Hawaii private school tuitions rise with inflation

May 29—Competition for dwindling numbers of students is one of the factors that keeps many schools holding down increases.

While the average tuition increases for Hawaii private schools statewide for this fall will be less than expected by about 2.3%, some standout schools are increasing their enrollments much more as they begin to catch up. day with inflation and rate increases of the last two years. that were delayed or reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Average annual tuition rose to $13,564 from $13,254, according to the latest annual report from the nonprofit Hawaii Association of Independent Schools. Median private tuition (the amount above half of the 99 local private schools surveyed and half below) increased to $10,800 from $10,234, an increase of 5.5%.

Tuition prices among private schools on the islands are distributed roughly like a bell curve, with 64% charging between $6,000 and $17,999 per year for the 2023-2024 school year. And competition for dwindling numbers of students is one of the factors keeping many schools’ raises low, said the association’s executive director, Philip J. Bossert.

But among the seniors, the Punahou School is crossing the $30,000 tuition mark for the first time, the first non-specialist private school on Oahu to do so. All grades in Punahou will charge $30,480 for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, an increase of 5.2%.

All grades at Mid-Pacific Institute will charge $29,745 next school year, and all grades at ‘Iolani School will charge $28,250, both increasing by approximately 4%.

Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the island of Hawaii crossed the $30,000 threshold last school year. For next fall, students in grades 9-12 will pay $32,500, an increase of 6.6%.

Variety School of Hawaii charges the most among Oahu independent schools, $40,540 for all grades. But that school is considered a “special purpose school” in the survey, as it specializes in serving students with challenges such as high-functioning autism, anxiety-related disorders, nonverbal learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders and mild to moderate cognitive delays. which requires specialized teachers, therapists and equipment.

The Hawaii private school that will charge the most, however, is Horizons Academy of Maui, at $50,400 for all grades, the same amount as last school year. Horizons is also considered a special purpose school in the survey; the Kihei school supports students with certain learning challenges, Bossert said. It bills itself on its website as “the only private, non-profit organization on Maui that uses and implements behavior analytics programs developed and supervised by a board-certified behavior analyst.”

In a state where the cost of living is among the highest in the nation, the point at which rising private school tuition bills could affect significant numbers of families remains to be seen. Hawaii continues to have some of the largest proportions of students in private schools, historically around 15-18%, compared to the national average of around 10%.

A Punahou mother says her family has been able to survive to support her daughter at the renowned Makiki school, but between inflation, rising tuition fees over the years, and the added cost as her son will soon be school-age, “I wonder now if there will come a time when we won’t be able to do this,” she said. She asked to withhold her name for fear of stigma for her children.

School leaders say decisions about whether and how much to increase enrollment are complex and difficult.

Punahou School, for example, “strives to balance the cost of tuition with the necessary investments that allow our school to provide the best possible educational experience for our students,” the school said in a statement emailed to the Honolulu Star. -Advertiser. “We recognize the sacrifices many families make to send their children to Punahou, which is why we provide more than $10 million each year in financial aid. In all, 22% of our students receive financial aid, with an average award of $11,600 per student based entirely on family need.”

At ‘Iolani, the school’s Board of Governors “continues to place the value of an ‘Iolani education and the cost of tuition among their top priorities,” Kim Gennaula, Advancement’s executive director, said by email. “We are committed to making an ‘Iolani School education accessible to students by increasing financial aid at twice the rate of tuition growth. For the 2023-24 school year, we have budgeted nearly $8 million for the financial aid to be awarded, which equates to just over 10% of our operating budget.

“In addition, while tuition for the 2023-24 school year will be $28,250, the actual cost of an education at ‘Iolani is $39,700. Every student who attends ‘Iolani receives a hidden scholarship of $11,450,” Gennaula said.

Bossert said some schools appear to be avoiding drastically increasing enrollment, probably “because there’s a lot of competition for students.”

A “baby drop” during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 means tens of thousands fewer school-age children now in Hawaii schools compared to five to 10 years ago, according to an analysis by the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools. .

To complicate that, there is an unexpected “disappearance” of around 6,000 public and private school students during the COVID-19 pandemic, some apparently leaving for the mainland.

And an unusually high number of applications to open new private schools is also redistributing the islands’ student population. In the past two years, 18 groups have applied to the association’s licensing arm, the Hawaii Private School Board, to start their own schools, and eight have launched so far, Bossert said.

Meanwhile, a federal tax credit known as the Employee Retention Credit has also helped some 50 local private schools avoid passing higher costs on to families, he said. “Almost $40 million has gone into our private schools in the past year for that, so maybe that cushion helped them keep the amounts lower, at least for this year,” she said.

Hawaii’s private schools over the past two decades typically increased tuition rates by 3-5% a year, generally keeping pace with inflation, but during the height of the COVID-19 emergency in school years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, private schools tended to delay or delay tuition increases, reluctant to add pressure on families struggling with pandemic-related financial issues, he said.

The complete Hawaii Association of Independent Schools survey of private school tuition rates statewide, including those of individual schools, can be viewed at Private schools on the mainland still charge significantly more than their California counterparts. Hawaii. At Lakeside School in Seattle, widely considered comparable to top Hawaii private schools like Punahou, ‘Iolani and Mid-Pacific, tuition last year was $40,080. Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles will charge $46,900 this fall. The Dalton School of New York will charge $61,120.

When viewed in that context, Bossert said, Hawaii’s schools “look cheap.”

MOST EXPENSIVE PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN HAWAII Tuition rates are for 12th grade students for 2023-2024, except where noted. The data comes from the latest annual survey conducted by the nonprofit Hawaii Association of Independent Schools.

Horizons Academy of Maui — $50,400 Variety School of Hawaii — $40,540 Hawaii Preparatory Academy $32,500 Punahou School $30,480 Mid-Pacific Institute $29,745 Assets School — $28,613 ‘Iolani School $28,250 Hanahau ‘oli School — $26,320 Le Jardin Academy $25,850 Maui Preparatory Academy $24,840 — Classified as a “special purpose school” for students with specific learning needs or challenges.

— Hanahau ‘oli School only goes up to the sixth grade.