7 Reasons Physicians Need to Send Their Children to Private School

7 Reasons Physicians Need To Send Their Children to Private School

If you have school age children, investing in your children’s education is one of the wisest investments you can make.  There is no greater head start to success you can give your children.  Education is also one of the most expensive decisions you can make.   There are seven reasons why physicians spend tens of thousands of dollars a year to send their children to private schools despite the high costs.

Is the cost of private school for your children worth the investment?   Like most financial decisions, the answer is, it depends.   Let’s look at a young physician family with three children at home.

Our Example Family

Meet the Tutelage family.   The Tutelage family is a few years out of residency.  They recently purchased a house and are still paying down their medical school debt, now about $150,000 combined.   They have three school-aged children, ages nine, seven and five.  Mrs. Tutelage went to a private religious school and would like the same experience for their children.  The Tutelage family firmly believes in investing in a good education and make many sacrifices to send their children to the best private school in the city.    Luckily they don’t live in New York City and the private school in town is a bargain at around $20,000 per year per child.Private School Tuition

Despite private education for their children costing over $60,000 per year,   the Tutelage family continues to prioritize their children’s education over other luxuries.  With a combined income of $320,000,  The $5,000 / month they have to save just for school is a considerable outlay,  almost 30% of their take-home earnings each month.

Can a school really be worth 30% of your take-home income each month?

For the majority of Americans, the choice of public vs. private doesn’t even enter the equation because they cannot afford the tuition. The question for us today is, are physicians in that group?

The Reasons You Send Your Child to Private School

Private schools have been the educational option for those individuals with the means to afford it since the founding of America.  In the eyes of others, where you choose to send your kids to school can symbolize your values and worldview.

Nationwide a surprisingly small segment of the population attends private school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about 10% of the students in the U.S. attend private schools.  Once you get to an income over $200,000 per year, that number jumps up to 25%.Here are seven reasons that physicians should be sending their children to private school.

Here are seven reasons that physicians should be sending their children to private school if they can afford it.


#1: There Is Compelling Evidence That Small Class Size Works

The smaller class sizes of private schools compared to public schools allow for more individualized attention and better resource allocation.  Private school teachers know the students well and are in tune with more than just academics.   In some public schools, the class sizes may be the same, but there is just better control and discipline in the classrooms of private schools.

Interestingly it’s the better control in the classroom and the inability for children to hide in the back that makes up the majority of the gains from small class sizes.  The most persuasive class-size research in the United States comes from Project STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Ratio) which was conducted in Tennessee between 1985 and 1989.

This study found students in small classes outperformed students in larger groups, even when teachers had the help of an aide.

The fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic remain the foundation of any solid education.   College prep gets all the glory, but without a strong foundation in the basics,  success is hard to obtain.


#2: Private Schools Have Better Access to Educational Advances

Not only are the class sizes smaller but special classes and enrichment curriculum can be more diverse depending on the school. Private schools tend to have increased access to technology and innovation which puts children with the aptitude in position for extraordinary success.

Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Outliers that one of the factors leading to Bill Gates’ success was his having unique access to cutting-edge computers at his private Lakeside High School.

Most private schools will have better facilities depending on the public school district building plans and maintenance.


#3: Private Schools Can Teach Successful Life Skills

Many Private schools emphasize the learning for the sake of intellectual curiosity and to explore and collect information. By teaching how to be a lifelong student, they prepare children for the changing landscape ahead.

Research shows that teaching kids things like perseverance and self-control can improve their health, academic achievement, and happiness in life.

Private schools also emphasize more of these soft skills as well as drama,  debate, and presentation. The confidence that comes from good presentation skills can carry forward for years.


#4: Private Schools Have Healthy School Communities

Healthy school community can build lifetime friendships. This type of community happens at many public schools as well.  The small community can be welcoming and warm, or it can be stifling. Each school has its style, and for some families, it might not be the right match.

Outsiders may view this community as elitism.  Every school is different, Don’t lump all private schools with a snobbish prep school stereotype.  The vast majority of private schools across our country are welcoming and open to new families.

As with everything in life, first impressions count.

It is true that many but not all private schools lack the same ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of public schools.  Private schools counter this through acts of altruism and community involvement.

Though private schools may lack diversity, the students themselves interestingly tend to be more tolerant and accepting of minority students than public schools.  They also tend to be more prepared to combat bullying and other social infighting that occurs in school.

This community is likely one of the reasons children who go to private school are more apt to go into certain professions.  The expectations of success and social networking circles that involve other professionals likely contribute to students career choices and may lead to networking opportunities later in life.


#5 Parental Involvement Is a Major Factor For Success

The success of any school revolves around the parental involvement. Parents at private schools tend to be more involved, and the students perform better as a whole as a result. Many public school districts are better than some private schools for this very same reason.

Many private schools families have high expectations for their children. As long as these expectations are not unrealistic and overbearing, the overall higher expectations can help raise the bar of achievement for the children.

Parent involvement in a child’s education is consistently found to be positively associated with a child’s academic performance

Often these same involved parents of private school students can afford additional tutoring if the child is in danger of falling behind with school work. The extra help and the fact that private schools start with fewer under-achieving pupils leads to better test scores on average for private schools.

 


#6: Playing Sports Makes You More Successful

Private schools provide the opportunity for some students to be big fish in a little pond.  They can often allow students to enjoy participation in varsity sports that would not be possible on more competitive public school teams.

While they allow for more participation, the sports programs of private schools can be limited and any sports played will typically be in a lower division than in a public school.  For students with high athletic aspirations,  private schools often don’t allow athletes to compete on as high of a level if they went to a comparable public school.

Many parents realize this and understand that their children’s ” ball skills” will not be paying the “bills” when they get older.   However,  they still want them to enjoy the satisfaction of being a teammate and what it means to work together.

Two recent studies published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies found that the 43 percent of high school students in the United States who have played sports tended to have more leadership, self-confidence, and self-respect.

There is evidence that playing sports in environments where athletes practice the transfer of skills needed to succeed in sport leads them to success in other domains.  Traits such as goal-setting, confidence, discipline and leadership skills, are also necessary to succeed in business and life.


#7: Economic Insecurity is The Real Reason Parents Send Their Children To Private Schools.

The uncertain economic times and global competition of today’s world raise the stakes for the next generation of children even higher. It used to be that if you went to a good public high school, you could go to a good college which will get you a good job.  That sequence of events doesn’t exist today.  Career paths will continue to become more amorphous and require students to demonstrate a history of accomplishment.

College educated and better-paid professionals have less leisure time today than they did in the 1960s.  Part of this is because professionals are more likely to identify with their careers and enjoy what they do for a living.  The other reason is job insecurity which looks to grow in the future with advances in computing and artificial intelligence.

Parents also have more insight into how children develop and have more tools to groom children for adulthood.  Many healthcare professionals are starting families later in life. These well-educated professionals are usually in a better financial position to make an investment in their children.

The best way to ensure the prosperity for your kids has morphed into providing the education and skills needed to get ahead, especially since talented human capital grows ever more essential for success

This is why professionals spend so much time worrying about public vs. private schools and chauffeuring children to resume padding activities.


Those seven reasons, no matter how persuasive, come with a hefty price tag.

You do not get a free pass on the math, no matter how much you want to send your children to private school.

The kicker is that the cost of education is only going to go up.  Tuition increases each year slightly with inflation.  For the price of tuition, the Tutelage family could do many other things.

This princely sum of money could:

  • Invested for 25 years, it could be an extra $1.6 million or more for retirement
  • Buy a $500,000 vacation home somewhere nice
  • Take a month in Europe each year
  • Plan a trip around the world each year

If you do some back of the envelope math, that same money invested for 12 years with a 5% return from a low-cost index fund would be around $600,000 or about $200,000 per child when they graduated from high school.

Is Public School Really Free?

Public school isn’t a free lunch.  The school district with the new facilities, small classes and involved parents is of course very popular in town.  The homes in that district are about 30% more costly than homes in other less desirable school districts.   If they had a single child, one could argue that it may be cheaper to send the child to private school.  However, with three kids,  they are better off paying the premium to be in the better school district.

Even the best public school districts in the USA don’t compare well to public education internationally.

Compare your local school district using a tool from the Global Report Card

Other Factors To Consider

Traditionally, private schools do not off support for children with special needs.  These schools tend to want to be known for college prep, not remedial work. They want to say that 99% of their class goes to college. Therefore, there is some selection bias.

In many public schools, nothing is given to you, teachers may not be of high quality, and larger class sizes can mean increased competition. These factors can help some children build resilience.  Teaching kids responsibly and how to manage their education will serve them well in school and beyond.

Some public schools like charter schools offer the independent, flexible curriculum of private schools without the cost of tuition.  Some communities offer magnet schools with high academic standards and competitive admissions like a private school.


Summary

People have been arguing about the benefits and drawbacks of private school for years. Part of what makes this such a hard debate is that while they both have their advantages, one isn’t necessarily better than the other

Some physicians may have reasons other than academics and athletics.   There is a religious aspect for many people.  In fact, 80% of private schools are religiously affiliated schools.

Some parents may want the difference a single-sex education brings to both boys and girls.

For others, the extracurriculars and extended day options for physicians stuck at the hospital are better than the corresponding public schools.

Your child’s educational outcome is likely more dependent on what you and the child put into their education than which school they attend.

What about you?    Preparing our children to succeed is the best way to transfer success and privilege from one generation to the next.  If you have children, do you send them to private school?  Is it worth spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a product with variable outcomes?

 

Warnings & Examples

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5 thoughts on “7 Reasons Physicians Need To Send Their Children to Private School

  1. Physician on FIRE

    My wife and I both ended up with advanced degrees, attending public schools from kindergarten through our post-secondary educations.

    We are fortunate to live in a place with highly regarded public schools, and we plan to let our boys follow in our footsteps. I can’t imagine having to shell out thousands per year (or month!) for our children’s education.

    Best,
    -PoF

    Reply
    1. Dr in Debt Post author

      It’s pretty suffocating but every parent does it with the best intentions. I will say it has jump started the search for other options out there.

      Reply
  2. High Income Parents

    I understand why doctor parents prefer private school but we had to make a hard decision with how we decided to educate our children. With five and an amazing wife that came to me wanting to pursue it, home schooling was the best option. Private school would have been close to $100,000 per year once everyone was in school. We live in one of the best areas in the country for home schooling and the curriculum and co-ops available make it high quality with lots of support.
    I know not everyone has that opportunity and if both parents are high income earners, it might not make financial sense to home school.
    My wife and I went to public school. They were decent but it definitely took a lot of effort on my part to overcome some of the deficiencies. I don’t know if private school would have helped in that area since I never had the experience.
    I do know in my class of 600, there are 5 doctors now. In medical school, one of my friends had a private school class of 100 and over 50 are now doctors. That is pretty telling, although, is it the education or the parents’ income that really mattered?
    The only thing that has been shown to correlate with standardized test scores is parent’s income. I don’t know if parent’s income correlates to their children getting advanced degrees. It would be interesting to know.

    Tom @ HIP

    Reply
  3. jetset

    great post. wish the guidance was clearer. how do you make this decision? shouldn’t the decision be made relative to the public school options in your neighborhood?

    Reply
    1. Dr in Debt Post author

      Of course these decisions are absolutely personal. The challenge with raising kids is you can do everything the best you can but at some point they have to launch on their own.

      I look at it as not so much giving them a head start as removing the major obstacles so they can grow with the challenges they face.

      If I were in a different community, I might do things differently. I have to spend my money on something and I rather “invest” in education than just buying more stuff.

      The FIRE crowd might argue that by saving investing that money you are buying more time with your kids in the future. The challenge is to achieve financial independence while they still are around the house and you have a chance to make a difference.

      Reply

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