Are Private Schools Ahead of Public Schools in 2023?

Families have much to consider when deciding where to send their children to school, including class size, availability of programs, and graduation rate. One important measure is academic performance. Studies have consistently shown that students in private schools tend to perform better on tests than public school students. For example, data from the ACT college readiness exam indicates that students educated in private schools have an average composite score nearly four points higher than those educated in public schools.

Considering emerging trends in private vs. public school statistics and what sets private schools apart can help you find the best ways to meet the needs of the families your private school serves. Comparing public and private schools and their admission, performance, and offerings provide insight into how you can attract families to your school.

Increase in Private School Admissions

Enrollment is a significant factor in determining whether private school is better than public. Admissions for public schools are substantially higher than private schools, primarily due to the higher number of individual schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were over 98,000 public schools in the U.S. in the 2020-2021 school year and just over 30,000 private schools between 2019 and 2020. During the 2019-2020 school year, total public school enrollment was 49.4 million students, while private school enrollment totaled 4.7 million.

Despite this disparity in enrollment, private school admissions have been on the rise. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) notes that median enrollment at independent schools reached 396 students in the 2021-2022 school year, the highest admissions level in the past five years. Enrollment declines in 2020 were temporary, as private schools rebounded to report higher enrollment in 2021-2022 than in 2017-2018.

According to the NAIS, leading the growth in enrollment was an increase in admissions in the lower grades. The 2021-2022 school year saw a 21.3% rise in enrollment in prekindergarten, compared with a 12.1% decline in the previous year. Kindergarten and second-grade enrollment in private schools increased by about 4.5% each, while first-grade rose by 6.2%. Researchers are still determining what caused these enrollment increases, but they may result from families’ desire for their children to be in smaller, in-person classes with more individualized attention.

Cost is one of the most significant considerations when families compare public school vs. private school enrollment. Changes to private schools’ financial aid programs may contribute to the rise in admissions. For example, awarding financial aid early offers benefits like helping families feel confident in their decision and maximizing the financial aid budget. Whenever private schools can make tuition more affordable for families, they may see continued growth.

Comparing Student Success in Public and Private Schools in 2023

Comparing Student Success in Public and Private Schools in 2023

When determining whether private schools are ahead of public schools, student success indicators like test scores and college readiness are essential considerations. Families want their students to be prepared for further education, the workforce, and life in general beyond the walls of primary and secondary school. The educational outcomes of enrollment in a particular school are often of top concern for families.

Although private vs. public school statistics aren’t yet available for 2023, past studies indicate that private schools are generally better able to prepare their students for standardized tests. For example, a recent survey of mean ACT composite scores among high school students found that those educated in private schools scored an average of 24.2 out of 36, up from 20.3 for public schooled students and 22.9 for homeschooled students. When it comes to preparing students to enter college, private schools are the most successful.

Another student success metric is graduation. Graduating from high school provides students with the skills to continue their education and a diploma that many jobs require. Private schools also excel in graduation rates, with a 96.4% graduation rate for the 2018-2019 school year. In contrast, the public school graduation rate was 86%.

Looking past graduation, many families are also interested in the difference in college enrollment between students educated at public and private schools. For the 2018-2019 school year, 64.5% of private school graduates enrolled in a four-year college by the fall of that year. In contrast, public schools saw a 44% immediate college enrollment rate for the same period. Although college enrollment directly after high school graduation may not be the best choice for every student, the decision can help them get to the career of their choice faster.

Private School Courses and Class Size

Although standardized test scores and college enrollment indicate whether students are academically prepared to enter higher education, they are only partial measures of student success. In addition, private schools also provide students with courses that may not be offered in public schools and smaller class sizes, which can significantly impact student achievement.

Standard courses across both public and private schools include reading, mathematics, writing, science, and history. Yet public and private schools may vary significantly regarding the kinds of additional courses and electives they offer. Private schools may be able to offer more advanced classes, college preparatory courses, and gifted studies classes due to a higher level of freedom to create their own curriculum. These institutions can provide their learners with more opportunities for internships, career and vocational training, and advanced learning in the field of their choice.

While many other factors are at play in student achievement, class size does impact students’ learning. Students in smaller class sizes may be more likely to receive individualized attention from their teachers. According to projected 2022 data from the NCES, the student/teacher ratio for private schools was 11.6, while the ratio for public schools was 15.8. This personalized academic help can go far in aiding students as they learn new concepts.

Improve Your Private School's Financial Aid Management With Help From School & Student Services

Improve Your Private School’s Financial Aid Management With Help From School & Student Services

When families decide whether private schools are a better fit for their students, they consider various factors like graduation rate, test performance, student achievement, class size, and their students’ unique needs. A private school can provide better quality education by helping students become college ready, offering a more comprehensive selection of courses, smaller class sizes, and more individualized course help. Based on these factors and an increase in private school admission, these institutions are expected to grow in 2023.

As an administrator, managing the financial health of your private school is a top priority. It is possible to balance financial aid with financial health by budgeting the perfect amount of financial aid to award to families and students. Prepare for increased enrollment in your private school with a comprehensive financial aid solution from School & Student Services.

For over 50 years, SSS has helped connect students with an exceptional education. Our technology allows your school to collect the data it needs to manage everything from admissions and financial aid to payment services and fundraising. Bring greater consistency and efficiency to your financial aid program so that you can better meet the needs of the families you serve. Request a demo of SSS for your school to see our software solutions in action.

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