According to new data from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), going to a private high school in the Southeast U.S. isn’t cheap, but taking that private education north a few states and you’ll practically be paying college prices.
According to the NAIS data, private high school in the Southeast U.S. will usually cost around $18,900 a year, which is fairly modest as far as private education goes. Go to Mississippi and North Carolina and you could end up paying as little as $13,500 a year on average. Even private four-year college tuition is relatively inexpensive, an average of $27,400 per year.
But a private high school in New York or New Jersey will usually cost $34,400, and in New England, tuition could end up being $35,100. That’s almost twice the cost of private high school in the south. New England’s four-year colleges are some of the most expensive in the nation too, usually charging about $39,200 a year in tuition.
Even elementary schools are expensive. Parents pay $22,500 on average for private elementary school tuition in New England and $27,300 in the tri-state area. Those numbers don’t even include boarding schools, which charge thousands more for room and board.
In the middle of the price range are the Western states, ranging from California to Alaska. A private elementary school tuition in these areas will cost about $20,000, while private high schools generally cost about $29,000.
So what’s causing these massive price gaps?
According to NAIS, there are several factors that may influence costs, but the primary factor is location. Many of the higher prices correspond with dense population centers. Though this could seem to mean that private education providers can charge more where there’s larger demand, Myra McGovern of NAIS told The Atlantic that it has more to do with covering the cost of living and doing business, since large population centers tend to be more expensive in that regard.
“You’re running a nonprofit, a small business,” McGovern told The Atlantic. “You want to make sure your employees can afford to live in the areas they have to work, particularly because independent schools require a pretty big time commitment from staff.”
McGovern also pointed out that three-fourths of a private school’s budget usually goes toward salaries and benefits for teachers and other staff, which would explain the higher private school costs in expensive locations like New York City. Even with the high tuition costs, teachers in private education often earn less than public school teachers.
Other factors may include regional economy and private school culture in different parts of the country.