Private School Tuition: Now More Expensive Than Harvard

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RiverdaleThere's nothing new about the idea that America's schools are in crisis, but the latest twist doesn't involve kids packed liked sardines into classrooms, guns in backpacks, overpaid teachers or underperforming students. In fact, the latest news causing a tempest over schools isn't even a public school problem.

The predicament is that America's elite private schools are in trouble. They need new libraries. Or planetariums. Or fencing rooms. Or swimming pools. Luckily, they've found a solution: raising tuition. Right now, the cost of a private school education averages out to $21,695 per year. And, while that princely sum is roughly 44% of the annual income of the average American household, it's just over half the tuition charged by the country's most expensive private academy: New York's Riverdale Country School.

Recently, Riverdale announced plans to increase tuition by 4%, to $40,450 per year, making it the first private school in the country to cross the $40,000 barrier. In return, its students get to enjoy two libraries with a combined 44,000 books, a fitness center with professional trainer on staff, a 25-yard swimming pool, outdoor tennis courts, and a host of other facilities.

Impressive. Then again, Harvard University has all of those things and more, yet charges a comparatively cheap $33,696 per year.

In fact, Riverdale's price tag exceeds the basic tuition at seven of the eight Ivy League colleges and universities. Admittedly, that doesn't include all the fees and assorted add-ons, which push the full cost of some of these universities slightly ahead of the elite prep school. Then again, the Ivy League -- officially, at least -- prepares its students to support themselves, while Riverdale prepares its charges for ... well, the Ivy League.

Riverdale may lead the pack in the tuition game, but it's only slightly ahead of the competition. Across the country, many top schools charge more than $30,000 per year. In New York, the median cost of tuition for senior year at a private school is $35,475. Even the Blue Man Group, famous for its playful shows, is dead serious when it comes to charging parents: A year of kindergarten at the Blue School founded by its members costs a whopping $29,820.

Private schools have never been cheap, but tuition has soared by 79% in the past 10 years. And although many administrators have expressed dismay about this, prices continue to rise. Most experts agree that the jumps have to stop sometime, but with competition fierce for spots at the country's best colleges and universities -- and public schools facing a funding crisis of their own -- it's hard to imagine when tuitions are going to hit the ceiling.


Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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32 Comments

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Economic Freedom

"Then again, Harvard University has all of those things and more, yet charges a comparatively cheap $33,696 per year." Right. Then again, Harvard receives millions of dollars from the federal government, which is the university's major research sponsor, and The Riverdale School does not. Maybe that explains why Harvard doesn't need to charge as much as The Riverdale School, eh? I'm quite sure that I could charge much less for lemonade at my neighborhood lemonade stand than my competition could at his stand if I had the feds subsidizing part of my operation costs with your tax money and my competition did not. The principle is the same whether the product is lemonade or eduction. Additionally: Harvard has a long-standing, multi-billion dollar endowment, the interest from which it uses to fund much of its operation; something I doubt very much The Riverdale School has.

September 27 2011 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Economic Freedom

"Then again, Harvard University has all of those things and more, yet charges a comparatively cheap $33,696 per year." Right. Then again, Harvard receives millions of dollars from the federal government, which is the university's major research sponsor, and The Riverdale School does not. Maybe that explains why Harvard doesn't need to charge as much as The Riverdale School . . . eh? I'm quite sure that I could charge much less for lemonade at my neighborhood lemonade stand, than my competition could at his stand, if I had the feds subsidizing part of my costs with your tax money.

September 27 2011 at 12:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hybridjimmy

Thanks for your above information on private schools tuition fees. That is not a good news for the students about the high ups in the tuition fees of education. There are so many private academies provide scholarship programs and education loan facilities for those students that can not afford the education fees.
http://www.teensprivateschools.com/

September 10 2011 at 2:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jimkagsy

What about private schools for high functioning students with ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, Autism. Public schools
only give them basic lip service and just try to push them through the system. It costs over 20K to have them
educated, I have never heard anyone speak up for them. They have the same rights as all of our children. Why
can't we get a tax break Mr. Barack. They also grow up to be good citizens, educated with real values minus the
liberal propaganda. Teachers who have taken the time to really teach and understand their needs. Otherwise
these kids get thrown under the bus, and end up with drug and alcohol issues. Our public school system is
not working!!!! It use to be that teachers were well respected. It now appears they, like all of us just want a
guarantied paycheck. I am voting for reimbursement for parents with children who have special educational
needs. And I mean the ones that public schools do not adhere to their IEP's.

July 07 2011 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mjdgdc

Private schools may have very high full tuitions, but the top (academic) private schools also have very large scholarship programs. Take it from a poor kid (me) who went to Exeter for free.

July 07 2011 at 7:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
madddddddddddddd

this is silly.........if u can afford 40,00O$$$$$$$$$$$$$ FOR NON COLLEGE GRADED SCHOOL..............

U NEED TO BE TAXED AT A MUCH HIGHER RATE ON UR INCOME TAX..............

June 23 2011 at 3:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
smartpup007

Most jobs respect privately educated kids more than public school kids. If you attended a private school you probably come from money and do not need that much help. This is just another way that the rich keep it in the family.

June 22 2011 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
B INSANE OBOZO

yeah, but look what came out of harvard.... kennedy and b.o.

June 22 2011 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
corrnurse

What is the current tuition at Rosemary Hall? It is a sister school to Choate, in CT.

June 22 2011 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to corrnurse's comment
eagleshcky17

they both merged into one school. also wtf are they talking about no schools costing more than 40k?
http://www.westminster-school.org/podium/default.aspx?t=14538
this one costs 47k for room and board

June 23 2011 at 1:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rbergstrom

fpfininc - Lets see, you comment that when we had Bush/Cheney we controlled Congress - Funny I don't remember that. And also the other 90% you talk about is not quite correct since almost 50% pay no taxes. Also, the number the President talks about is $250,00 to be what he calls "rich", but if you live in almost any big city and pay taxes of over 25% and have a family of 4 that does not make you rich - - - however say whatever makes you feel good even if it is not true because your idol (B.O) does just that.

June 22 2011 at 2:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rbergstrom's comment
B INSANE OBOZO

aol huffpo won't let me give you an up vote.... so it's up to you and up aol huffpo's too.

June 22 2011 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply