Blogs > Liberty and Power > Cost of Catholic education

May 25, 2005 10:00 am

Cost of Catholic education

My letter to the editor a couple of days ago claiming that Catholic education costs on average 65% of what public schools cost prompted this good question: “I’d like to know whether Catholic schools, which you show as being cheaper compared to public schools, are also supported by the catholic church. If this is true, then you have to take this into the cost-calculation, too, because the money from the church also comes from someone (it’s the same idea as behind public schools).” This is such an important question, in fact, that I decided another blog about it was warranted.

It turns out that even accounting for the money Catholic schools routinely get from their associated parishes they are still cheaper. I quote from Andrew J. Coulson’s excellent
Market Education: The Unknown History (footnotes omitted):

The simple fact is that the average independent school costs half as much per pupil as the average public school: $3,116 versus $6,653 during the 1993-94 school year (the most recent year for which national private school data are available [as of 1999]). These averages, however hide significant variations within the private sector. Schools affiliated with religious organizations spend considerably less than nonsectarian schools. Independent Catholic schools charged an average tuition of $2,178 in 1993-94, while other religious schools averaged $2,915, and nonsectarian private schools averaged $6,631.

This discrepancy has led many critics to suggest that religious schools are able to charge low tuitions solely because of parish subsidies and endowments. In reality, parish subsidies accounted for only about $700 per year per student in Catholic elementary schools during the 1992–93 school year. Endowments from alumni and community members were far smaller, accounting for only 2 percent of Catholic-school income in the same year. Thus, even taking these funding sources into account, the cost of religious independent schools remains around half that of public schools. (p. 277)

One factor Coulson cites as partially explaining the huge cost differential is administrators. For example, in Baltimore, despite the fact that the Catholic “Archdiocese’s students were spread out across twice as many schools [as Hartford County’s public school system], it required only one-ninth the number of central administrators” (p. 272; my emphasis).

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More Comments:

James Otteson - 5/26/2005

I am convinced you are right.

Sudha Shenoy - 5/25/2005

Not only is money cost lower, but I expect private schools give a far better _quality_ of true education than state schools. The manin function of the latter is simply to provide incomes & pensions.

David Timothy Beito - 5/25/2005

Have you thought of writing an op-ed on this rather than a letter to the editor?