When discussing expensive preschools, we’re referring to privately owned preschools that conduct full-day, year-long programs. A full-time preschool program costs $13,655 per year; for all categories of programs, the average cost is $10,668 per year (according to the Center for American Policy).
The preschool program is expensive because these schools need funds to:
- Pay high labor costs caused by hiring an increased quantity of staff to maintain Teacher-to-student Ratio Regulations
- Operate facility at expensive locations
- Pay for the logistics and fixed expenses
- Maintain and make continuous improvements to the facility
- Carry a hefty cost for liability insurance comes with the programs
- Advertising or marketing costs
On the contrary, there are publicly funded universal pre-k or preschools where parents don’t have to pay to enroll their children. But they’re not widely available, and many think their service isn’t satisfactory. So, private preschools get an edge by offering better service even at a higher cost.
Let’s check out the cost breakdown for the preschools in detail and analyze them against the service they offer to decide whether it’s worth investing in them.
Are Preschools Expensive?
The monthly average cost for preschool is around $889, widely varying from city to city or state to state. In Arizona, the average monthly preschool cost is as low as $787 per month, whereas, in Washington, DC, it costs around $1,372 per month.
The 5-days-a-week preschool cost can soar far higher than average in expensive urban areas such as NY, Boston, or San Fransisco. Forbes lists the most expensive preschools, and Ethical Culture in NY tops the list with an astounding $30,440 tuition fee per year!
Even if we rest aside these elite private-grade preschools, the mediocre preschools’ charges are comparable with many expensive daycare centers. They’re expensive because:
- The average cost for preschools is higher than the average cost of “in-state college tuition.”
- The fee amounts to 64% of the earnings of an individual who earns the minimum wage in the US
Why Is Preschool So Expensive?
Are preschools making a lot of money? Or the fee they offer is justified considering their expenses? Let’s find out.
1. Teacher to Student Ratio Regulations
The main idea behind preschools is to keep the teacher-to-student ratio smaller to provide better care and education. According to ChildCare.Gov, one trained adult should care for 4 to 6 older toddlers and 6 to 10 preschoolers.
So the maximum accepted student-teacher ratio is 10:1, but some states and preschoolers have strict staffing regulations to keep it down to 6:1 or smaller. As a result, preschools require increased staff to maintain the ratio, increasing their labor cost and reflecting higher tuition fees.
2. Expensive Operational Centers
Preschools are located in an easy-to-reach place in the city where plenty of parents are around. They need to be in an area that’s easy to commute to but not prone to heavy traffic, crime, or pollution. A school in such a setting will have to spend a portion of its income on the property it rented out for operations.
Besides, many preschools can’t compromise on the size because their states may have requirements for a particular amount of square feet per child. So the building size impacts the number of students to be enrolled or employees to be hired. This ongoing facility cost plays a significant role in setting up higher tuition fees for preschool programs.
3. Insurance or Legal Counsel
Preschools or daycare centers face a hefty cost of liability insurance. Many states don’t require preschools to take insurance, but most preschools opt for insurance to stay on the safer side.
Some accidental scenarios they fear could be a preschooler falling and hitting a piece of furniture or getting bitten by one of their classmates on the school premises.
Many preschools take a liability policy to avoid getting sued by the parent of an accident-victim child to pay for their medical expenses. It helps them handle the claim without taking a big financial hit.
Besides, there are no uniform federal standards for preschools, so providers also pay for legal counsel or attorney to tackle any lawsuit and ensure compliance. These additional costs have an impact on the overall tuition fee of the program.
4. Increasing Cost of Fixed Expenses
Preschools are more than just a school; the authorities must ensure logistics to provide care and fun activities to the children. So unlike traditional schools, they’ve to make spending on playdoughs, toys, games, craft materials, and other additional supplies alongside books and regular classroom supplies.
Besides, children are more prone to sickness, so the centers must be extra careful about keeping the premises hygienic and spend more on cleaning supplies.
Some preschools provide after-school care and need to spend on transportation facilities. Since children stay for a long time in the school, authorities generally provide snacks or meals to the children and later charge it in the tuition fee. So everything discussed here adds to the overall school fees.
5. Maintenance & Continuous Facility Improvements
All preschools need to have a budget for maintenance plus the continuous improvement of their facility. It could be related to repairing, landscaping, roofing, or any decor work that adds value to the facility. They must plan for continuous furniture improvements, including the desks and chairs.
Besides, there are digital maintenance costs related to website redesigning, Search Engine Optimization, and software enhancements. These are pretty costly and have an impact on the tuition fees.
6. Employee Salary & Training
Paying teachers and staff a competitive salary is a significant part of the preschool’s spending. The upward pressure on minimum wages drives up hiring costs and overall spending. Besides, providing compensation and retention benefits adds up to the entire cost.
The institutions also need to ensure a well-organized recruitment and training facility typically conducted by the HR department and comes with separate spending. To provide the best service, preschools need to go through this spending, which they later charge to their students’ programs.
To make their presence feel and stay in the competition, all preschools have a budget for marketing and advertisement. They advertise in a way that modern families may notice.
Some attend local events, while others hire a digital marketing expert to reach customers through social media and other digital tools. These marketing strategies need a fair amount of budget, which impacts the programs’ overall cost.
8. Cost Breakdown
What’s the cost breakdown for the preschools? We’ve got some stats from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE), which suggests that 12 percent of the total annual revenue of preschools is spent on overhead like maintenance, rent, and utilities.
Other 23 percent of the revenue goes to class materials, food, and additional administrative costs. A study suggests that a minimum of 60 percent accounts for the salary and benefits of the workforce. But it doesn’t mean the preschool employees are highly paid, and the perception that preschools make a lot of money isn’t correct either.
Is Preschool Worth The Investment?
Primarily preschool is worth the investment because of how it prepares your child for future challenges. Studies show that attending preschool makes children more productive and will likely reap the monetary benefits of preschool education into adulthood.
The socio-emotional development is significant as caregivers can interact more because of the small ratio. Besides, the infrastructural or environmental standards and inclusion of trained staff positively impact the child and are worth paying for.
The National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs suggests high-quality early childhood programs can bring a $4 to $9 return for each $1 invested. The 2009 study of Perry Preschool also estimated a return to society of $7 to $12 per $1 invested in preschools.
One of the significant reasons parents send their children to preschools or child care is that they can work outside without worrying about their kids. Taking care of the child and working at home for prolonged hours can make them lose their paid working hours. So they can make use of the working hours and reap monetary benefits by sending the kid to preschool or daycare.
How to Afford Preschool for Your Kid?
If you want to admit your child to pre-k but are concerned about its high cost, here are some ways to make it a little affordable.
- Firstly, hop online to see if there’s any public preschool listed in your local school district.
- Check out your company’s benefits package to see if any corporate discount programs apply to preschools.
- Avail of a child care tax credit if you’re eligible for it, and you may receive cash for your child’s preschool admission
- Also, see if your state has any childcare subsidy program that could help you fund the preschool program.
- Some preschools offer discounts for paying the whole-year tuition fee in one installment.
Private preschools have their reasons for charging hefty costs in tuition fees. But what they offer in return to the youngest children justifies the cost to a great extent. Well, you’ve got options to admit your child into a public-funded preschool if there’s one in your school district. But to ensure a high-quality early childhood education, private preschools make the best choice.
Unfortunately, the burden of educating the future workforce in high-quality preschools is squarely on the shoulders of their families. And you see; only upper-income families can afford it. It furthers the inequality and sets the stage for a gap that persists throughout their lives.