Select Page

Rodger Williams
September 5, 2023

We are seeing a new phenomenon in private schools. Some schools are raising tuition in response to government School Choice money flowing into the marketplace:

In Iowa, Holy Family Catholic Schools announced that they would be raising prices 10 to 40 percent, depending on a families’ relationship to the parish, given the state’s new education savings account program. In Florida, St. Paul Catholic School announced an increase in tuition for parish members from $6,000 to $10,000, and from $7,000 to $12,000 for nonmembers.

These instances are anecdotes, not data. While often dismissed, anecdotes can be powerful evidence. They can serve as counterexamples showing that conventional ideas are missing certain factors. They can be leading indicators of undercurrents unnoticed so far.

In this case, they also tie in with established concepts in a similar field:

This is Economics 101: Subsidies in a competitive market lead to higher prices. If subsidies fueled tuition inflation in higher education, should one not expect to see the same effects from school choice policies in elementary and secondary education?

What makes these instances particularly important is that they have only started happening now, with Universal ESA programs in place. Before the mass availability of government money, no school ever claimed publicly that they were raising tuition prices because of government money.

Apparently, the amount of government money available has reached a critical mass large enough to influence major decisions made by private schools.

The resulting tuition inflation will harm students School Choice is supposed to help:

Some students will be able to come out of public schools into private schools because the government money allows them to do so.

These students will eventually be forced back into the public schools because of rising private school tuition.

The School Choice money available will be outpaced by the tuition increases. And these families will no longer be able to afford tuition costs.

School Choice advocates successfully passed their bills in 2023. Government money is now flowing to private schools.

Ironically, this success could carry within it the seeds of the destruction of the School Choice movement.

Private schools are raising tuition as government money becomes a basis for their projected budgets. Those tuition price increases will bring disturbing unintended consequences. That in turn could cause a reevaluation of School Choice policies.

A School Choice tipping point may be unfolding before our eyes.