42 States Where Private School Costs Less Than Public School

Teacher in classroom helping students.
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  • Public elementary and secondary schools, which include charter schools, spend an average of $15,205 per student.
  • In more than three-quarters of the states, the cost to attend private school is lower than the cost to attend public school
  • The state with the lowest average private school cost is South Dakota.

Parents might assume that sending their children to private school is too expensive. But in most states, the average annual private school tuition is actually less than the average amount spent per child in a U.S. public school, including charter schools. 

The average amount that a public elementary or secondary school, including charter schools, in the United States spends per student is $15,205 in 2021, according to Public School Review. The national average for annual private school tuition in 2021 is approximately $11,645, according to Private School Review. The difference is that parents foot the bill for private schools, whereas the state foots it in public schools.

Find Out: Can You Afford Education in America at These Prices?
See: How Parents Should Invest Now To Pay For College Later

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States Where Private School Is Less Expensive

In 42 states, the average private school cost is less than the average annual per-pupil public school expenditure. Those states, and the average private school tuition in each of those states for 2021, according to Private School Review, are:

State Average Cost of Private School
Alaska $6,790
Alabama $7,282
Arkansas $6,107
Arizona $10,508
California $14,975
Colorado $12,219
Delaware $11,158
Florida $9,160
Georgia $10,675
Hawaii $13,206
Iowa $5,268
Idaho $8,293
Illinois $8,273
Indiana $7,120
Kansas $7,937
Kentucky $7,159
Louisiana $6,925
Maryland $13,054
Michigan $7,191
Minnesota $6,994
Missouri $9,998
Mississippi $5,542
Montana $8,771
North Carolina $9,947
Nebraska $3,797
New Jersey $13,936
New Mexico $8,884
Nevada $10,561
Ohio $7,001
Oklahoma $6,514
Oregon $9,775
Pennsylvania $11,637
South Carolina $6,909
South Dakota $3,624
Tennessee $10,185
Texas $9,866
Utah $11,204
Virginia $14,274
Washington $11,812
Wisconsin $4,591
West Virginia $6,239
Wyoming $7,238

Related: A Parents’ Guide To Saving for Education

Choosing the Best School Doesn’t Mean Choosing the Most Expensive

School choice allows public education funds to be used for any type of school — public, private, charter, even home schooling. The money that is allocated to each child from the public school budget essentially follows the child to the type of school the parent selects.

Check Out: Is the Cost of an Elite Preschool Worth It? Experts Weigh In

This doesn’t mean that you’ll save money if you send your child to private school: Public schools are funded by taxes that you would pay regardless of where your child is educated, or whether you have children in school or not. But it raises some interesting issues around the cost to educate a child, and the issue of school choice. When looking at the schools available to their children, parents have several education quality factors to consider because a high or low cost does not automatically correlate with the quality of the school, whether public, charter or private.

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Click to keep reading about how much teachers make in every state.

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Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.

Last updated: Aug. 10, 2021

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About the Author

Karen Doyle is a personal finance writer with over 20 years’ experience writing about investments, money management and financial planning. Her work has appeared on numerous news and finance websites including GOBankingRates, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, USA Today, CNBC, Equifax.com, and more.
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