The tutored rich

After paying for very expensive private schools, wealthy New Yorkers pay subject-matter and SAT tutors to ensure their children can compete for Ivy League colleges, reports the New York Times.

One mother paid $38,800 for tuition at Riverdale Country School and another $35,000 for a tutor to help her son through a single class, Integrated Liberal Studies.

Last year, she said, her tutoring bills hit six figures, including year-round SAT preparation from Advantage Testing at $425 per 50 minutes; Spanish and math help from current and former private school teachers at $150 an hour; and sessions with Mr. Iyer for Riverdale’s equally notorious interdisciplinary course Constructing America, at $375 per 50 minutes.

More than half of the students at the city’s top-tier schools hire tutors, the Times estimates.

“It’s no longer O.K. to have one-on-one coaching for sailing but not academics,” says Arun Alagappan of Advantage Testing, whose 200 tutors bill $195 to $795 for 50 minutes.

More and more, parents are hiring tutors to turn B+ students into straight-A contenders for Ivy League spots.

Gone are the days of a student who was excellent at math and science just getting by in English and history; now, everyone is expected to be strong in everything (including fencing, chess, woodworking and violin).

I noticed this when my daughter was at Palo Alto High. The top students were expected to take AP classes in everything — though I don’t think any of them had  tutors. I wonder if the college craziness has escalated in the competitive public schools too.

Michael Ruse compares intensive tutoring to athletes bulking up on steroids.

In London, Gwyneth Paltrow and husband Chris Martin are advertising for a $100,000-a-year tutor for their children Moses, five, and Apple, seven, reports the Daily Mail. Slackers need not apply.

American Resident quotes the ad:

“The ideal candidate will have received a classical education, including Latin and Greek, and be familiar with such elements as the history of thought from a philosophical perspective. He or she should also be musically fluent and play at least one instrument well. In addition, language skills are essential and the Tutor should have fluent French and at least one other of Spanish, Italian, Mandarin or Japanese. The Tutor will also need to be fit and healthy, enjoy many sports and pastimes both indoors and out, including painting, art, or art history and drama, as well as sports such as chess, tennis, fencing or a martial art.” ….. when the tutor collects the boy from school, they might stop by an art gallery on the way home!”

Ex-Pat Tutor thinks it’s a bit too much to ask, even for $100,000.

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Comments

  1. So I guess they haven’t attended public schools? (smile)

  2. Elizabeth I, anyone? Looks like we’re headed back to the Renaissance Man/Woman model of education for the elite (or did we ever truly get away from it), as opposed to the prosaic earn-a-degree-in-something-you-can-make-a-living-in recommended to the middle class and below.

  3. But I thought private schools were the awesome solution to horrible publics!

    I made my living as a private tutor for seven years, and still do it quite a bit, even though I never had a website or a business card. My clientele is the extremely well off, not the super-rich. I had or have any number of clients at Paly, Gunn, Monte Vista, Menlo, Sacred Heart, and all the other schools in the area.

    I don’t charge $375 per hour, obviously. I can’t tell if the tutors are getting that much, or if that’s what the parents pay the agencies. But at $375/hour, tutor or agency, they are offering something much more than academic help. Parents who pay that kind of money aren’t looking for help. They are looking for As. You don’t pay that kind of money without expecting something for it. The tutor/agency must have specific knowledge of what the course requires: copies of tests, extensive examples of grading standards, and so on. The article mentions that the agencies have course materials. My guess is that they also make copies of their students’ essays and grades, so they have an insider’s knowledge of what it takes to get an A. That, coupled with the tutors probably doing a lot for them, explains the rates.

    The $150/hour sounds more reasonable for super-rich tutoring paid to an individual. Paid to an individual, my guess is the tutor has documented experience with the teachers in question, knows what will be on the tests, and so on–as well as content knowledge in math. Those tutors, presumably, restrict themselves to two or three schools, know them in depth, and know how the teachers grade and what they want. Paid to an agency, with operating costs, the tutor probably gets $35-50/hour, which is low.

    Either way, I don’t see what’s so shocking about it. The Times just ran an article (that you posted here) about Chinese kids whose tutors/consultants fundamentally cheat. This is just high end tutoring.

    The wealthy here pay quite a bit for tutoring–unless I’m the only one who does it.

  4. I see lots of posts about the rich kids and their tutors on education sites. The typical, how can the rest be expected to compete on the SATS, AP, etc. when these kids get private tutoring? I think we just need to get over it. This is not nearly the majority of the population, and of course they will have an advantage. What are we going to do take away their tutors.

    Of course now the fear is that this has infiltrated highly competitive schools not necessarily catering to the super-rich. Race To Nowhere anyone? Again, not any where close to the majority of students out their.

    I say lets just move on. Will a kid have a better chance getting into the highly select universities because they are rich? Well, of course. Is this the problem that is holding back the rest of us? Absolutely not.

  5. Back in the late 90s in Atlanta I was getting upwards of $75 an hour … but I was tutoring dim students who had gotten into the kindergartens of expensive K-12s that didn’t boot enough children at 14. Some of these children were lucky to get into the University of Georgia at the end of it.

  6. I guess someone hasn’t told these parents that it’s a lot easier to get admitted as a transfer student with 2-3 years of solid coursework from a good community or junior college than it is as a freshmen (not to mention, you’ll spend a hell of a lot less in the process).

    When the student completes their bachelor’s, the diploma will still read the same way for a transfer student and one who spent their entire bachelor’s program there.

  7. Stacy in NJ says:

    Some folk will and can spend unlimited dollars to try to make their mediocre kid look like a genius. :-) They’d be better off setting that money aside and letting Junior start his own business and skip college altogether. The experience would probably be more valuable than the tutoring. You just know the kid’s going to end up at some very good (not great) college majoring in Business. Upon graduation, he’ll depend on his parents connections to get him a class appropriate job at an investment banking firm or insurance company. If his parents are “progressive”, he’ll end up in academia teaching Gender Studies or Psychology.

    I send my 8th grader to a Spanish tutor. $50 per hour.

  8. Stacy in NJ says:

    But, Bill, the point to all the tutoring is so the parents won’t be embarrassed to tell their friends what Junior will be doing after graduation. Can you imagine wealthy parents, who send their child to an expensive private school, telling their friends that Junior will be attending local community college? No way, Jose. That would illustrate common sense but not social status sense.

    “I guess someone hasn’t told these parents that it’s a lot easier to get admitted as a transfer student with 2-3 years of solid coursework from a good community or junior college than it is as a freshmen (not to mention, you’ll spend a hell of a lot less in the process).

    When the student completes their bachelor’s, the diploma will still read the same way for a transfer student and one who spent their entire bachelor’s program there”.

  9. “I guess someone hasn’t told these parents that it’s a lot easier to get admitted as a transfer student with 2-3 years of solid coursework from a good community or junior college than it is as a freshmen.

    This is not true at the elite private schools with a few notable exceptions (Penn and Cornell). The acceptance rate for transfers is quite a bit lower than the freshman acceptance rate. For several years, Harvard and Princeton did not accept a single transfer student.

    There may be a financial advantage to attending CC and then transferring, but the tradeoff is that it’s much harder to get into the desired 4 year university.

  10. As someone who has reviewed many resumes in my career, I can tell you that I’m interested in what a person can do, not the amount of stuff on their resume. While a resume which is the cat’s-ass may impress some people, I can usually find out who actually knows what they are trying to do when they get to an in-person interview.

    Most employers can use a resume to screen persons, but even with that, I look for people who know how to analyze information, process it, apply the knowledge they have, know where to look when they need to find some information they don’t know, and how much of a self-starter or motivated they are.

    One of the sharpest persons I ever worked with didn’t graduate from high school and took a few college courses, what made him different is that he wanted to actually figure out how stuff worked, instead of being spoon fed.

  11. Stacy in NJ: “Some folk will and can spend unlimited dollars to try to make their mediocre kid look like a genius. They’d be better off setting that money aside and letting Junior start his own business and skip college altogether. The experience would probably be more valuable than the tutoring. You just know the kid’s going to end up at some very good (not great) college majoring in Business. ”

    I’m not sure whether you’re confusing this school with someplace else, or perhaps you’ve set a very high bar for what constitutes a ‘great’ college, but these look like pretty impressive college placements to me: http://www.riverdale.edu/podium/default.aspx?t=23329

    Sure, some folks will spend a lot of money to make their mediocre child look good, but that elite group of a dozen or so K-12 NYC privates that run $40K/year where 75% of the students have parents who are paying full freight? They can command those prices and can be so ridiculously choosy about who they admit because they get results.

  12. Stacy in NJ says:

    Tim, Actually, according to this article they don’t get results. Otherwise, why all the money on tutors? The socio-economic status of the parents purchase the desired result. I’m sure the genetics of the kids have a bit to do with it though. ;-0

  13. Stacy in NJ says:

    Tim, directly to your point, how many of these children of the very wealthy are legacy? We don’t know that either.

  14. Stacy, yup, kids at the elite New York City private schools tend to be the offspring of highly educated and financially successful parents, and the schools do indeed give admissions preference to the children of alums who can afford to pay 13 years’ worth of tuition without aid. What on earth do either of these things have to do with your original argument, which was that this tutoring is a symptom of parents who will do and spend anything to make their mediocre children look good?

    There are plenty of things to criticize the elite NY private schools for–it should be against the law for them to tout their “diversity,” given that 75%+ of their student bodies are either rich or filthy rich and given their shameless discrimination against Asians. But you can’t really criticize them for their rigor or their results. I also think you missed the gist of the article: “What is most troubling to those trying to curtail academic tutoring is that instead of remedial help for struggling students, more and more of it seems to be for those trying to get ahead in the intensely competitive college-application race. Gone are the days of a student who was excellent at math and science just getting by in English and history; now, everyone is expected to be strong in everything (including fencing, chess, woodworking and violin).

    As more solid or even stellar students hire expensive tutors, the achievement bar rises, and getting ahead quickly becomes keeping up.”

  15. Stacy in NJ says:

    “What on earth do either of these things have to do with your original argument, which was that this tutoring is a symptom of parents who will do and spend anything to make their mediocre children look good?”

    Uh, yeah, everything. I was addressing your point that these schools were doing their job because of the number of kids that were accepted to Ivies. That point loses some of it’s weight when we consider the tremendous advantages these kids enjoy both financially and socially. Should we will expect anything less from a school like Riverdale serving the population it serves?

    I don’t doubt that these kids are bright, that the schools are rigorous, or that there’s increased competition. I also don’t doubt that wealthy parents will spend absurd amounts of money to make their little darling just a little bit “better,” and that among those hundreds of kids in each class a good portion of the kids are really (gasp) pretty average human beings. But, their families advantages will provide opportunities that less well-to-do, less connected families cannot hope to offer.

  16. While I thought the article was really interesting, it only addressed a piece of the incredibly broad tutoring picture. Before we go off and malign all tutoring, take a look at how much good it can do if applied properly.

    Sure, there are kids paying $700 an hour for tutors to go from A- to A in a quest to get into Harvard (and, btw, 50-80% of that goes to the agency, and not the tutor). But there are also a huge number of kids getting tutored for things they desperately need that the schools can no longer provide.

    So while I totally agree that the system is out of whack, the idea behind it is still a good one. We need to find ways to make one-on-one tutoring/teaching accessible to a broader range of the population, not simply eliminate it.

  17. Here is a section from the “Story of Owe” link:

    The perils of student debt has inspired a bondage e-book, reports Kenneth Anderson on Volokh Conspiracy. Emily’s Debt posits a “very near future” in which student loan debtors are turned into slaves who can be abused with impunity.

    Student loans can’t be discharged by bankruptcy. Anderson speculates that debtors will pressure politicians to change the rules.

    A generation of students — and their parents, with whom they are living — in this job market, who took what looks now to be a sucker’s bet that mostly benefited universities, has to appear politically very different to politicians.

    I’d have to agree with that last statement, in many cases, college is a sucker’s bet, since college today (costs have risen some 400% since the early 1980′s) is more about a business model than education.

    In addition, and I’ve said this countless times, many students wouldn’t need college if our public school system worked properly (we used to have autoshop, welding, woodworking, horticulture, food prep, and other choices for students who weren’t going to college, granted this was back in the late 70′s).

    Also, the graduates back then might not have been einsteins, but they could easily hold their own against graduates today (and i’m not talking about that old wives tale about future generations being dumber than the previous one), but based on what I see today, many young persons are more interested in text messaging than actually doing a job they’re getting paid to do (I just saw this on Saturday, the employee was fired on the spot).