Mommyish Debate: Is Complaining About Private School Tuition On $400,000 A Year Just Plain Ludicrous?

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The desire to educate crosses income levels, geography, and ethnicity.   Everyone wants their child to succeed in life and the opportunity to excel begins with a solid education.  What are we willing to sacrifice to get them that education?  Well one Manhattan woman feels like she’s sacrificing plenty, unlike those other people who just rely on financial aid.

The anonymous mother of two wrote on Urban Mommy that she’s struggling to pay her kid’s private school tuition on her combined family income of $400,000 a year. She says that she could quit her job, stay at home, lower their income to a measly $200,000 and receive financial aid. Instead, she continues to work, and write angry blog posts about it.

Understandably, complaining about financial issues from someone who makes more than 90% of the country didn’t really go over well. There was a whole lot of angry interneters out there. But, underneath all that utter lack of awareness, did this random New York City mama raise a good point? Despite her ignorance, did she highlight a serious problem with the education system, where a family making triple-digits still feels like they’re struggling to afford a good school? Lindsay Cross and Carinn Jade debate this mom’s idiocy and the bigger issues.



  1. Michelle

    October 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    “and right angry blog posts about it”
    Or she writes them…come on the whole staff is included as the author on this article. At least someone could have read through it again.

    • Lindsay Cross

      October 2, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      You’re right! We should have caught that. Consider us thoroughly embarrassed.

    • Mary

      October 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      The typos on this site drive me insane!

    • Lindsay Cross

      October 3, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      They drive us insane too! We would love a copyeditor, but we just don’t have that luxury.

  2. kathleen

    October 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Yes. Yes, it is. You made your choice about schools, so don’t whine on a public forum because someone else pays less than you do.

  3. Eileen

    October 2, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I have lots of problems with the way financial aid is applied, sure. But I also think it’s worth wondering how much better the education really is. My freshman year of college, I felt really out of my league in one class, because I’d gone to a fairly small public school, and my partner for my first project went to Deerfield. Turned out I did way better than she did. More important than the money you spend on education is the effort you put in to raising a child who’s curious and motivated. You can afford that on way less than $400k.

    • bumbler

      October 2, 2012 at 11:59 pm

      Personally, I haven’t noticed that private school kids are smarter, and I don’t think most people would believe that anyhow. Private school is about opportunity, prestige, and upper-class culture. Private schools boast about their kids getting into the ivy legues (or private middle schools feeding into private high schools, etc), not because the kids come out geniuses, but because they’re a known feeder school. You can brag about your kid going to such-and-such school, even if they’re getting D’s and F’s. I imagine another big part of it is keeping your wealthy tot among other wealthy tots, or to put it more bluntly, keeping your kids away from commoners and riff-raff.
      And, in some defense of these parents, private schools do tend to have much better programs, for example you can send your little mozart to a musically oriented school. And when you’re forking over $70k, you generally get more of an opinion in how things function, rather than the brush off you might sometimes get at public schools. In public schools, you hope for a good teacher, in private school, you know you’re paying for one. In public school, music class might get cut this year, in private school, all the kids are learning violin.
      These are just a few thoughts, the issue is actually pretty large though.

    • ipsedixit010

      October 3, 2012 at 9:15 am

      I think it depends on the type of private school. There are a lot of large, middle class Catholic high schools in our area. My husband and I both went to public school, and 10 years out of high school, our incomes and “status” are the same or higher as our friends who attended those types of private high schools.

      However, my friend recently switched from teaching math at a public school to a smaller, all girls, extremely expensive private school. He said there was a remarkable difference. The students were engaged, weren’t afraid to ask for help, initiated discussions without prompts, etc. It was a whole new world.

      There is something to be said with hob nobbing with other wealthy tots (and their parents). It certainly helps open up opportunities that may not have otherwise existed, especially if those feeder schools feed into an excellent university. I think it’s less keeping kids away from the riff-raff and more about networking.

  4. CW

    October 2, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Taxes would likely take about half of what the family makes between Federal, state, SS, Medicare, and I think NYC might even have a local income tax. Housing is insanely expensive in Manhattan so that would take another big chunk. So being able to afford $70k for two kids’ tuition may legitimately be a stretch. However, she is dead wrong about families with a SAHM qualifying for more financial aid. The schools will calculate an income for the SAHM based on what she was making before and reduce the financial aid as a result. The family will have to take out loans to bridge the gap if mom doesn’t want to go back to work at that point. I know some families who are doing exactly that because they don’t want to put the preschool-aged sibling(s) into daycare. They plan to pay off the loans once the youngest child is in 1st grade and the mom resumes her career.

  5. koolchicken

    October 3, 2012 at 7:14 am

    I’m amazed at how out of proportion this whole thing has gotten. Quite frankly I’m on this woman’s side, private school is crazy expensive. Where I live the cost of living is really high, a loaf of bread will run you about $8. And the cost of pre-K is $8,300- and it only goes up from there. So I don’t think it’s fair to slam this woman and call her an idiot, or out of touch with reality. My reality is this, the local public school has a 15% college acceptance rate, but the private school is 100%, I don’t have a choice in schools when I look at those numbers. Why should I assume her reality is any different? No one here knows her situation. Really it’s not fair that to ensure my kids are safe, actually learning, making friends with our values, and successful in life I have to pay through the nose.

  6. Melody

    October 3, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I live in the NYC-area with my three kids and I can say from personal experience that private school tuition is insane. I actually homeschooled my eldest for a few years because the public schools in my area are a joke and we couldn’t afford the 10k-20k cost of private school on our 100k salary. We just got her into a charter school but a few weeks into it I am starting to have some misgivings and am reconsidering homeschooling as an option. The school is completely rundown with no gym or music class and broken liquor bottles litter the cracked sidewalks outside.
    I don’t know what this lady is talking about in terms of getting financial assistance on 200k unless she has like 8 kids because we’re not even close to qualifying on half of that. I would definitely be able to pay for nice schools on 400k. I don’t know her situtation though, she might have loads of debt or loans to pay off or some other issue.

  7. ipsedixit010

    October 3, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I wanted to check out how our combined salary in Ohio would translate in NYC. I used the wizards over at (not sure of its accuracy), and our disposable income would drop by $97,000. We would have to earn $172,000 MORE to keep our current standard of living. Granted, as professionals, we would probably make more in NYC, but I’m not sure if it would cover that kind of gap.

    Add in the cost of childcare and the insane tuition costs, not counting any other debts you may have (mortgage, healthcare, student loans, etc) and I can see why it might be a bit uncomfortable to put kids through private school in NYC while living and working there.

    • Guerrilla Mom

      October 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      HOLY CRAP. I’m going over to that site now.

  8. Emily

    October 3, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I actually work in a private school. And send my kids, too. So, I feel qualified to clarify a few things:
    * There are different types of private schools. Some are non-sectarian, some are affiliated with a church, some address a specific niche (e.g., a school focusing on competitive skiing, or offering specialized approaches for kids with learning differences)… these factors affect the cost greatly. In my area, Kindergarten at a local Catholic school is $9k/year; tuition at a nonsectarian schools is $17k for K.
    * If you take your “average” private school, let’s say non-sectarian, non-specialized, you will find that the focus these days is on teaching kids HOW to learn, and HOW to find knowledge. Not to get every kid into an Ivy League school, not to “make them smart.” Parents may expect this; educators know better.
    * Parents who pay for school may think that they have a greater influence on what is taught and how, but they don’t. Educators know what they’re talking about; if parents do not trust their children’s schools with properly educating them, then they should change schools.
    * Every school has a different method of offering financial aid. This does not depend simply on the parents’ income. Other factors that are taken into account are: special circumstances, the school’s endowment and commitment to financial aid, etc. etc. It is an inexact science, but schools WANT to have great kids at their school, and bend over backwards to try to make it happen for folks who can’t just write a check.

  9. Rebecca

    October 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I’m a stay at home mom who’s seen my husbands salary go from 28k 5 years ago to over 140k today.we now live outside of NYC, but my husband works from home a lot, so we’re thinking about moving back to where we started in Pennsylvania where we can live like kings on his current salary. Preschool there is about $80/month. The cheapest I found here was about $250 at the Y. We both grew up in families that made less then 30k a year so the cost of things really seems out of control to us. I use coupons and buy all the kids stuff second hand, but we can never seem to keep more then an extra $1,000 in the bank. I’m sure we could do a lot more to save money, but what really irks me is why in the hell is everything so expensive anyways??! I don’t know what this lady’s situation is, but I agree private school in this area is absurd. That said, there are wonderful public schools where I live in north jersey. If you can’t afford private school then move somewhere that has good public schools. Or find a cheaper private school. You don’t qualify for financial aid because you don’t need it. Be greatful.

  10. Jessie

    October 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    I agree. Taxes take care of half of that. Those make 400K a year usually don’t have the tax shelters of the very wealthy, so they pay their fair share, and the fair share of probably a couple other families. So, they are probably bringing home 200K and with roughly 20K for private school per child–It does suck, but so do some public school systems.

  11. Kristina

    October 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I personally think its insane anytime I hear people complain about $400k not being enough. If you really think about it, those schools, while yes they have all kinds of different activities, aren’t really that much better than a regular preschool. Its insane to think that a school for a four year old will have bearing on them 30 years down the road. Of course, My husband and I work our tails off for less than $35k a year. As a matter of fact, for the first 10 years we were married, we didn’t make over $20k a year. Thats with him working shipping and receiving for a lumber yard and I work as a CNA for hospice. We have a hard enough time paying for daycare, which is ridiculous enough. If I were making $400k a year???? Pfffffft. Peopel live so above their means nowadays, then when a job is lost they really get into trouble. Do you really need that new car? Do you really need a 6 bedroom house for 3 people in your family? Name brand new clothes all the time, Starbucks everyday? Come down to planet earth a bit lol, then worry about tuition.

  12. Skye Belle Matilda Brand

    October 4, 2012 at 4:29 am

    I’m so glad I live in acountry where the public school system is the better option if you just want a good education & aren’t worried about snobbery & pretence!

    Here, the private schools only claim a very small percentage of the educational elite (those sitting in the top 10% of the country). Many are also not picky about how many other schools the student has been kicked out of, as long as Mummy & Daddy have the money to pay the fees & the bribes to sweep future index regions under the rug!

    • Skye Belle Matilda Brand

      October 4, 2012 at 4:31 am

      WHAT is going on with my autocorrect?

    • CW

      October 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Oh, puh-LEEZE. Which do you *SERIOUSLY* think provides a better education: the private school with selective admissions (need to have above-average IQ scores to get in), 15 or 16 kids per class, music, art, PE, elementary school foreign language, country clubbish facilities, and so on? Or the local public school with 32 kids crammed in including non-English speakers and mainstreamed special ed kids, no specials, and mediocre facilities? Now the question we should be asking is why a decent education is only available to those families who are wealthy enough to afford pricey private school tuition.

  13. anonymous

    October 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Did it occur to you that bringing in that much money might in itself be a struggle? I highly doubt she and her husband each make $200k/year sitting at a desk and doing nothing all day. And it can be frustrating seeing a good chunk of that hard-earned money being spent on something that other people get financial assistance for. Why should some parents have to pay more for their children’s education just because of their financial success?

    • CW

      October 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      Why should getting a decent education for one’s children even require payment beyond the regular taxes that everyone has to pay?

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