More students attending Big Island private schools

Hawaii Island private schools saw modest gains in enrollment last school year.

Hawaii Island private schools saw modest gains in enrollment last school year.

That’s according to information in the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools’ 2015-16 “Private School Enrollment Report,” a yearly compilation of student data provided by its 93 private/independent member schools around the state. The report shows an additional 52 more students were registered at 15 Big Island private schools in 2015-16 over the year prior, for a total of about 3,634 students.*

In 2014-15, Big Island private school enrollment reportedly increased by 2.7 percent, or 95 students. The year before, enrollment increased by 10 students.

“It seems like we have a growing number of people relocating here from the mainland in particular,” said Emily Pagliaro, director of admissions at the Waimea-based Parker School which saw enrollment jump nearly 10 percent in the 2015-16 school year.

“On Oahu, you’ve got (many schools) competing for a stable population size, so fluctuations aren’t as noticeable when you have that many private school options. We have a growing population and very limited seats in terms of how many schools there are here.”

Kauai’s seven private schools reported 123 more students in the 2015-16 school year, the largest per-student enrollment increase in the state.

Private school enrollment dropped on Oahu and Molokai, and was up by 46 students on Maui.

Private school enrollment statewide dropped slightly, according to the report. About 17 percent of all students in Hawaii attended private schools in 2015-16.

Among those that saw big gains were the Hawaii Montessori School in Kona, which reported a 33 percent, year-over-year student increase, and Mauna Loa School in Hilo, which nearly doubled in size — from 40 students in 2014-15 to 78 last year.

The average yearly price tag to attend private schools on Hawaii Island was $7,709 in 2015-16, a $42 increase from the year prior.

Hawaii Preparatory Academy was the most expensive, with a $21,408 average attendance cost.

Parker School, where tuition was $13,967 on average, was the second-most costly followed by Waimea Country School, which averaged $10,100 to attend.

Haili Christian School was the least expensive Big Island private school at $4,005 on average followed by Kohala Mission School at $4,331.

Statewide, private school tuition averaged $8,633 in 2015-16 — up from $7,535 the year prior. For comparison, per pupil spending among Hawaii public school students was $14,434.

That sticker price isn’t always the out-the-door cost, Big Island private school leaders noted. For example, at Parker School, about half of students receive some sort of financial assistance, Pagliaro said.

At St. Joseph School in Hilo, where enrollment dipped slightly last year but is up about 16 percent overall from 2013, about 65 percent of students receive tuition assistance, school spokeswoman Fayth Paekukui said. Paekukui said she thinks private schools remain popular because they offer students a “safe secure environment.” Prospective families are generally aware of financial aid available which reduces “that (tuition) sticker shock,” she added.

“(Parents) see the price and they know there are options for help,” Paekukui said.

“That’s why more and more people at least try (private schools). And then they get in and see this really can be a reality and they go for it.”

* The Tribune-Herald received new enrollment information from Makua Lani Christian Academy on Friday that suggests enrollment as reported in the HAIS report is incorrect. Information in this article is based on data provided from Makua Lani on Friday.

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