Streams

Private School Tuition in New York City 'Higher Than Harvard's'

Monday, January 30, 2012 - 08:13 AM

Talk about your 1 percent.

An article in The New York Times by Jenny Anderson and Rachel Ohm about the high -- and rising -- costs of a private school education in New York City reports that the annual tuition is hovering on the brink of $40,000 a year, even for the lowest grades.

Over all it has risen in the city by 48 percent, adjusted for inflation, over the past 10 years, according to tuition data provided by 41 New York City K-12 private schools to the National Association of Independent Schools.

Indeed, this year’s tuition at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory ($38,340 for 12th grade) and Horace Mann ($37,275 for the upper school) is higher than Harvard’s ($36,305).

The article goes on to say:

With schools already setting tuition rates for the 2012-13 school year — Brearley’s is $38,200 — parents at Horace Mann, Columbia Grammar and Trinity are braced to find out whether they will join families at Riverdale Country School in the $40,000-a-year club. (Riverdale actually charges $40,450 for 12th grade.) In fact, it appears to be a question not of “if,” but “when.”

“Within one to two years, every independent school will cost more than $40,000,” said one board member at a top school who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the school had not yet set tuition.

And that is before requests for the annual fund, tickets to the yearly auction gala and capital campaigns to build a(nother) gym.

The article says the skyrocketing costs can be explained by rising teacher salaries and benefits -- the same issues that drive the budgets of every private and government-run entity. But there is another reason prices keep rising: "the seemingly endless stream of people more than willing to pay them."

The median number of applications to New York schools has increased 32 percent over the past decade, according to the association, and in some schools the acceptance rate is staggeringly low. At Trinity, only 2.4 percent of children from families with no previous connection to the school were admitted to kindergarten last year.

The article seems to have struck a nerve: as of this writing, about 460 people have commented on it on nytimes.com.

In other news this Monday morning, The Daily News reports that the city schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, has asked the city's screened high schools to admit more students with special needs.

These are not the elite schools like Stuyvesant High School and Bronx High School of Science, which use scores on the citywide specialized school exam to determine admissions. Rather, schools like Bard High School Early College and Beacon High School have to do better with admitting students with disabilities, Mr. Walcott wrote.

“We recognize that this transition is a substantial one,” wrote Walcott, adding that the department would beef up supports for disabled students to help them settle in the high-performing schools.

Last year, 11 of the city’s screened high schools had fewer than three students with special needs, a News analysis shows.

And fewer than half of the city’s 103 screened high schools took as many disabled kids as non-screened neighboring schools.

On Friday, the City Room blog on nytimes.com reported that students at the Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation in East Harlem had made a video, welcoming Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as the state's lobbyist for students -- a declaration that the governor made this month in his State of the State address.

The video has not gone viral -- yet -- but it has gotten around, thanks to the New York City Charter School Center, a nonprofit group that supports charter schools. The post says: "With a few tweaks to make it television-ready, and a modest outlay by the charter center, the clip has been playing this week as a 30-second commercial on NY1, the New York City cable news channel."

In their video about Mr. Cuomo, several students list the various constituencies, from superintendents to bus drivers, who have lobbyists in Albany. The spot concludes with a voiceover saying that Mr. Cuomo had pledged to take on a second job as a lobbyist for students, and a smiling young woman who says, “My governor, my lobbyist.”

The school's principal, Nicholas Tishuk, said he brought the governor's pledge to the students' attention:

“As a principal and as someone who follows education policy, I was really inspired by the governor’s speech, personally,” Mr. Tishuk said. “When I shared it with the kids, they were like, ‘This is great.’”

If you haven't caught it on NY1, you can watch the ad in the City Room post.

Gotham Schools' Rise & Shine post has a more complete roundup of the weekend's and Monday's education news reports.

Is there something going on in your school this week? Post it on your school's SchoolBook page, or send us an e-mail.

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