Parents with children attending Riverdale Country School in the Bronx this fall will have to dole out 5.8 percent more tuition money this year, adding up to $31,200. Despite the price hike, competition for admission to the most expensive private school in Manhattan (not including parochial schools) remains remarkably high.
"By 2015, elite private schools will be $50,000, and they would still have wait lists," said Amanda Uhry, head of Manhattan Private School Advisors. Uhry attributes the enduring demand to worsening public school performance.
So why, then, does high school tuition at Riverdale exceed that of Harvard? One reason, experts say, is that increasing living costs can trigger private school price hikes. Within the past decade, 12th grade tuition in New York private schools has swelled by 32.3 percent to average $27,600, according to NYAIS, the New York Association of Independent Schools. Yet, even these cost increases do not fully account for its top spot.
“You will absolutely get what you pay for,” said Victoria Goldman, former board member and author of a guide to New York private schools. According to Goldman, also mother of two Riverdale students, the high school is one of the best preparatory schools in Manhattan, leading to impressive acceptance rates of over 40 percent to top-tier universities.
So, what do students get for all that cash? Riverdale Country’s sprawling, verdant 27.5-acre campus boasts tennis courts, a 25-meter pool, state-of-the-art fencing facilities and two of the finest playing surfaces in the metropolitan New York area for field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse.
Its student-to-staff ratio, nearly four to one, fosters greater teacher involvement and provides a more personalized learning experience.
“High tuition schools will likely have smaller classes, lighter teacher loads, more electives and more elaborate facilities than low tuition schools,” maintains NYSAIS on its website.
Aside from the academics, observers say that parents pony up the big bucks for Riverdale because the school’s reputation helps their kids get into the top colleges. And in this fiercely competitive town, that may be enough.