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Shifting Trends at Hawai‘i Private Schools Via CC Via CC

Hawai‘i’s private schools are facing shifting demographics and a changing 21st century education market. That’s according to an industry overview report looking at costs, enrollment, and more.

According to data from the Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools, the statewide average private school tuition is currently just under $11,000. Honolulu is priciest, where the average is about $16,000 and Kaua‘i the cheapest at an average of about $8,600.

Enrollment in private schools is down and school officials, such as Mid-Pacific President Paul Turnbull, tell us that this is due in part to the COVID economy. He’s seen families depart, either from the school or from the Islands, especially if their family income was tied to tourism. But the larger trend is that the number of children enrolled in Hawai‘i schools of all kinds — public, charter, or private — last peaked in the 2013-2014 school year and has declined overall since then.

As Millennials and Gen Z delay family formation, this is a trend all schools have been dealing with and expect to see continue. With the stress and economic uncertainty surrounding COVID, the United States birthrate, which had been trending downward for six years, dipped sharply by four percent in 2020. Anyone selling products and services geared around children is facing a shrinking market.

And a changing market. Hawai‘i private schools are talking and planning for a future in which college is not necessarily the next step for all students. At Mid-Pacific, for example an entrepreneurship program has students launching real businesses before they even graduate.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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