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May 02, 2012

Would you borrow money for private school?

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

Last month I wrote about the student loan crisis contributing to a higher education bubble. While college and graduate school loans have been making headlines, there’s a much less talked about trend in student loans: parents borrowing money to send their kids to private school - starting in preschool.

In her Washington Post column titled “Kindergarten Loans” last week, Michelle Singletary cites a Smartmoney.com article about the rising rates of families – some with six-figure incomes – borrowing money to cover tuition way before college. The trend is disturbing because families are sacrificing financial stability to ensure a quality education (which, ideally, would be free if they felt their children’s needs could be met at public school), but not surprising, given that many families are still recovering (and hurting) from the recession but unwilling to sacrifice their children’s education and future. So perhaps families decide to borrow for a year or two – or four – just till things get a little easier. Sounds reasonable enough.

But there’s another risk to consider, as the New York Times reported this week: once you’ve committed to private school, you’re on the hook for tuition – even if your financial circumstances change. As Jenny Anderson reported, at least five tony private schools in Manhattan have sued families for tuition even if, for example, the parents withdrew their kids before school started, or have been an active part of the school’s community for years, or if the school could still fill that child’s spot.

Since 2008, I’ve read no end of blogs, comments, and community posts about borrowing to make ends meet – some sentiments that stood out spoke of the preschool years being particularly expensive, pay cuts being temporary, and college being a necessity (not a luxury) – and many made compelling arguments for borrowing shrewdly in the name of education. I, too, have borrowed in the name of education, and full disclosure: despite the fact that I find the trend disturbing, I think a stimulating, social, and positive early learning environment in preschool is valuable for kids and if need be, I’ll borrow to pay for preschool, too.

My question for you, GreatSchools parents who value education, is this: Would you borrow for private school?


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No, it's tight and private school is where we can save but NO WAY will we borrow to pay for their education prior to college. Even then they will need to pony up some cash before we borrow.

I dont think that parents understand the value of pre-school and elementary school. This is the foundation of their learning, so I would most definitely borrow. If you do not get them the best education there is and excited in the beginning who is to say that they will even care to go to college or graduate high school for that matter. I would borrow away to make sure that my daughter has a solid foundation, and who is to say that I will ever have to spend hundred of thousands for her college education? Schools may very well be looking for her.

I am actually in a court battle with my ex, my daughter's father, who will not AGREE to have my daughter attend one of the best private schools in Michigan. I will pay for it 100%. I have never asked him to pay for anything. I just do it, so it will get done. We have an evidentiary hearing, because he will not just agree. He would rather have his own daughter in a public school in his area, which is rated "5" by greatschools.com, and has been for years. The district that I am in has all elementary schools rated "9" or "10". Everyone who knows both him and I always ask, "why would he do that"? Because of his hatred of me, instead of putting his own daughter first. The biggest problem is the situation in the family courts, and how the custody battles are run.

Tami, maybe it's time to take him back to court for child support, or if you already have it, increase it. That should make him back off. People do what works. If opposing you for spite costs him something, gets a punishing response instead of being realtively rewarding, he may stop.

I would love my grandson to go to private school, where love compassion and respect are taught. The children in public school in this area are so crude. They interrupt and the teachers have their hands tied as to how to stop it. Parents are no help. They have the attitude that it is the teacher's responsibility to teach them manners, math, behavior and everything else. So that when they get home all they have to do is put them to bed. They even want the evening meal fed to them before they go home. For the few parents in public school, who actually care about all the children, God bless you. And to the few parents in public school who do everything, God bless you.

My kid is in a ridiculously expensive but quite wonderful school. We are on financial aid. I cannot imagine having to borrow for tuition, yet not qualifying for (or not applying for) aid. What gives?

It would depend on whether I had proof that the private school really was better than the public school. Research has proven time and again that private schools do not excel over public schools, except in rare occasions. It makes a lot more sense to teach your child their preschool skills at home rather than go into debt.

There are other options. My husband and I moved into a 30 year old fixer upper to be in a great school district. But public schools, even the best, have their weaknesses. Instead of private school, we employ a tutor after school and during the summer. We call it "enrichment" not tutoring. The kids can get one on one help in any area they need, and the tutor works with them on higher level critical thinking skills that the schools may not have time to practice. It is a lot less expensive to employ a tutor than to send them to private school. In my mind, it is the best of both worlds. Look for economical options folks.

In response to some of the comments. My husband and I are currently one of those families who would need to borrow. Unless someone out there has a better suggestion. Beth asked, "What gives?" In our case our income is just over the maximum threshold so we do not qualify for financial aid. I suppose if I quit working we would drop enough salary to make the cut but that just doesn't seem like the responsible route. Moving to the nearest district with a good public school rating also doesn't work because it would be a 2 hour each way ride for my husband. In this economy it also wouldnt be wise to just up and quit steady career jobs. As for Jennifer's think economically, I think its great that she found a solution that works for her family. But I really am concerned about my little one just entering school thinking that it is ok to be disrespectful because these are the behaviors shown by the majority. Especially since at this age we are laying the groundwork for what we consider acceptable behavior.

Unthinkable!! If you need to borrow, it means you can't afford it. End of story. Want to give your child an advantage? Teach them to read before they start school, and give them extra help outside of school. I know people who send their children to private schools, but it's either because they budget it in and can afford it or received financial aid (a discount) so they CAN afford it. I am a teacher with 3 kids and I would never tell anyone to borrow money for elementary school! Why get the debt snowball rolling so early in life?

As a share of household income, the debt burden was the greatest .

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