Although 20% of children live in poverty throughout the United States, there’s a new group that’s beginning to feel left out of the private education sector: the “mildly rich.”
The Los Angeles Times reported on some of the most opulent upgrades to L.A.’s private schools, including a $100 million expansion at the Archer School for Girls. The school, located in Brentwood, has battled for four years with neighbors because it needs area residents to move out to complete the construction.
Meanwhile, schools like the Buckley School and the Marlborough School have state-of-the-art facilities — including high-tech academic buildings, Olympic-sized pools, and rooftop athletic fields — planned for the near future.
All of this is in a bid to keep parents, who are shelling out $38,000 per year or more in tuition, happy. However, the subsequent upgrades may have dramatic consequences on enrollment. And most of these schools are already small, with about 86% of private schools nationwide having enrollments of 300 or fewer.
While most Americans who have basic knowledge of income inequality consider these “one percenters” to be part of the elite, the truth of the matter, according to Slate, is that many on the lower end of the upper classes can’t keep up.
Comfortably upper middle class families and those who are part of the lower upper class are often unable to afford the ever-increasing tuition at these schools.
And even though the rich are getting richer, says Slate author Helaine Olen, this only applies to a small sliver of the group — about .1% or even .001% of America’s super-wealthy.
The ultra-rich — hedge fund managers, CEOs, and execs from Silicon Valley — are demanding more bang for their buck when they pay the tuition bill.
University of California Irvine professor Catherine Liu says that this may even be a deliberate move. “This is about separating the 0.001 percent from the herd,” she says.
When the lower upper classes — those who are wealthy doctors, lawyers, and other professionals — suddenly can’t afford $45,000 per year to send their children to the most elite schools in cities such as Los Angeles or New York, it would seem like enrollment would be likely to decrease.
Of the 55 million school-age children across the United States, just 9.6% attend private school. That figure is still slightly lower than it was before the recession.
But the L.A. Times says that enrollment is on the upswing at some of California’s most elite schools. Enrollment increased by 3.1% at a sample of 20 schools over the past five years, up from a 2.3% increase in the previous five years.
But relatively well-off parents who want to send their kids to schools but might not be able to cough up the big bucks and balk at tuition costs, says Fiona Whitney, a Los Angeles area school admissions consultant.
Those parents tend to blame themselves, Whitney tells Slate. “I meet parents, they earn good salaries, but when we calculate the cost, they are having a nervous breakdown.”