Derrick recently posed a question in the comments section that I feel is worthy of a post, and insights from the tribe.
He asks which might be a better investment: to send a child to private prep school, or to pay for their college education so they graduate debt free?
The assumption is that, as the parent, we can commit funds to only one phase of the child’s education. I appreciate this scenario, as more than a few parents might be facing this choice as their child enters high school or considers prep school, before going off to college.
(In this post, I’ll be using the American term ‘private’ for prep schools, meaning a school that is not a part of the state or local public school system, and is funded by the parents whose children attend the school, or by private donations. A ‘public’ school is a part of the state or local government, funded by taxpayers.)
The dilemma is obvious: as a parent, how do you determine the greater benefit? A private school education from 9th to 12th grades can be life-changing. The rigor of the curriculum, often smaller teacher-to-pupil ratios, and the bonding with fellow students can shape and inspire a student on to great things in college and in life. But then, saddling on student debt in college can create a financial burden. Will that financial burden discount or cancel out completely the advantages gained with the prep school experience?
The second option presents its own perplexing considerations. Does a parent ‘settle for’ a public school education for their child, suspecting that it might not always challenge the student as much as a private school education, in order to provide money for college tuition? This second option sees their college graduate happily free and clear of student debt when they enter the working world. That is a privileged start, indeed, but will the public school student be ready for the demands of college studies?
Of course, every student is different, but this ‘Sophie’s Choice’ carries weight regardless.
Thank you, Derrick, for the great question. I’m looking forward to hearing comments, insights, and experiences from everyone about this. Thanks.