when is an elementary school education worth this amount of money?

Yet, to be fair, nearly all of my friends who have served as public school teachers swear that public school conditions these days are so awful that they would go out of their way to send their own children to private schools. So there must be something really attractive about private schools, and obviously there’s a market for even the most elite ones.

I went through the public school system until 9th grade, at which point I switched to a private, all-girls school for my 4 years of high school education. The college I attended was also private, followed later by grad programs in public schools between and during full-time jobs.

Personally, I think I really benefitted from having a mix of the two experiences. And though I realize that my private school education probably did me much further than if I had stayed in the Tennessee public school system, in my experience, those of my classmates who attended private schools straight through from elementary school through high school (and usually then onto private college and grad schools) tended to really hold a particular kind of consistent perspective on life, current events, politics, and other issues. It’s one that can only be described as being much more academic and sheltered from first-hand experience. I know I suffer from this to some extent, too.

While the benefits of private schools have been extolled everywhere, for me, it was only after seeing both sides of the divide that I realized that the diversity of experiences and abilities you get when attending a public school just can’t be replaced, and, with few exceptions, it’s a much closer reflection of the reality you face once you leave school.

What’s even more interesting to consider is that in many other countries outside the US, public institutions are far more in demand and better reputed than their private counterparts, because government support means public schools, universities, and institutions have better and larger resources, and they’re usually tougher to get in due to demand.

Anyway, feel free to sound off here. I’d love to hear your opinions!


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5 Feedbacks on "What price for a K-8 education?"

Ray O'Brien

Regarding an article about Nueva School, is this a boarding school? Public school is a better deal and parents havevery much to say about the education that occurs. Private schools tell parents what is good-take it or leave it. Parents feel it must be worth it, all these other peole are paying this much. We all can be idiots… can we?

Make the best out of public education by working with your child’s teacher. Put the money in an investment to pay for college or more specific training.

paul in 02144

I agree with Ray. My parents kept a close watch on my public school education and extra curricular activities, and that allowed me create strong relationships with the best teachers. Great teachers can be found at any school, and it’s the inspiration which those teachers impart on students which is most valuable, and which is free. I grew up in one of the poorest counties in the country (Hidalgo), but I was inspired by my parents and teachers, excelled academically, and graduated from MIT.

Additionally, expensive private schools may come with stereotypical drawbacks: homogenaity of economic class, access to casual-use drugs, and the contribution to the widening gap between the rich and poor.

The Digerati Life

I considered Nueva for my kid. However, it was too steep for us so we declined. I did get a packet from them though. I have some friends who got in via financial assistance. But that’s like a lottery I think. Oh well.

Chris Duncan

The cost for that school does seem really, high. We send our children to private school and pay about $10K for 3 of them.

Public schools seem more concerned with teaching lifestyle choices instead of giving the kids an education.

They don’t seem very interested in teaching values like not stealing, not bullying, valueing others above yourself, etc.


Someone else posted about this. I think the other thing to tell folks is that you will be hobnobbing with Silicon Valley’s wealthiest families. Vinod Khosla’s wife is on the board that runs the school. Presumably his kids went there. (And if you don’t know who he is, he’s the guy who helped finance/found SUN Microsystems and has gone on to be a very successful venture capitalist.)


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