Private schools to raise costs 6%
The increases will fund salaries and aid isle campuses
Most major private schools in Hawaii will raise tuition by more than 6 percent next school year to offer teachers competitive salaries, pay for investments in technology and improve campuses, according to a Star-Bulletin survey.
For some parents, the hikes mean they will have to pay between $90 and $1,163 more for their children's education.
Of the schools that have announced their tuition increase, Punahou School will once again top the most- expensive list, lifting its flat, K-12 tuition to $15,725 for 2007-08, a 6.8 percent rise over the current school year, or $1,000 more. Close behind is Iolani School, where tuition will jump by 6.9 percent to $14,000, a $900 increase.
Mid-Pacific Institute hasn't yet released its figures, but tuition at the Manoa Valley school should land between Punahou and Iolani rates, a school spokesman said. Tuition generally does not include other required fees for field trips and other programs that can add $1,000 or more.
Officials said the higher tuition is unavoidable, and that it will allow schools to retain good teachers by awarding them better pay and benefits, cover ongoing costs of integrating technology into the curriculum and improve facilities.
"It's an investment that we feel is absolutely critical," said Laurel Husain, communications director for Punahou, where parents were told of the tuition change in a letter last week.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the Big Island should remain the priciest mainstream private school in the state. The academy is waiting for all parents to receive tuition notices before disclosing its numbers, but spokeswoman Phyllis Kanekuni said tuition at the school, which ranges from $12,750 to $16,350, will go up.
Private school tuition also rose in the islands last year, following a national trend that has seen independent institutions becoming more expensive for several years.
On average, private school tuition has shot up about 3 percent a year over inflation in recent years, or about 32 percent in the past decade, according to the National Association of Independent Schools. The median tuition for independent day schools in 2006-07 was $13,900 for first grade and $17,960 for 12th grade, the association said.
Besides the need to adjust their expenses to inflation, private schools are raising tuition to fund new specialized programs in foreign languages, arts and sports, said Myra McGovern, the independent schools association public information director.
Also, ballooning costs of medical insurance "have taken a toll" on private schools, McGovern said. Unlike public institutions, which get better deals on health care because they can spread the cost among more employees, private schools, where the average student-to-teacher ratio is a low 8.5, get stuck with costly packages.
"They can't really bargain quite as well," McGovern said.
But across Hawaii, parents seem to be willing to spend more money to educate their kids. Private schools say enrollment has been steady or rising.
Greg O'Donnell, president of Damien Memorial School, expects enrollment to reach 600 -- up from 575 -- in the fall even though tuition will be more than 10 percent higher for all grades. He said Damien has experienced a 50 percent jump in students since the 2004-05 school year.
"People are willing to pay whatever it takes for a good education," O'Donnell said. "They don't want a second-rate education."
Winnie Yuen, whose 15-year-old son goes to Iolani, said she expected tuition to go up once more, "but not this much." Still, the Hawaii Kai resident says she "has no choice" but to struggle for another two years until her child graduates.
"He's already in 10th grade, and I want him to finish here," Yuen said. "He's motivated ... and I find the public school not challenging for him."
To offset the costs to parents, schools have been focusing on fundraising to provide more financial aid and other assistance.
At Saint Louis School, about half of the $1.7 million raised last year went toward student aid, said Darcie Yukimura, the school's director of communications. Tuition at the Catholic, all-boys school will increase by an average of 7 percent, but Yukimura said part of the money will go toward seminars on how to best teach young men.
"We are really focusing this year on professional development," she said.
At Punahou, 11 percent, or 400 of the school's 3,760 students, already get tuition help, Husain said.
"We anticipate that our growth in the financial aid budget will match our tuition increase," she said. "We do have a commitment to that -- to ensure that when a student is admitted, that they can come to Punahou and not have financial issues get in the way."