A new study from the Heritage Foundation finds that states with expansive school choice have lower private-school tuition rate increases than states without school choice.
The results fly in the face of common arguments from foes of school choice that offerings like North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program will make private schools even more unaffordable.
The study, which examined 10 years of tuition data, found the slowest tuition increases for elementary schools, while the rates for high schools were level.
“States with school choice policies have lower rates of tuition increases than states without such policies,” wrote Heritage education scholars Lindsey Burke, Jason Bedrick, and Jay Greene. “[A] statistical analysis of all states shows that school choice reduces elementary school tuition and has no significant effect on tuition inflation overall.”
Eight states that adopted school choice policies saw inflation-adjusted tuition rates declined by 1.5% between the 2013-2014 and 2022-2023 school years. Comparatively, the inflation-adjusted increase in tuition in those states prior to adopting school choice was 2.1%.
The reason why tuition is lower in states with more school choice is simple, according to the study — it’s simple supply and demand.
“School choice policies introduce competition to a system that is fundamentally uncompetitive,” the authors wrote. “To the extent that schools are facing increased competition or are mission-driven to make their schools as affordable as possible, they will be inclined to pass along more of those savings to families in the form of delayed or smaller tuition increases.”
North Carolina is on the cusp of making the Opportunity Scholarship Program universally available for all families in a tiered system based on income.
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