Monday, March 10, 2003

Private schools
raising tuition

At least nine Oahu
schools have hikes of
3 percent to 7 percent

By Susan Essoyan

Annual tuition at Punahou School will top $12,000 for the first time this fall, a jump of more than 5 percent.

The cost of a year at Mid-Pacific Institute or Iolani School is not far behind.

Private schools on Oahu contacted by the Star-Bulletin are raising their rates by an average of 5 percent for the coming school year, mostly citing the need to keep faculty pay competitive. Punahou will be charging $12,050; Mid-Pacific, $11,585; and Iolani, $10,900.

For Raccine Singer, whose son and two daughters attend Iolani, the $600 increase translates into an extra $1,800 out of the family budget, but she has no complaints.

"Every year, tuition goes up but we don't mind paying it," she said. "It's worth every penny."

The price does not seem to be slowing the stream of applications to Iolani, which jumped 20 percent this year, said Cathy Lee Chong, communications director.


"We have aggressively increased financial aid to help families keep up with the increases in tuition over the years," she said.

Punahou's new tuition will apply to all grade levels for the first time. The elementary school used to be cheaper, but the school has been raising tuition for lower grades faster than the higher grades to reach a uniform rate. The new fee represents a 7.6 percent hike over the $11,200 charged for kindergarten through third grade this school year.

"We now have one price for a Punahou education," said Bonnie Judd, Punahou spokeswoman. "The quality of education is the same at kindergarten as it is at 12th grade."

She said that while rates are going up, the school has increased its financial aid to the point where it can provide for every student with demonstrated need.

"It's important for us that the students who deserve to be at Punahou are here regardless of their financial background," she said. "Our goal is to have a student population that is as diverse as Hawaii."

Mid-Pacific Institute's tuition increase of roughly 5 percent will help cover the cost of faculty raises and new personnel for the Math, Science and Technology Complex, which is due to open this fall, according to Scot Allen, director of communications.

Le Jardin Windward Oahu Academy, which has kept its tuition increases below the competition in recent years, also will be charging 5 percent more next year because of the need to attract high-quality staff to its growing school, according to Headmaster Adrian Allan. Rates will be $9,575 for students at its new high school, which will include ninth and 10th grade next year, and $9,430 for the lower grades.

While Le Jardin extends its school into the upper grades, one year at a time, Saint Louis School is heading in the opposite direction, gradually re-establishing an elementary school. Saint Louis will have a three-tier tuition structure next year: $5,500 for its brand-new fifth grade, $7,300 for grades six through eight and $7,800 for its high school.

"We used to have kindergarten through 12th grade a long time ago, and the board has decided to bring that back," said Rebecca Fernandes, public relations director for Saint Louis. The move fits with a local trend toward offering kindergarten through 12th grade on one campus.

Hawaii Baptist Academy in Nuuanu is reporting the smallest tuition increase of the nine schools contacted: $250, or 3 percent. That brings the price to $8,250 for grades seven through 12 and $7,750 for kindergarten through sixth grade.

"We took into consideration the economy in general and the needs of our parents," said Richard Bento, academy president. "We're trying to meet our parents halfway."

A hike in the cost of insurance is fueling the tuition increase at Hanalani Schools in Mililani, along with the need to give teachers a long-delayed raise, said Merle Kaneshiro Jones, community relations director. Tuition will be $4,585 in elementary and $5,060 in high school next year.

"This year, we've been hit really hard with insurance," she said. "Our families are not as affluent as the town schools like Punahou and Iolani, so we're trying to keep tuition as reasonable as possible."

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