The Wall Street Journal reported this week that private school tuition at New York City private school will top $40,000 next year, more than many Ivy League universities’ tuitions. Baltimore’s private school tuition, which averages around $23,000 seems like a bargain by comparison.  

Local area private schools typically increase tuition three to five percent annually. In the past decade, tuition has increased about fifty percent as schools have expanded programs, renovated buildings, and took on capital improvements. 

Upper school tuition at Boys Latin is $22,520, at Gilman $24,340, at Bryn Mawr $24,630, at Friends $22,735, at Park $24,470, at Garrison Forest $23,350, at McDonogh $23,370, at St. Paul’s 22,970.  St. Paul’s School for Girls took the unusual step of actually lowering tuition for the 2011-12 year from $23,200 to $22,950.

After the economic collapse in 2008, most local private schools barely raised tuition and there was talk around town of shrinking endowments, drops in enrollment and mass firings of teachers, but those fears were largely unrealized. 

The schools emphasize that it costs much more than the tuition price to educate each child. The difference is made up in parent and alumni donations and endowment earnings.  All local private schools offer financial aid too. At most schools, that benefits about 20 to 25 percent of the students. One admissions officer guesses another 10 percent receive family financial aid, where grandparents or some other relative pay for tuition.

So roughly sixty percent are paying full-freight. Doesn’t that leave the schools a little economically lopsided? 

“All the schools would like to have more economic diversity no question,” said one board member from of a Baltimore private boys school who wished to remain anonymous. “No one likes to see these high costs for tuition.” Although the schools receive few complaints about the price he said.

Is it worth it? If one expects a trophy college admission at the end of the experience, it’s probably not a great investment. Locally, only about 10 percent of private school graduates go on to an Ivy League school. But is that the ultimate measure of an education?