Parents Are Paying $50,000 To Reserve Spots At NYC Private Schools Even Though Kids May Never Attend

Parents in New York City are locking up spots at elite private schools for their kids by paying deposits of up to $50,000 - even though children may never wind up attending.

One mom highlighted by Bloomberg paid more than $50,000 per child to reserve NYC private schools for her kids while at the same time enrolling them in public school out west, where the family is staying during the Covid outbreak. She is hoping her kids can use Zoom to attend classes in the interim, if the family doesn't re-locate back to the city.

This is a growing trend in the world of NYC private schools. With many families having fled the city, they are on the hook to make a decision about whether to lock up schooling for their kids for the fall. The spots at private school can be tough to get and are coveted within the city, so many parents have taken the "safe" route of paying for schooling they may not ever use.

Schools are also coming up with ways to try and ensure they stay funded regardless of volatility with enrollment. Fanning Hearon, head of school at Palm Beach Day Academy in Florida, where many New York families applied, said: “A lot of people are just hedging their bets.” Hearon said 3 students were confirmed on Wednesday while at the same time 2 others dropped enrollment.

Grace Church School in New York’s Greenwich Village is charging $53,330 for tuition and about 4% of families said they won't be coming back this year despite putting down $6,000 deposits. At Avenues: The World School, parents can take a year break by paying about 15% of tuition, or about $8,500. 

The Horace Mann School in the Bronx says that if students want to stay enrolled, they need to be back this year, or they will be forced to reapply next year. The Trinity School has seen no one pull out yet. The Dalton School on the Upper East Side says it'll be doing fully remote classes for students who want it. 

Private schools usually require a deposit by Februrary or March the year prior to enrollment. This year, that deadline has been moved to summer for many schools as parents continue to create logistical volatility for those running the schools. Roxana Reid, an admissions consultant, said:  “Schools don’t even know if they’re officially going to be coming back.” 

Adding to the volatility is the unknown elements of the virus. Jeff Pothof, an emergency-room physician who consults for schools, said: “You might invest significant time and resources and do things that are hugely disruptive to yourself and your children, and a month later come to regret it because where you went is worse and has more cases than where you came from.”

Conversely, the volatility has allowed some parents without access to private schools to make their move and try to get their children enrolled. Schools are now more open to speaking to new families, as well. Robin Aronow, a school admissions consultant concluded: “They hope their own families will be able to return. They’re also being realistic that they may have openings to fill.”