Private School vs Public School - How Do The Students Compare?

Private School vs Public School - How Do The Students Compare?

Do you think you got the best start in life? Did you end-up in a school that might have resembled a zoo more than it felt like an institution of higher learning? Perhaps in the past, getting by without a lot of pieces of paper to defend your intelligence may have been harder, given that nowadays we can learn so much online and that many of the world’s leading and richest entrepreneurs dropped out of university. Had they have dropped out of high school, that could have been a different matter, but many great minds have not been too keen on school. One of those minds was Albert Einstein, who famously said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” So does it matter where you go? 

First of all, we should say that by “public school” we mean schools that are run by the government. This could be confusing for Brits as when they say public school, they are not thinking of schools run by the public sector, but selective institutions that demand private payment. Basically, private school as Americans know it, is public school in the UK. It’s another case of that “my tom-ate-o” and your “tom-art-o”. We’ll base this show on the U.S. today, as covering the globe’s schools would be impossible, and some of the things we will discuss are relevant globally.

You might be surprised to know that in the USA, according to the Council for American Private Education, there are 33,619 private schools in the United States. There are around 5.1 million students enrolled in these schools. It’s said that private schools are home to almost 10 percent of all school students in the U.S. The same source states that there are 441,496 teachers working full-time in private schools. As much as 79 percent of these schools have a religious affiliation. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that these schools are “virtually all-white”, with non-white students only making up around 10 percent of students across the country.

As for public schools, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 50.7 million public school students will be studying in one of them from prekindergarten to grade 12 in fall 2017. Teaching all those kids will be 3.2 million full-time teachers, which is a ratio of 16 students for every teacher. The ratio in private school is 12 students for one teacher. One of the main differences of public school is the mixed ethnicity of students. Public schools in America are made up of 24.4 million white kids, 13.6 million Hispanic students, 8.0 million black students, 2.8 million Asian/Pacific Islander students, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 1.5 million mixed race students.

What about costs? Well, the government pays for public schools. In 2017-18 it’s projected that the budget for public schools will be $623.5 billion. This means that each student will cost on average $12,300. Taxes will pay for this.

Private schools are a different matter, and they are funded by tuition fees. Tuition costs will change depending on the school. For the year 2017-18, the national average for private school tuition is $9,975 per year, which is $8,918 per year for elementary schooling and $13,524 per year for high school. The state of Vermont had the highest average, with high school being $31,543 per year on average. If you are looking for cheap private schooling, head to West Virginia where the average cost for high school is currently $5,262. We should add that a handful of private schools cost around the $50,000 a year mark.

So, what do you get for your money besides pretty gardens and obviously top-notch facilities at a private school, and perhaps metal detectors and patrolling policemen in some wayward public schools?  Well, when it comes to the syllabi, public schools have to adhere to state standards while private schools have much more flexibility. This is seen as getting a better and more diverse education. The good news for not so wealthy people is that high school graduation rates in public schools has gone up recently. It reached its highest during the Obama administration in 2015 at 83.2 percent of students graduating. At the same time, 95 percent of private school students graduate. According to the website College Admission, just about all of those private school grads will attend a university, whereas only 49 percent of public school graduates will enter further education at college. If you want to get into an Ivy League University, there’s no reason why you can’t get in after attending public school. Top Tier Admissions tells us that roughly 25 percent of successful applicants to those top universities came from private schools, and 60-70 percent from public schools. The rest were homeschooled.

Private school does work for a lot of people. The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, went to a private prep school…but then he later dropped out of Harvard. On the other hand, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went to a public school.

When researching for how private school graduates out earn other kids in the future, most of the stories are about the UK and how private (or public) school there seems to create most of the UK’s millionaires. The U.S. playing field might be a bit more level, after all, Dr. Dre didn’t go to private school. It seems in the U.S. if you actually get to university, it might not matter where you studied in high school in terms of “making it”.

At the same time, studies have found that being born with a silver spoon usually means you’ll be passing that spoon on, and poorer folks with degrees don’t usually jump up a class. Your background makes all the difference. A college degree, says one report, is no great equalizer. Why is this? “There are a host of possibilities, from family resources during childhood and the place where one grew up, to the colleges that low-income students attend,” said the report.

Then you have rich folks that dropped out of high school, such as the billionaire Tumblr founder David Karp, who dropped out of high school at 15 years old. Joining him as a high school dropout is Facebook’s former product manager Mike Hudack and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. In light of the last person, success in the arts or sport probably is not related to if you went to public or private school, but if you want “social mobility” then it’s probably better your parents paid the cash for your education. It also seems that the filmmaker is the only one of the three to have come from a humble background.

You may have some unique skills, or be a natural autodidact (learn by yourself), and so school doesn’t matter much even if you are poor. Nonetheless, we can’t ignore some statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that people without a high school diploma will earn on average $25,636 per year if in full-time employment. 8 percent of high school dropouts are currently unemployed. If you have a high school diploma and nothing else, the average wage is $35,256 per year with 5.4 percent of those people currently unemployed. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you might earn an average of $59,124 per year. Only 2.8 percent of Americans with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed, much less than the 4.4 percent of Americans currently out of a job.

In conclusion, it’s odds on that if you went to private school then you most certainly went to university, and with some family wealth behind you, it’s also pretty much a certainty you fell into one of these higher wage brackets. Then again, if you are brilliant, or spend more time reading than scrolling, then it is likely nothing will hold you back.

So, what do you think...is private school worth the extra dough, or is it all just a bunch of hoo-ey? Let us know in the comments!

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