Pre-college schools, colleges and universities have become considerably vibrant in building intellectual capital in the United States’ economy. Both public and private education institutions have played quite a remarkable role in improving the quality of education of the country. Demand for education in the USA has significantly risen in the recent past, and the results are equally pleasing, though the private education institutions have been criticized for hiking school fees (Berends 313). The American education system is regarded as one of the best in the world, with robust federal financial intervention being the main drive for this advancement. However, it is prudent to state that this venerated education success and academic excellence have not been achieved without adverse costs. The cost of K-12 education among the private and public schools has become a subject of debate in the last few years. This paper assesses the cost, quality and reliability of the private and public K-12 schools in the USA.
The cost of education in K-12 schools in the USA should be assessed by the extent of tuition fees, scholarships and the financial standards of such schools (Lips). The overall cost of elementary and secondary education in the USA accounts for approximately 4.7% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the National Center for Education Statistics (Lips). The public K-12 schools do not charge students for tuition fees, though expenditure on other education aspects accounts for a considerable education cost (Lips). In 2006, the average annual expenditure of a K-12 student was estimated to be $8,310 (Lips). The federal government provides subsidies to the public schools to cover tuition expenses of the students.
Currently, it is estimated that 90% of K-12 students are enrolled in public schools (Berends 313). The rest (10%) are enrolled in private K-12 schools. The cost of private K-12 schools is very high, compared to the public subsidized schools (Berends 313). According to the Council for American Private Education, the average tuition fee for K-12 schooling is $10,075 throughout the levels (Berends, 313). This is a significant amount of tuition fees, which is difficult to afford for middle income families. The National Center for Education Statistics has also estimated that the tuition cost for non-sectarian K-12 school is $16,247 per student (Council for American Private Education). Thus, public K-12 schools are readily affordable for most American families. The high cost of private K-12 tuition is attributed to lack of federal subsidies (Council for American Private Education).
Policy making in public K-12 schools depends entirely on state policies (Zemsky 146). Thus, public schools are likely to be governed through improper education strategies than religious and independent schools (Alt and Peter 13). Teachers in private schools have a greater influence on decision-making, which is a desirable boost towards the formulation of the productive education strategies. The high tuition fees paid by students in private K-12 schools does not go into waste, as many pundits like to insinuate (Alt and Peter 13). Academic excellence is stipulated as a priority in virtually all schools; private and public schools. However, the means which these schools attain the academic goals differ significantly (Alt and Peter 13). The public schools have to wait for the government to issue policies and directives for restructuring of education programs, whereas teachers in the private schools can effectively create worthwhile education strategies (Alt and Peter 13). Thus, it can be deduced that private schools win on the aspect of decision making and establishment of innovative policies.
Despite the lack of federal subsidies towards private K-12 schools, the introduction of state-funded voucher programs, scholarships and merit-based financial aids has helped in covering tuition costs in private schools (Berends, 311). National scholarship schemes such as Jack Kent and Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) have immensely helped in cutting down tuition costs in private K-12 schools (Berends, 311). The voucher programs provide financial aid to needy students in the public and private K-12 schools through corporate income tax schemes and tax contribution by parents. However, these need-based financial aid programs have not reduced the tuition fees in private schools in great measures (Berends 312). Thus, in terms of fee charges, public K-12 schools are better than the private ones.
Educational attainment for students in private K-12 is higher than in public schools (Council for American Private Education). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), K-12 students in private schools are more likely to attain their bachelor’s degree by their middle-20s (Alt and Peter 24). In addition, private K-12 schools have more challenging graduation requirements than the public ones (Council for American Private Education). These rigorous requirements serve as a driving force for students in such schools, eventually leading to better performances and higher education attainment levels (Alt and Peter 24). It is also estimated that 8th graders from the private K-12 schools are four times more likely to join universities than their colleagues from the public schools (Alt and Peter 24).
In terms of quality of education, both private and public K-12 schools show disparate trends. The subsidized cost of education in public schools has created complacency among students and teachers alike (Lips). According to a 2005 report released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), most students in 8th grade in public schools cannot demonstrate a literal comprehension of what they have learned (Lips). This is because such students have ‘below basic’ performances. This massive underperformance in public K-12 schools leads to the reduction of the high-school graduation rate. The dropout rate among students in public schools has considerably increased over the last few decades (Lips). The U.S Census Bureau estimates that a full-time worker who without a high-school diploma earns $7400 less than a high-school graduate every year, which is a 29% pay drop (Lips). Dropouts can cost the US’s economy more than $300 billion, in terms of wages and lost taxes (Lips). Thus, students from the public K-12 schools are at a risk of lacking well-paying jobs, unlike students from the private ones.
The high tuition fees paid by students in private K-12 schools is worth the quality of education they receive from such schools (Council for American Private Education). NAEP reports that students in private K-12 schools have persistently shown a considerable performance advantage over those who are enrolled in public schools (Lips). This is because private schools have better teacher-student ratios, when compared to public schools. For instance, NAEP has recently reported that students from the private K-12 schools score an average of 7 points more than the public schools students in mathematics tests (Council for American Private Education). In 2009, the national mean score for 4th graders in mathematics was 239 points for public schools whereas the mean for private schools was 246 points (Council for American Private Education). For the eighth grade levels, public schools scored a mean score of 282 points, while private schools scored a mean of 296 points (Council for American Private Education). These statistics show that the quality of education in private schools is better than in the public ones.
Public K-12 schools lack adequate educational facilities when compared to private schools (Zemsky 148). As such, students at private schools have access to better academic resources than their counterparts in public schools. Generally, private K-12 schools have smaller enrollment rates (10%) than the public ones (Alt and Peter 5). Resource allocation in small student populations is more effective than in public schools (Alt and Peter 5). This factor gives an added competitive edge to students in private schools over those enrolled at public schools (Berends 311) Small-sized classrooms can be more effectively managed when compared to large classes. Reliability in education-related technologies is more generated in private schools, thereby improving performance through establishment of better driven curricula (Zemsky 148).
Both private and public schools have advantages and disadvantages. Public schools have the obvious advantage of being cheap. Thus, affordability of education is highly possible in such schools, especially for needy students. However, the quality of education offered in public schools is not appropriate. In private schools, high performance and effective policy-making are the main advantages. In addition, resource allocation and smaller teacher-student ratios are also good. However, the high cost of attaining education through the private system is the major drawback for these schools. Nevertheless, advantages for private schools outweigh the disadvantages. Hence, private schools win over public schools in terms of education quality and academic performance.