Recession Squeezes Family Pockets

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Source Newsletter for Private School News Header Image

Private School News//

December 9, 2009

Experts are saying we won't see the light at the end of the tunnel until 2010. Industries most hit by the continuing economic crunch are manufacturing industries (and states with large manufacturing companies like Michigan and South Carolina are seeing the largest lay off numbers), textiles, construction, retail, and financial services.

Education, health care, and pharmaceutical industries are the least affected. They're not unaffected—they're merely the lightest affected.

There is no one untouched by the current economic downturn. Every family, every company, every individual is feeling the burden in some way—some more than others. And although private-independent education is among the few fields not reporting mass layoffs and serious financial difficulty, they too are starting to feel some of the aftermath from the housing crisis. The U.S. Department of Education reports private enrollment dropped by 120,000 in the current school year. (The number of students attending the nation's 30,000 private schools is an estimated 6 million.)

Private education has boomed over the last 15 years. Rates grew faster than the rate of inflation! Between 1993-1994 and 2003-2004, tuition averages more than doubled, almost quadrupling the 31% rise in the consumer price index which tracks the nations inflation, during the same time period.

No one can deny the benefits that private education offers. Parents have fueled private education for decades, appreciating the social and educational benefits of the community. Benefits such as strong social networks, smaller class sizes, deeper parent involvement, and strong ties to the community are the elements that are keeping interests high and—financial aid requests rolling in.

History paints an optimistic portrait for private-independent schools. They have notoriously held strong during the last several recessions, maintaining enrollments, increasing tuitions, and continuing to raise charity dollars. Only time will tell how private education will do this time around.

Thus far, certain areas of the country are reporting declines and hardships, while others are reporting increases in interest. There is no consistency to what is being found across the Internet as far as private-independent education as a whole, and no predictions can be foretold for how things will turn out. One thing that is consistent nationwide, however, is the elevated interest in financial aid. Estimated thus far, financial aid applications are up 4.6% over last year.

More parents are applying for financial aid this year than the previous—even some families that don't necessarily need it. The logic? "It can't hurt to try." And it can't. Applying for aid is painless; it's the schools' burden to sort through who is the best match for receiving financial aid and who isn't. This can be painful for schools hit by the market crash, facing withering endowments—some schools simply don't have extra to give.


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