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How Much Does Private School Really Cost?

How Much Does Private School Really Cost?

Published: 03/28/2011

» Paying for Private School

There is no getting around it; private schools charge tuition. But just as no student is the same, so it is with tuition, the cost to attend a private school varies from almost free to very expensive. Private schools near larger cities tend to be more expensive while those in more rural locations may cost less. Schools with religious affiliation tend to have lower tuition while prestigious prep schools can often cost more. Families need to shop for the right school for their child by looking at the programs offered, the costs involved and the scholarships, financial aid, and tax credits that can reduce the price tag of an independent school.

Application Fees

Most private schools charge an application fee to cover testing and processing, and to ensure that the applicant is really interested in attending the school. The fees range from a low or no application fee to as high as $300. On average, the fee is $50. In some cases the application fee is applied against the first year's tuition.


According to the U. S. Department of Education Institute of Education Services, Digest of Education Statistics 2009, the average tuition charged for all private schools in 2007-2008 was $8,549. The average elementary school tuition for that period was $6,733, while the average tuition for a private high school was $10,549. Within those averages are a wide range of tuition figures. The lowest tuition, $1,552 was charged for a religiously sponsored elementary school while the highest, $30,265, was charged by a nonsectarian high school. A number of private schools, thanks to endowments from donors or alumni, are tuition free for any accepted student.

Text book and academic material fees

Private schools charge text book and academic material fees. The fees can vary from a modest $50 for a religiously affiliated elementary school to over $800 for a nonsectarian high school. Faced with rising costs and dwindling tax revenues, many public schools are also charging book and academic fees. Some public schools are slashing specialized academic programs due to falling revenues. Private schools on the other hand tend to keep or expand their academic programs because they are paid for directly by the fees charged to students. If students in a private school want an academic program, it is usually offered.

Sports fees

Private schools usually charge an athletic fee for each sport a student plays. Public school students are also paying athletic fees and facing the loss of less popular or more expensive sports. Private school on the other hand have a tradition of maintaining and expanding their sports programs because they are paid for through the athletic fees, alumni donations or endowments.

Clothing and uniforms

Most private schools require students follow a dress code or wear a uniform. While the cost for uniforms or dress code clothing may seem steep at first, over the year it may actually cost less than buying the jeans, shirts or sneakers that are popular at the moment. Used uniform sales can significantly cut the costs of clothing bills. And most private school students could care less what type of khaki pants or white shirt they have to wear to meet a dress code. Shop the sales and you could actually save money on your student's clothing costs.

Transportation to and from school

In most cases, parents of private school students have to provide their child's transportation or pay a transportation fee. Carpooling can reduce the costs of transportation and help draw families with students attending the school together. Some states and communities routinely provide transportation for private school students especially those attending parochial elementary schools. Urban communities may provide reduced or free fares for students attending any school, private or public.

Boarding schools

Students who live at a private boarding school can expect to pay more about $7,000 or more for their living expenses. Some schools include all deposits and fees in the room and board cost, others use itemized bills.