As summer draws to a close, some parents are wondering how they are going to afford everything on their children’s back to school shopping list. Parents of children enrolled in private school this fall take that worry to the next level — they’re trying to figure out how to pay for the high cost of kindergarten. That is not a typo: kindergarten. Taking out loans for education is no longer strictly associated with the 18+ age group. According to SmartMoney.com, the number of parents seeking tuition assistance as early as kindergarten is on the rise.
Families with incomes of $150,000 or more who applied for private kindergarten through 12th grade school aid accounted for about 20 percent (an increase over only six percent in 2002-03) of those applying for tuition assistance in 2010-11, says the National Association of Independent Schools. One leading lender for private K-12 schools nationwide, Your Tuition Solution, reports that the total dollar amount of precollege loans parents requested this year has increased from 2011.
Tuition at private K-12 schools is escalating in the largest urban areas of the United States. At Horace Mann School, located in the Bronx, NY, the cost of kindergarten is currently $37,695 (with additional fees). When the start-up school Avenues, located in New York City, opens their doors for the first time next month, they will charge $39,750 for yearly preschool tuition, making them one of the most expensive preschools in Manhattan.
With competition at some private K-12 schools just as high as their tuition, and inflation pushing costs up, the motive of some parents who seek loans to finance kindergarten might be connected to making sure that their children are accepted at a competitive college. Yet, although students from private K-12 schools tend to win more scholarships, it may not be enough to compensate for the expenditure.
The popularity of precollege loans has not decreased their drawbacks. Contrary to financing a college education, which can be subsidized with the help of federal loans, the K-12 loan market is private. According to some consumer advocates, private loan markets — which tend to be unregulated — leave students and their families exposed to abuses such as punitive terms and little or no possibility of deferment or forgiveness of their loans. Only time will tell if the soaring cost of private kindergarten will push more parents towards public school, or lead them further into debt.
Photo Credit: Darren Hester