Making public vs. private high school decision

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LeftCoastIV
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Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by LeftCoastIV »

I would appreciate the wisdom of this forum on a decision our family needs to make.

Our older daughter will be heading into high school next year. She has great grades (3.8/4.0 or thereabouts) and is on an advanced math track, as well as honor society. I would describe her as a natural hard worker. Outside of school, she does a competitive sport with a club team.

She has been accepted into a small private school with strong academics, that costs $30K per year. We live in a HCOL area.

The local *public* high school is rated 10/10 on Greatschools. If she enrolls there next year, she will be taking multiple honors classes, and potentially a leadership class as well. Most/all of her school friends will be going to this school. The school is around 1,600 people, so 400 people per class.

The private school appears to be great. Total enrollment is 250, with around 70 people in the incoming freshman class. The facilities are top notch and new. Everyone seems friendly and it doesn't appear to be super-competitive (e.g. cutthroat). One thing I would note is that, of the 70 freshman, 50 will be students already at the school who are moving up from 8th grade. So, my daughter would be one of about ~20 new students in the freshman class. She is worried about making new friends if she changes schools.

I'd say she probably leans 60/40 towards the private school in her thinking on the options.

We are doing fine financially, with about 27x current spending saved, in our mid-40s. We can afford the private school, although the sticker shock of the $30K/per year ($120k for four years) is tough to swallow, and begs the question, "Is it *that* much better"?

If we did the private school, I think our appetite for other spending on experiences would go down. For example, she is interested in doing an international semester in high school, for example. International trips that would expose her to new cultures, etc, would likely be more constrained, etc.

Also, astute readers may have noticed that she is not an only child. She has a younger sibling as well. My best guess is that the younger sibling (a strong student as well) will want to go to the public school, but who knows.

Thanks in advance for comments!
Last edited by LeftCoastIV on Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by JoeRetire »

It's more about the student than the public/private choice.

Strong student will excel in either.
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KlangFool
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by KlangFool »

OP,

1) It does not make sense to pay $30K per year for the private high school.

2) Do you plan to pay 80K per year for the private college? If you ended up paying for the private high school but no money for the private college, how does this make any sense?

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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

There are pros and cons to any private school. Been there, done that. You really don't know all the cons until years later. I've come to the conclusion in hindsight that if the kid doesn't have a learning disability and the public school doesn't need metal detectors and rules against gang colors, stick with public school.
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Thesaints
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Thesaints »

Academically there is not much difference, perhaps.
Costwise the difference is obvious.
I'd go with the private school in case you are interested in your daughter getting more acquaintances within a certain circle, if that indeed is the case with your private school.
Glockenspiel
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Glockenspiel »

With a great public school option, I see no reason to enroll in the private school. At a public school that good, she will be surrounded by other naturally hard workers and will succeed on her own. 400 kids per class is not THAT large, if that was a concern.
cableguy
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by cableguy »

You are lucky the public school system is really good. Sounds like you'll be fine either way. Couple of things:

- Wait until your child is in 11th grade and you are looking at colleges. You will find there are so many smart kids out there its crazy. Ivy League schools are almost impossible to get into. Schools like USC, UCLA, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Michigan are extremely hard to get into. Get a 32 on the ACT, have a 100 GPA in high school, be involved in clubs and activities, you probably won't get into any of the schools I just mentioned! And that's crazy!

-Some private high schools have good pipelines into some colleges, but for the most part, private schools aren't a huge leg up on a top public school system

-Private schools also pull athletes and troubled kids. Not just strong academic kids. Keep that in mind.

Good luck!
quantAndHold
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by quantAndHold »

Going to private school when there’s an excellent public school available, for a kid that will do fine either way, seems kind of absurd.

A larger public school will have a variety of non academic opportunities that the private school can’t possibly have, as well as a more diverse student body. I would only go with a private school if the public school is inadequate in some way for your kid.
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StormShadow
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by StormShadow »

She'll do fine in both situations. You have an terrific daughter and you should be proud of her.

Personally, I'd send her to the public school, buy her a nice car when she turns 16 and give her a leg-up on retirement once she starts college (such as finding some sort of part-time work that you can double as a roth IRA). Not to mention all the extra-curricular activities that she'll have access to with the extra available funds.
Irisheyes
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Irisheyes »

Why does your kid want to go to the private school? At this age, they know their own minds pretty well....

I was in the reverse situation. My daughter wanted to to to the public school while I wanted her to go to the private school.

She's a junior now at our good but not great public school .. in an affluent NorCal suburb.

The main advantages are her peers -- more kids means more smart kids and my child needs competition to excel.

The main disadvantages are how much more work it is for parents.

Underfunded counselling and other services means we are always trying to figure out what classes she needs to take. It goes without saying that the college search is completely on us. So make sure you have the time to put in if she decides to go the public school route.
mega317
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by mega317 »

Without knowing the particulars, the benefits, or likely benefits, of public school are
- established friends. Would be huge for most high schoolers.
- might be more opportunities for niche activities/clubs
- she sounds like the kind of person who would do very well anywhere
- $120,000

I don't know if you could definitively answer the question is it that much better, which kind of leads me to think it's definitely not. Also I notice you haven't really made any case for the private school except "appears to be great".

If she's on the fence it seems like an easy decision to me.
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greg24
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by greg24 »

You have given no reason why you are considering the private school. Your public school is 10/10. In fact, the private school looks like a negative socially, as she loses her circle of friends.

Are you simply assuming private is better? Or smaller is better? Smaller can mean fewer class choices for advanced students like yours.
Last edited by greg24 on Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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SmileyFace
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by SmileyFace »

For $120K I'd want my student to be 90/10 sure not 60/40 - although at that age they won't be sure until they get there.
Being in the minority of "New" students could be a major drawback at that age.
You say you can afford it but then state you would have to cut back on other items (International Travel, etc.) so it's questionable to me if this is really affordable. If you have college savings 100% and Retirement 100% taken care of then you can afford it. Otherwise I would pause (in any case I would personally pause - I would rather gift the $100K when the kid graduates and is starting out versus plunking it down with a good Public School option available that my taxes are already paying for).

One of my daughter's was looking at two Colleges/Universities that were $120K apart in price for us (a more expensive prestigious school with 0 scholarship to her; versus a decent private school that was covering a bit with a merit scholarship). I told her she had to convince me that the more expensive one would be worth the $120K and let her know if she chose it there would be 0 help with Grad school - she chose the cheaper option which actually did give us some left over 529 funds to cover much of Grad school.
MathWizard
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by MathWizard »

If your public HS were terrible, I would recommend private since you can afford it.

That is not the case though.

Unless you plan on private through all of college. I would go public.
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Johnsson
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Johnsson »

JoeRetire wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:23 pm It's more about the student than the public/private choice.

Strong student will excel in either.
+1

I'm guessing the competition in the public school will be as strong as the private school (or stronger). She will rise to her level at either school.

Note: Her future will not be all about academics. It's also about sports and involvement/leadership in multiple activities.

Good luck!!
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Johnsson
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Johnsson »

DaftInvestor wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:51 pm For $120K I'd want my student to be 90/10 sure not 60/40 - although at that age they won't be sure until they get there.
Being in the minority of "New" students could be a major drawback at that age.
You say you can afford it but then state you would have to cut back on other items (International Travel, etc.) so it's questionable to me if this is really affordable. If you have college savings 100% and Retirement 100% taken care of then you can afford it. Otherwise I would pause (in any case I would personally pause - I would rather gift the $100K when the kid graduates and is starting out versus plunking it down with a good Public School option available that my taxes are already paying for).

One of my daughter's was looking at two Colleges/Universities that were $120K apart in price for us (a more expensive prestigious school with 0 scholarship to her; versus a decent private school that was covering a bit with a merit scholarship). I told her she had to convince me that the more expensive one would be worth the $120K and let her know if she chose it there would be 0 help with Grad school - she chose the cheaper option which actually did give us some left over 529 funds to cover much of Grad school.
This too!!!
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cshell2
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by cshell2 »

In this situation I would choose public (and I have a kid in private high school). You have a great public option and she's a great student, so she should be able to excel there. I just don't see that you'll get any added value out of the 30K/year cost. Plus, there can be drawbacks to small private schools. My son didn't have access to nearly the classes that he could have had at the public. He's going to graduate with one AP class...would have been two, but they couldn't get enough kids to sign up for AP Physics and it was dropped this year. In our case though, the public is not a great school at all and I could see my kid falling in with the crowd on track to work the local factories at graduation. At the private all his peers were college bound.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by JoeRetire »

Johnsson wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:08 pm
JoeRetire wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:23 pm It's more about the student than the public/private choice.

Strong student will excel in either.
+1

I'm guessing the competition in the public school will be as strong as the private school (or stronger). She will rise to her level at either school.

Note: Her future will not be all about academics. It's also about sports and involvement/leadership in multiple activities.
My sons both went to our (good) public school. They both did well.

Son #1 (the lesser student) went on to an out of state private college, graduated in 4 years, and is successfully in business now. He's a top salesperson in his national company.

Son #2 (the better student) went to an in-state public university, graduated in 5 years, and is successfully in software now. He's a nationally-acclaimed and published expert in his domain. When son #2 was entering in High School he wanted to take some computer programming courses. He looked at all the private schools in the area - none offered these classes. The public high school offered them, but not to freshmen. He was able to convince the head of the Math Department to let him attend anyway. Good choice.

They each rose to their own level.

We had always promised that we would pay their way through college. We were able to do that with our 529s and cash flow, and they both graduated debt-free.

They are both doing well, are happily married, and we have two grandchildren. Things have a way of working out.
Last edited by JoeRetire on Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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fourwheelcycle
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by fourwheelcycle »

I really can't think of a good reason to consider a private school if you have a 10/10 public school available. Why is your daughter leaning 60/40 toward the private school? Is she concerned that a private school is necessary to help with college admission? Pick a few colleges she may have in mind and then see how many graduates form the public and the private high schools were accepted in recent years. I bet the numbers are very similar, or maybe even higher for the public school. I realize the public school is bigger, but I bet your daughter will be in the top 30 graduating seniors at either school. Also, I bet the breadth of specialized classes, whether in math, social studies, or any other area, will be greater at the 10/10 public school.

I think a motivated student can get a great education at a 10/10 public school. I just looked up my high school and I see it is rated 2/10! It was a magnet advanced track HS when I went there in the 1960s; maybe it has been dropped from that role. I also looked up the high school our own children attended, which is (perhaps) the top high school in our state - it is only ranked 8/10.
Last edited by fourwheelcycle on Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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1789
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by 1789 »

I agree with others, going to public school which is rated 10/10 is a no brainer.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by willthrill81 »

For us, the fact that we wanted our daughter to receive a certain type of instruction was so much more important that it was not even a choice. She will begin attending a private school this fall.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by fourwheelcycle »

JoeRetire wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:24 pm
[Our] sons both went to our (good) public school. They both did well ..... They each rose to their own level .....

They are both doing well, are happily married, and we have two grandchildren. Things have a way of working out.
This is a very telling post - and very true. Life is more about the student than the school.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by GeoffD »

Generally, a GreatSchools 10 just means that most of the students have college educated white collar professional parents. It says pretty much nothing about the actual quality of the school.

Generally, a highly selective academically oriented strong private school is going to cover a heck of a lot more material than any public school. Like anywhere else, you teach to the intellectual capabilities of the people sitting in the chairs. I'm New England so I'll refer to those schools. Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Choate Rosemary, and Deerfield totally blow away the top-10 metro Boston public schools. If you can get admitted, it's an enormous advantage. There are also lots of far less selective private high schools in New England where it's no advantage at all compared to the best gold-plated suburban schools.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Jags4186 »

Unless your child is lagging, especially gifted, or needs a kick in the rear, the public school should be just fine. Doesn't sound from your description she meets any of those.

I was sent to an all boys high school because my parents thought I was goofing off in middle school. They were right. Goofing off in middle school was the best thing I ever did -- I loved every second of high school. They really taught you how to "be a man".

My sister went to the public school in town and ended up being valedictorian. She was super motivated and needed no coaxing.

In the end we both ended up at the same university for undergrad.
veindoc
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by veindoc »

Why did you even apply to the private school?
Daughter was doing well, had friends...what was missing?
Are you likely to find that missing element in the private school? If so, go. If not, stay.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by stoptothink »

GeoffD wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:52 pm Generally, a GreatSchools 10 just means that most of the students have college educated white collar professional parents. It says pretty much nothing about the actual quality of the school.

Generally, a highly selective academically oriented strong private school is going to cover a heck of a lot more material than any public school. Like anywhere else, you teach to the intellectual capabilities of the people sitting in the chairs. I'm New England so I'll refer to those schools. Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Choate Rosemary, and Deerfield totally blow away the top-10 metro Boston public schools. If you can get admitted, it's an enormous advantage. There are also lots of far less selective private high schools in New England where it's no advantage at all compared to the best gold-plated suburban schools.
Area is obviously a factor. There are at least 3 high schools within 10 miles of my house that are "better" (by every available metric I've seen) than the top rated private in the entire state. FWIW, my stepfather is a teacher (AP English, debate team coach) at one of those publics and my sister is a teacher at that top private. The resources and programs available to the honors/AP students at the public are vastly superior.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Starfish »

I don't think the the high school rating tells you much. My kid goes to a 10/10 school and it is pretty bad. I don't want to imagine what a worse school would be.
Also most people don't seem to not understand that the purpose of a high school is education and intellectual development, not to "do fine". Education is a thing in itself, it has nothing to do with how much is the income after that. The main quality of a school comes from it's students. If the students are better in the private school, the school will be better.
The size of classes could be both a minus and a plus. If the kids are good it's a plus, otherwise it's a minus.
I wouldn't be too worried about the circle of friends, it's a problem that passes in at most a year.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by thx1138 »

My only input would be to ignore the "10" rating as there are plenty of not very good "10" schools. Also some schools or even whole districts can go south faster than the ratings reflect. Instead talk to some parents of people finishing up or midway through. That will tell you much more than the ratings.

And the same goes for the private school. There are plenty of private schools that are actually worse than the public offerings. So again find people who are attending to get a better feel.

Lastly what is best for one kid isn't necessarily best for another.

Once you've explored those things then you can make the call as to whether the 120K is "worth it".

Best of luck in your decision. These always seem like hard choices but likely in the end neither choice is "wrong" so don't fret too much.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by ARoseByAnyOtherName »

LeftCoastIV wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:19 pm Our older daughter will be heading into high school next year. She has great grades (3.8/4.0 or thereabouts) and is on an advanced math track, as well as honor society. I would describe her as a natural hard worker. Outside of school, she does a competitive sport with a club team.

She has been accepted into a small private school with strong academics, that costs $30K per year. We live in a HCOL area.
What goal are you trying to achieve by putting her in private school?

This is not clear at all and is something we need to understand to best offer advice.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by birnhamwood »

"a small private school with strong academics"

I could give you an informed opinion if I knew the name and location of the small private school.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by decapod10 »

Is the goal to get into an elite college or something else?

If it's mainly a college issue, I'm not so sure private school is really worth it personally.

Admission to elite colleges largely hinges on extracurricular activities IMO. Doing well in school is necessary but not sufficient. And generally, you need to excel at these extracurricular activities: Have leadership positions, or be highly ranked at sports, or win art competitions, or whatever. If you are the #1 ranked student at an elite private school, but have nothing else on your resume, I don't think that's enough to go to Harvard. If the private HS is indeed an "elite" one, then the kids there will be very smart. Whether or not they are "cutthroat", doesn't matter. They can be very nice people, but still be brilliant. Which means, if your daughter wants to be a top ranked student at an elite HS, it will be very hard and will likely take a lot more work than maintaining a high rank at a public high school. (If this is not the case, then I would question how "elite" that private high school is honestly).

The problem with that is that it could potentially create the situation where it takes a lot more work to maintain a good ranking at the private school, which leaves less time to participate in extracurricular activities, which means you may be actually worse off at a private school from a college standpoint.

I think the scenarios where going to a private school would really help your daughter in terms of college are:

1. Your daughter goes to the private school. She can maintain high ranking at the private school with minimal effort. She can continue to put in a lot of time into her social life and extracurricular activities. It is likely that this is probably better than going to a public school, though I would suspect if she went to public school, she would be the #1 ranked student there and likely do just as well on college admissions.

2. Your daughter is not thriving in public school. Either her peers, or the teachers, or something is really holding her back, and it is clear that she is not doing well. I think maybe going to a private school would be helpful in that scenario.

Scenarios where I think that private school may not help much (or maybe actively worse):

3. Your daughter goes to private school. She can maintain a high ranking, but she has to put in a lot of work to the point where she cannot have very much time for social life and extracurricular activities. If she stayed at the public school, she could have been ranked highly with less effort, and could have spent more time on extracurriculars. I think in this situation, the private school is actually worse.

4. Your daughter goes to private school. She does average there, middle of the pack, but still able to do extracurriculars. If she had stayed at the public school, then she would have been higher, say top 5%, with the same extracurriculars. I don't think that being average at a good private school does much for you on a college application. I would say here it's probably worse to be the private school student also.

I have heard the argument that going to a private school helps because the other smart kids will pull your kid up. I suppose it's possible, but again strictly looking at it from college admissions, the kids that are doing the pulling are the ones going to the elite colleges in that case. But it does sort of fall into scenario #2 category.


These are just my thoughts anyway. There may be other reasons why she wants to go to a private school. Maybe she prefers a religious school, maybe there's something about the curriculum that she likes. But my personal opinion is that paying $120k for a private school because you get a "better education" or "helps you get into a better college" is not always so clear.
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gasman
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by gasman »

You have 27x expenses saved in your 40s. The $120K is small potatoes compared to the impact of these formative years on the person your daughter will be. I would choose the one that I felt was better for my daughter.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Elysium »

If you can afford to spend the money and not think about the value of it, then go for it. It's that simple. If you are in a good public school district you can get a good education, you will not lose anything academically. But private is more about a customized experience, and there are schools you can pick that cater to your needs, you cannot do that in public. I will also say that an all girls private can be really beneficial for girls.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by bltn »

We had a similar decision to make with our daughter. We chose a high level public school which required a move to another area. She did well in high school and attended a top national university. Her younger brother followed in his sister s high school, and also went to a top national university. Both colleges were ranked in the top 10 in terms of expenses. I m glad we didn t spend additional money on private high schools.
If your daughter s best friends are going to the public school, use this to encourage her to stay with them.
Why spend the money on private school for no particular benefit in terms of education or college admissions advantage?
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calmaniac
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by calmaniac »

Your daughter sounds like she is mature and thoughtful enough that she, not you, should make the final decision.

Your job is to provide what you can to support her, not micromanage her life. Get used to it. :D
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Watty
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Watty »

LeftCoastIV wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:19 pm We can afford the private school, although the sticker shock of the $30K/per year ($120k for four years) is tough to swallow, and begs the question, "Is it *that* much better"?


I did not send my kid to a private high school but from what other people have posted it sounds like there are often a lot more costs than just the tuition. It would be good to look into things like commuting costs, fundraisers, additional fees, etc.

Be sure to research that and factor that into your decision.

Even at $30K that is $120K over four years if you put that $120K into an account for her when she is 18 then in 50 years when she is 68 and if it earned a real(inflation adjusted) 5% return it would be worth $1.8 million dollars, in current dollars.

Giving her the money might not sound realistic but if you do not spend it on private school then it would be invested in your account and it would grow a lot over the years and you could spend it at some point or she could inherit it someday.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by celia »

There is a lot more we don’t know about either high school and your daughter. The goal should be to find the ‘right match’ for your child, not to save money, if you can afford it. For example, is the private school faith-based that matches your philosophy? Are there any particular programs at either school that she is interested in? Are there transportation issues to either school? Does either school have uniforms or a dress code? Have you and your daughter visited both schools when students were on campus?

When we were comparing various high schools with our kids, we sort of looked at it as practice for comparing colleges. We went to open houses, student shadowing days for 8th graders (paired with an older student for the day), looked for extra curricular activities at each, and what percentage of students go on to 4-year colleges.
We were only considering faith-based high schools in our area and learned that young women often do particularly well in all-girls’ schools since they aren’t overshadowed by males who tend to get more attention and are called on more often. In fact, they often gain confidence without having to worry about what the opposite sex thinks about them or being distracted by them. So they focus more on school.

The only downside of private schools I noticed is that since they draw from a larger geographic area, their new friends will live further away. (Our kids easily met new friends in high school and again in college.) So if the school is x miles away, be prepared to drop your daughter off at friends’ houses that are 2x miles away (ie, they live past the school).
rossington
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by rossington »

If you are willing to give her either choice because you can afford it then lay it all out on the table and let her decide.
If she decides on the private school you will be obligated to give the younger sibling the same if she decides that is what they want. If you can't afford both tuitions then the public school is where they should be going.
Wherever they end up make sure you always take interest into what they are being taught.
"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." Winston Churchill.
dcabler
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by dcabler »

LeftCoastIV wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:19 pm I would appreciate the wisdom of this forum on a decision our family needs to make.

Our older daughter will be heading into high school next year. She has great grades (3.8/4.0 or thereabouts) and is on an advanced math track, as well as honor society. I would describe her as a natural hard worker. Outside of school, she does a competitive sport with a club team.

She has been accepted into a small private school with strong academics, that costs $30K per year. We live in a HCOL area.

The local *public* high school is rated 10/10 on Greatschools. If she enrolls there next year, she will be taking multiple honors classes, and potentially a leadership class as well. Most/all of her school friends will be going to this school. The school is around 1,600 people, so 400 people per class.

The private school appears to be great. Total enrollment is 250, with around 70 people in the incoming freshman class. The facilities are top notch and new. Everyone seems friendly and it doesn't appear to be super-competitive (e.g. cutthroat). One thing I would note is that, of the 70 freshman, 50 will be students already at the school who are moving up from 8th grade. So, my daughter would be one of about ~20 new students in the freshman class. She is worried about making new friends if she changes schools.

I'd say she probably leans 60/40 towards the private school in her thinking on the options.

We are doing fine financially, with about 27x current spending saved, in our mid-40s. We can afford the private school, although the sticker shock of the $30K/per year ($120k for four years) is tough to swallow, and begs the question, "Is it *that* much better"?

If we did the private school, I think our appetite for other spending on experiences would go down. For example, she is interested in doing an international semester in high school, for example. International trips that would expose her to new cultures, etc, would likely be more constrained, etc.

Also, astute readers may have noticed that she is not an only child. She has a younger sibling as well. My best guess is that the younger sibling (a strong student as well) will want to go to the public school, but who knows.

Thanks in advance for comments!
Can't say much about high school, but my daughter did the private school route from elementary through early middle school. Her first school only went through elementary before she switched to the second private school. This private school was K-8 and she was jumping in at grade 5. Big problem. Student body was pretty well established and she was the "odd man out". Now this is middle school and who, really, fondly remembers that experience no matter where they went? But it was quite clique-ish and making friends was really hard. I would definitely be concerned about something similar at a smaller private high school, especially if there's another feeder private school from middle school. Friendships will be pretty well established.

We pulled her in 7th grade and sent her to the public magnet middle school here. The magnet school had academic requirements to be accepted and many of these kids went on to the public magnet school here, which had even more stringent requirements to get in. Is something like that an option?

$30K per year is a lot of money, as you noted, without a clear benefit. While the private schools we sent our daughter to weren't that expensive, if we had to do it over again, we would have opted fully for the public school system.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Mr. Rumples »

Of course, this was decades ago, so not sure how relevant it is, but here it goes...when I went to school, my parents had three choices: public school, a religious school or a segregated school (as I said, it was decades ago). They chose public school and I am glad they did. Having grown up in a somewhat isolated community, it gave me a breath of experience and comfort with people from all walks of life and all economic backgrounds that served me well my entire life, both personal and professional. As someone who was painfully shy, it gave me greater self confidence to having had to step into the wider world.
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teen persuasion
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by teen persuasion »

DH and i both attended private elementary schools (coed) and high schools (single sex) in different cities. We talked long and hard about our experiences and finally opted for public schools for our kids.

Some of the drawbacks to private HS: smaller size means fewer class options (especially things like AP), fewer sports options, fewer extracurricular activities, transportation issues (my school drew from many districts, so I rode 2 buses each way - local public to drop off public kids, to the transfer point, then switch to buses to our individual private; thus no sports buses, either), friends from different districts (as another poster mentioned), no music programs.

Our local district has a phenomenal music program, and our kids have enthusiastically embraced everything it has to offer. There's a pool in the HS, which shares a campus with the MS, so both have access. DD1 was also recommended for and participated in a Gifted Math Program with a local university for 6 years starting in MS. She took math at the university, eventually earning 23 college credits before graduating HS. DS4 was active in Rocket club and robot competitions. None of these things were available to us (DH and me) at private schools. Just participating in after school clubs was difficult for me due to the transportation issue, while our public school has a "late bus" which take kids home at the end of after school clubs or academic intervention services.
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Ramjet
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Ramjet »

The public school is rated great, choose that option
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Sandtrap
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Sandtrap »

Sometimes a middle path is good.

Try the private high school for 1 year.
1
Different point of view.
Appreciation for old friends, revell in new experiences and new friends and possibilities.
Learn to get out of one's comfort zone and immerse in something new.
(vital, there are a lot of grooves on the record)
Once evaluating for 1 year, decide again whether to return or stay.
2
In this case the decision and experience is the lesson.
a) it's okay to reverse a decision
b)it's okay to try new things and not be sure about anything
c) nothing is a mistake, just a different path
3
This is a time in life to try everything, to be bold, and courageous.

*Alexander the Great was (I think) 15 years old or so when he started his campaigns.
. . . or was it Ghengis Khan. . . (can't remember).
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csmath
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by csmath »

Starfish wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:29 pm I don't think the the high school rating tells you much. My kid goes to a 10/10 school and it is pretty bad. I don't want to imagine what a worse school would be.
Also most people don't seem to not understand that the purpose of a high school is education and intellectual development, not to "do fine". Education is a thing in itself, it has nothing to do with how much is the income after that. The main quality of a school comes from it's students. If the students are better in the private school, the school will be better.
The size of classes could be both a minus and a plus. If the kids are good it's a plus, otherwise it's a minus.
I wouldn't be too worried about the circle of friends, it's a problem that passes in at most a year.
^This post is great. School districts have full-blown PR departments now and are constantly looking for any data they can use to look good. They can pump out 80% Honor Roll rates while testing 35% at grade level. "College Prep" is meaningless by itself and may correspond with 75% of those "college prep" students failing first year Math classes or being placed in remedial classes their Freshman year. As mentioned above, ratings don't mean much and schools can change extremely fast. For example, there could have been a change made to curriculum 4+ years ago that didn't affect any of the graduating students. The results of changes aren't seen for years later so looking at the current performance of students being produced may be pointless.

Whether you want to believe it or not, it is extremely difficult in some cases to evaluate a school without being inside the district itself or maybe knowing someone on the inside that is willing to be candid. Even then, most educators want to believe they are helping kids and are often blind to the bigger picture of how their "help" is actually enabling and hurting kids by helping too much without developing strong "learning skills".

So what to do about it? Everyone is in a different situation and has to consider resources, available schools, needs of their child, and what they want their child to get out of schools. If anyone finds the right "stat" to look at that shows a school will be good in the future, please let us know. In a way it is school systems are similar to the markets.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
This is very applicable to schools. You know how savings rate and AA are what we have the most control over? Demonstrating value of education at home and being involved (not hovering though) in it daily are very important.

One important lesson to give from home, and every time I say this I am also speaking to myself:
It is human nature to compare yourself to people around you to gauge if your doing OK. This is dangerous because you are often surrounded by people with different goals and abilities than yourself. If the average person around you would fail at your goals and you look at them to gauge whether your on track to be successful, you are likely headed for failure. Instead, surround yourself with and compare yourself to people with similar goals that are likely to be or are already successful at what you are trying to accomplish. Then compare yourself to them.
"I'm doing fine compared to everyone else" can be dangerous if they aren't a group of successful people. No matter what school you choose, there will be great students in it. Make sure your child finds them. First place to look? Clubs, activities, organizations.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Why does your daughter lean towards the private? I think there might be things you’re not seeing, since the obvious factor (where her friends are) favors the public.

Our kids’ public was one of the highest rated public schools in NJ (Millburn/Short Hills is #2 in NJ according to Niche, after Princeton). Nevertheless, we sent the kids to a private school because we felt that, as good as the public was, it was failing our kids. Fit is everything, in lower grades as in college. The $40k/year/child was well worth it. The school was more diverse and the teaching was better. The college counseling was also better.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by fasteddie911 »

We debate the same thing for similarly priced private school. In your situation, public school no question. Save that $120k and invest that for her college, downpayment, retirement, etc. I'd bet that'll go much further than whatever the private school may offer. She seems to have a good situation and good head on her shoulders. I can't see what advantage private would offer. I think we tend to make a bigger deal about the now, that years from now often isn't really a big deal. I couldn't tell you which of my friends and colleagues went to private vs public schools, who did well or who didn't. But all of them wouldn't mind having more money, less debt, better housing, etc.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by TomatoTomahto »

fasteddie911 wrote: Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:07 am We debate the same thing for similarly priced private school. In your situation, public school no question. Save that $120k and invest that for her college, downpayment, retirement, etc. I'd bet that'll go much further than whatever the private school may offer. She seems to have a good situation and good head on her shoulders. I can't see what advantage private would offer. I think we tend to make a bigger deal about the now, that years from now often isn't really a big deal. I couldn't tell you which of my friends and colleagues went to private vs public schools, who did well or who didn't. But all of them wouldn't mind having more money, less debt, better housing, etc.
That might be the case for you, and probably OP also (although I really do wonder why his daughter leans toward private). In our case, the private was transformative, and the ROI was phenomenal. Horses for courses ( :D pun intended).
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Mako »

I would need a good reason to spend $120k. Not some vague "this seems like it may be better" but something more clear. And I don't see that in the OP.
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by TheOscarGuy »

LeftCoastIV wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:19 pm I would appreciate the wisdom of this forum on a decision our family needs to make.

Our older daughter will be heading into high school next year. She has great grades (3.8/4.0 or thereabouts) and is on an advanced math track, as well as honor society. I would describe her as a natural hard worker. Outside of school, she does a competitive sport with a club team.

She has been accepted into a small private school with strong academics, that costs $30K per year. We live in a HCOL area.

The local *public* high school is rated 10/10 on Greatschools. If she enrolls there next year, she will be taking multiple honors classes, and potentially a leadership class as well. Most/all of her school friends will be going to this school. The school is around 1,600 people, so 400 people per class.

The private school appears to be great. Total enrollment is 250, with around 70 people in the incoming freshman class. The facilities are top notch and new. Everyone seems friendly and it doesn't appear to be super-competitive (e.g. cutthroat). One thing I would note is that, of the 70 freshman, 50 will be students already at the school who are moving up from 8th grade. So, my daughter would be one of about ~20 new students in the freshman class. She is worried about making new friends if she changes schools.

I'd say she probably leans 60/40 towards the private school in her thinking on the options.

We are doing fine financially, with about 27x current spending saved, in our mid-40s. We can afford the private school, although the sticker shock of the $30K/per year ($120k for four years) is tough to swallow, and begs the question, "Is it *that* much better"?

If we did the private school, I think our appetite for other spending on experiences would go down. For example, she is interested in doing an international semester in high school, for example. International trips that would expose her to new cultures, etc, would likely be more constrained, etc.

Also, astute readers may have noticed that she is not an only child. She has a younger sibling as well. My best guess is that the younger sibling (a strong student as well) will want to go to the public school, but who knows.

Thanks in advance for comments!
What does the admission outlook look like at private school. Where does someone like here in academics *and* socio-economic background get into when they graduate that private school? To me this is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to send them to private school that one can quantify. I have asked multiple folks who send their kid to private school this very question, and they were unable to answer. I am surprised this isn't the first question they ask themselves.

I personally would not choose to send them to private school unless I know some really crazy stats (almost 80% of students go to Ivy league for example!) about it. I think there is some value in continuity with friends and school environment. I think public school is closer to real life, and I worry (although that may not be true for all kids) private school kids who hang out with other private school kids feel privileged, entitled. Just my personal opinion so take it with chunks of salt :P
Hoosens
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Hoosens »

Having worked in schools in various capacities for close to 20 years (both public and private), it certainly seems to me like you should go the public option. Although it is a good rating in your case, don't use a GreatSchools rating as your deciding factor. Just in this thread, people seem to be pointing to a GreatSchools rating way too much. To a whittle all of the students, educators, administrators, programs, etc. that make up a school down to a single number is silly. About 70% of that number is based solely on results on some sort of state standardized test. Read up on the research and you will see that the top (not only) determining factor in how a student will perform on one of these tests is socioeconomic background. As a few others have noted here, that rating will tell you nothing more than the socioeconomic status of students in a particular school. It will tell you nothing about the quality of teachers, quality of extracurricular programs, quality of facilities, or one of many other factors that go into making a school 'great.' If you are putting stock into this rating, aren't you the least bit concerned that most private schools don't receive a GreatSchools rating? Or, are you just considering it 'great' because it is private? The fact that GreatSchools derives income from private schools advertising on their site should also give you pause. It is also primarily funded by the Walton Family Foundation, an organization that doesn't exactly have a history of being friendly to public education. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/an ... education/.
Good article about the danger of relying on a GreatSchools rating: https://medium.com/s/story/the-problem- ... b4ef4f5079

Do your homework on each of the schools. Step foot in them and ask questions. Talk to parents or students who go there. Ask for course catalogs. Don't just rely on an arbitrary rating as a means for evaluating.
cshell2 wrote: Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:16 pm In our case though, the public is not a great school at all and I could see my kid falling in with the crowd on track to work the local factories at graduation. At the private all his peers were college bound.
This. This is exactly why most parents choose private schools in my years of experience. The fear of my son/daughter becoming like the straw man 'public school kid'. As plenty others have noted on here already, your child will direct their own path whether in public or private school and has just as good of chance going to college in either one. I would rather let her do that for $0 vs. $120,000.
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