Thursday, October 18, 2007

Private school tuition comparison

Here's a rundown of the cost of tuition at many of the city's popular private schools. Please keep in mind that nearly all private schools offer some sort of financial assistance to families who can't afford tuition.

$12,250 Synergy
$16,377 Ada Clevenger
$18,800 Live Oak
$19,350 The San Francisco School
$19,550 Brandeis Hillel (K-7; goes up in 8th)
$20,200 Convent and Stuart Hall
$20,540 San Francisco Friends school
$20,805 Marin Country Day School
$21,090 San Francisco Day School
$21,225 Hamlin
$22,555 Nueva

Thanks to the parent who helped me track down these numbers! Also, please note that many of these numbers go up after kindergarten or in middle school. And let me know what I've left out. Thanks!


  1. Here are some, in order (with the exception of Burke's, that I just guessed on):

    Synergy: $12,250

    Adda Clevenger: $16,377

    Presidio Hill: $18,040 for grades K–3 and $19,200 for grades 4–8.

    Live Oak: Lower School K-5: $18,800; Middle School 6-8: $19,500; also has 60 hour annual volunteer requirement (need to confirm that)

    Brandeis Hillel: K-7 $19,550; Grade 8 $20,550; Parent Association Dues $50 (per family)

    San Francisco Friends School: $20,540

    Marin Country Day School: $20,805, goes up after 2nd grade (but “indexed”)

    San Francisco Day: $21,090

    Hamlin: 21,225

    Burke’s: can’t find on website (anyone?)

    Nueva: 22,555 for Kindergarten, goes up every year

  2. OK, I am going to let loose.

    Now, if you started a private school 10 or more years ago, you could safely assume neutral impact on the community. Most of the schools on this list are in that category.

    But more recently, things have been different. Public schools are under increasing political fire from the pro-privatization forces of the right, underfunded and battered by No Child Left Behind. When public schools lose resources, support and enrollment, kids suffer, and vulnerable, low-income, at-risk kids suffer the most.

    Within the past 10 years, if you convened a lot of evil people and sat around trying to concoct a way to do the most harm to the community, especially to the children of the community, and MOST especially to the most vulnerable children of the community -- what you would come up with is a way to suck more middle-class families out of public schools, thus depriving them of more funding, political support and resources. Starting a new private school would be the perfect way to do that massive harm.

    So what the **** do the Friends think they're doing?? (And there are the Bay School and the Waldorf High School, also new private schools -- but the Friends especially win the prize for truly doing bad while posturing as doing good.)

    Sorry, but this list just provoked me to vent!

  3. Caroline, you are about to get madder. Apparently another private school is coming too. I forgot what it is called, but it's part of a "chain." I'll look for it and post here.

    Here are a couple more, didn't look for tuitions:

    French American

  4. It's more dismay than anger -- well, both. I realize that in most cases the schools are looking out for themselves and their clientele, and not considering their impact on the greater community. But it's the Friends who do tick me off, because not considering their impact on the community is in such crashing conflict with what they're supposed to be about. The legendary Sidwell Friends in D.C. is already a glittering island of power, prestige and privilege in a sea of need -- but at least it wasn't BEGUN in that situation; it got there gradually, turning up the bathwater a degree at a time.

    Trying to claim that the school is about teaching ethics and social responsibility and all that blah-blah hardly compensates for the fact that the school's very existence does massive harm to the community and to its most vulnerable members.

    I cut the other newer privates (Bay, Waldorf, whatever else) some slack because they don't really try to pretend it's about anyone but their own clientele.

    Kate and anonymous, is it OK if I copy your info about tuition onto the blog and a couple of listserves, with credit? Thanks!

  5. Ok with me!

    BTW, I know several people who send their children to Friends School. They are lovely people, but many of them are from significant financial means and I don't think that those particular people would have sent their kids to public school at any rate. In fact, some told me that they got into the most popular requested public but chose friends. I have no scientific study, but I think that maybe Friends drew from the SF Day crowd rather than the Rooftop/Lillienthal crowd.

    But isn't it nice, at least, that private schools teach ethics?

    That said, you may very good points. It's a big problem!!

  6. I don't want to turn this into a bash on SF Friends, but I often laugh about how expensive "simplicity" is. That being said, I do know some parents who send their kids to Friends and they love it. Really, it's kind of nauseating. (me - 20k for simplicity????)

  7. well, it's nice to know i'm not alone out there in pub vs. priv land. sure, as they say, it's a free country -- but you're not free to destroy it for the rest of us!

    here's another layer: i toured starr king this week. the experience gave me much food for thought about my own biases, prejudices, what have you. although i have already seen a bunch of schools (buena vista, alvarado, fairmount, sunnyside, lakeshore, miraloma...etc.), this was the first and only one i have seen that was truly a mix of social classes that included all san franciscans. and, yes, it draws from public housing. the tour guide addressed all of us scared middle-class rabbits directly -- a good idea -- and invited us to peruse the bayview PD's crime blotter for evidence that the campus is perfectly safe ;- ) . (perhaps not the best sell point.) that said, going to starr king has really made me think about school in a way that goes beyond the notion of getting-my-kid-into-the-best-possible-program. far beyond. first of all, it's got me thinking that it is a gift to give your kid experiences that show them that they are part of something bigger than themselves. that they are not the center of the universe. any kid from a middle-class family who is supported at home knows they are god's gift to humankind -- they don't need teacher after teacher confirming it (or getting paid to confirm it). the rude awakening is coming regardless -- why not be ready for it?

    long story short, visiting starr king, a historically low-performing school that has, in the past, catered to the underprivileged but is doing interesting things now, really reinforced for me that when you opt out of the system and go private, you are making a decision that profoundly affects the whole. and while it may technically be your right to do that, it doesn't make it an ethical choice (no matter what the bylaws at synergy or friends say).

    maybe i'm nuts, but if SFUSD gets $8500 per kid, then people who send their kid to private school should have to reimburse the district. this is not a zero-sum game, after all.

    this is really bumming me out today. i think i'll go spend $$$ at my local organic farmer's market and buy a handbag.

    yours in bourgeouis guilt....

  8. Here's another way of looking at it: those who choose private leave more room for the rest of us at the public schools closest to where we live!

    Here's one of my dilemmas: my daughter has a dream of "walking to school." That actually could only happen for us if we enrolled in the catholic school down the street, which I hear is a fine school, but we're Jewish. Meanwhile, most of the public schools near us are very hard to get into!! (As in, the two closest are Alvarado and Rooftop.)

    Trust me, I feel all these public vs. private political issues. We are good liberal democrats and give a lot to the community. If I could have it my way, my kids would go to the public school closest to our home, and it would be very diverse. But it's not so simple here in our lovely City. It's complicated.

  9. It's definitely true that it's not so simple!

    But except in a few rare cases, most families who choose private school totally let go of the notion of walking to school, or of convenient geography at all.

    We have dear relatives who sent three kids through Adda Clevenger, though they live way, way across town from it and were initially assigned to a fine (though not at that time "trophy") SFUSD school four blocks from their house.

    That's always been emblematic to me of how baffling it is that people say they're choosing private because they're not guaranteed their neighborhood school. (Obviously, these dear relatives didn't ask my opinion first -- well, their kids are older than mine and I didn't really have an opinion to give at the time.)

  10. Just listing the tuition numbers alone is misleading: it frightens people.

    My daugher is at KDBS (which was not on your list). Our tuition is high, yes, but there is nearly one million dollars per year awarded for financial aid (yes, roughly one million dollars each year).

    People assume financial aid will not be available, but it is. They also assume that financial aid is only available for the very needy or is somehow race-based and used to promote diversity. The truth is that schools want socioeconomic diversity as well as ethnic diversity (it would be a little scary if a school were composed entirely of Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights rich children).

    Even a family who has an income of over $100,000 can qualify for some financial assistance with tuition.

    I am extremely happy with my daughter's experience at Burke's. In response to Caroline's comments about harm done to public schools: I myself went to public schools, and I was bored and unhappy for years. I have sworn that my children will not be unhappy like that.

    Also, my husband and I have become passionate advocates of girls' schools. We don't want our daughters to fall prey to gender-based role ideas.

  11. I don't feel I need to reimburse the public schools for not sending my child there... because as a homeowner, I pay hefty property tax which goes in part for public schools.

    Here's the truth: people who own houses (which is indeed a privilege in SF) pay for the schools and renters do not.

  12. Dear Drunken Housewife:

    (heh, you may want to reconsider that pseud from a credibility point of view.)

    I am the anonymous who put together the original tuition numbers, and I searched literally for 10 minutes on the Burkes website and couldn't find the tuition.

    Can you please post it here?

    Also, FWIW, renters do end up paying property taxes indirectly through the price of their rents.

    Personally, I love Burkes (several members of my extended family attended there) as well as all-girls education generally. But a trek across town to Sea Cliff won't work for my work schedule. Alas!

    At any rate, I'm sure that Kate would be happy to add Burkes to the tuition list if you post tuition. Thanks.

  13. I would choose private if my kids were bored and unhappy in public school too -- well, I'd probably try to work with one or more other public schools first. Luckily, my kids aren't bored or unhappy.

    As posted elsewhere, it's a personal choice with negative impact on the community, like driving an SUV or living in a giant house. So it's something one weighs.

    My daughter is first-chair trombone in the school band, lording it over the boys and getting the solos.

  14. Caroline: I don't think the goal of starting the first Quaker school in the Bay Area was an act to reverse the movement for education reform. The dwindling decline of the public school system in San Francisco is the result of many other factors including lack of affordable housing in San Francisco, the lack of distribution of public funds to support our schools, and the lack of genuine leadership from elected officials including the Sup. of the Board of Education.

  15. I have a very lovely friend who attends SFFS. They have and incredible diverse mix of families from all income levels and socio-economic groups. She says they have a very generous tuition assistance program even for a young school. Have you toured the school to check it out yourself?

  16. How can SFFS be truly diverse at 20K? Even with generous tuition assistance this is not achievable in a real and meaningful way. Diverse private schooling is an oxymoron IMO. The process is pretty much self-selecting. Those who speak of their private schools as being diverse are kidding themselves.

    -jaded private school parent

  17. I am now a Senior in High School, and I went to Nueva. I can honestly say that those were some of the best years of my life-- at these schools, you definitely get opportunities that you couldn't at private schools. Each summer there are community service trips abroad, and I loved the Futures Problem Solving program (similar to written debate). I also attended public school for a few years, and Nueva was racially more diverse than that elementary school-- though, I'll admit that I lived in a mostly white neighborhood. Financial aid is also attained fairly easily, so even even the socio-economic mix was not as homogeneous as you probably expect.

    I hope this doesn't come off as arrogent, but I also think that in some ways it is better for extremely wealthy children to avoid public schools (btw-- I'm not one of them. I was on financial aid at Nueva). I've met many wealthy high school students who come out of public school, but ended up being intolerably arrogent. This cannot happen when they go to a smaller school, like Nueva, where social hierarchies aren't as pronounced as they are in public schools.

    Also, it's the people's tax dollars paying for private school, so why does it matter what type of schools the upper class attends?

  18. p.s. sorry, I meant to type "public" in:

    you definitely get opportunities that you couldn't at private [public] schools.

  19. Back in January of 2006, I put together a matrix that compared most of the independents and a few of the parochials around town. My data shows that KDBS tuition was then set for $19,023. Surely it has increased since. Using average percent increases for SF County, I would guess it to be up around $22K at this time.

  20. Nueva is now 27,000 for kindergarten.