Enrollments, tuitions rising at Miami’s private high schools
Written by Rebecca San Juan on April 3, 2018
More parents seeking personalized attention and smaller classrooms for their teens are driving up interest in Miami-Dade’s private high schools, where application numbers are rising with tuition increases steadily following behind.
Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, an all-girls institution at 5525 SW 84th St., is seeing greater numbers of applicants fighting for one of the school’s 840 class seats, with the school retaining about 98% of its enrollees until graduation.
“All things being equal, we do give preference to current siblings, daughters of alumnae,” said Olga Martinez, Lourdes’ director of admissions, marketing, and communications. “If all things are equal, then those are the things we take into account.”
Tuition at Lourdes increases each year. Parents paid $11,250 for teens in grade nine through twelve in the 2016-2017 school year. This year parents pay $11,550, and they can expect an increase to $11,850. Parents of seniors can expect to pay $12,200, including graduation costs, for the 2018-2019 academic year. Ms. Martinez said, “Because we are a Catholic school, we do try to keep the tuition within the means of our constituents, but there is a slight increase from year to year.”
All-male Christopher Columbus High School hits capacity every year. The school increased its capacity number from 1,600 students in 2016 to 1,740 for the 2016-2017 academic year.
“We average about 650 and 700 applications for the incoming freshman class and you typically have about 400 spots,” said Director of Admissions Michael Marinelli. The school, at 3000 SW 87th Ave., says it offers among the most competitive private school tuitions. Parents can expect to pay $10,700 for the coming academic year.
Mr. Marinelli says tuition increases are minimal. “It’s gone up about $200 in the last two or three years,” he said. “If there is an increase, it’s not going to be a substantial one.”
St. Brendan High School Assistant Principal Barbara Acosta also sees applications increasing. Over 500 students applied last year, a new peak.
Ms. Acosta says the four academies St. Brendan students can partake in – Medical Sciences, STEM, Law and Business, and Visual and Performing Arts – draw in students.
“I think our academies are attracting attention,” she said. “I think parents are interested in providing that type of experience for their students.”
St. Brendan, at 2950 SW 87th Ave., is currently undergoing renovations and Ms. Acosta says plans to expand are on the horizon. Enrollment currently meets capacity – a little over 1,200 students – each year. Ms. Acosta says the expansion would leave the student body below 2,000.
“If we have more classrooms,” she said, “it would allow us to keep the class sizes small. Average classroom size now is between 20 and 23. I’d like to keep them there, especially in the core classes. ”
Riviera, which opened its high school at 9775 SW 87th Ave. in 2011, sees an applicant increase of 10% to 15% every year. Admissions Director Olga Mestre said, “A big chunk of enrollment happened within the first two years and then it kind of stayed the same or a little bit lower because there’s only enough seats to fill. We actually deny admission to about 50% of applicants. We’re not in any hurry to fill seats.”
About 285 students currently attend Riviera’s high school, and Ms. Mestre expects that number to increase to 325 or 350 in the coming academic year. Parents eager to enroll their students next year can expect to pay $25,450 tuition. The school hopes to expand in the next two to three years and offer enough seats to handle 725 high school students.
Sarah Allison, owner and director of Allison Academy at 1881 NE 164th St. in North Miami Beach, says her school continues to grow in application and enrollment numbers. “Interest is up. Enrollment is up,” she said. The school currently serves 125 students with an average of 12 to 14 students per teacher.
“We do lose some between eighth and ninth grades to students who want to go to bigger schools, but that’s not many,” Dr. Allison said. “People get used to the TLC. And we’re fully accredited, so students can go to any college on the planet because we have that type of accreditation.”
Tuition checks in at $17,000, with at least 25% of families receiving financial aid. Dr. Allison says tuition will remain the same for the next academic year. “We are some of the lowest of the private schools, and that’s because everyone here, including me, wears multiple hats.”
Like other admission staff, Dr. Allison keeps tuition low for more families to be able to afford a private education. She said, “You can’t do much with a teenager by yourself. It has to be an effort with the parents and the school.”
New private high schools are catering to the demand. Cushman plans to debut its high school campus at 4700 Biscayne Blvd. in September after conducting a five-year study. Head of Cushman School Arvi Balseiro said, “The population was definitely going to increase in the area and the population of school-aged children was going to increase and the population of families that were able to afford an independent school education was predicted.”
Parents can expect to pay $30,110 in annual tuition for a personalized, small classroom experience. Current high school students, including some transitioning from Cushman’s eighth grade, attend the program at the 592 NE 60th St. campus.
“We have an AP [advanced placement] class with one or two,” Ms. Balseiro said. “We have another class with 12. The class sizes are small and a strong student-to-teacher ratio.” The classes that are slightly larger aren’t advanced placement, but are for honors and other students. The 40-student body is split primarily between grades nine and ten. Two students make up the 11th grade class.
Ms. Balseiro emphasizes how Cushman caters to the particular needs of each of its students, some of whom she refers to as hybrids. She said one student is partially homeschooled, while taking a few advanced classes with Cushman.
Other schools out of state are expressing interest in opening a branch in South Florida.
Avenues: The World School, based in New York with a sister branch in São Paulo, is considering a Miami location. “We continue to work diligently on expanding Avenues global footprint,” Global Director of Communications Tara Powers wrote by email. “This includes having explored opportunities in Miami from time to time, but the discussions are preliminary to date.”