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Credit: Claire Shin

Often, I hear my peers share their plans to send their future kids to private schools. Whether that opinion is rooted in their own private school experiences or their terrible public school experiences, they will make the assertion that it’ll be much easier for their kids to get into a school like Penn if they send them to elite private schools rather than public school.

Many Penn students will share their support for the issue of public education. But a rare amount will be willing to put their own children on the frontline. 

Penn graduates sending their kids to private schools is an inherently selfish decision. 

Many of those who send their children to private schools believe that private education is better than public. Essentially, they are acknowledging faults in the public school system, but instead of doing something to change it, they choose to pay to give their children a leg up.

They are saying that because they can afford it, their children deserve a better education than all the other kids who cannot afford to leave the public school system. 

And yet ironically, as Ivy League graduates, we will have exactly the kind of social capital that can make that public school system better. 

As eventual Penn alums, no matter where we came from, we will all be part of a privileged, elite class of citizens. No matter what we end up doing, we received a top tier education. We will have the potential to be change-makers in whatever fields we pursue. We will have connections with influential peers in all fields.  

Credit: Pauline Colas

With that privilege comes a very real responsibility to make sure every child in this country is receiving an adequate education, regardless of their economic circumstances. 

Penn alumni keeping their children in the public school system could be extremely beneficial. We will be invested in the quality of that school system. We will pay attention to curriculum guidelines, attend parent-teacher conferences, and because many of us are type A, we will probably run for a position on the Parent Teacher Association board. 

As students, it’s easy for us to forget what privileges and bits of luck got us to Penn in the first place. While many of us are smart and hardworking, our admission to Penn was highly influenced by our backgrounds. We are the catered product of our households, our communities, and our educations. Our circumstances brought us here in one way or another. And as benefactors of such circumstances, we — more than anyone — should understand the importance of making certain resources accessible to everyone. 

In the future, if we find ourselves living in a public school district that is so under-resourced, where we think that our kids would be better off sent to a private school miles away, we should stop and ask ourselves a series of critical questions first. What makes this school so under-resourced? Who or what system has neglected the futures of those students? And what can we, as Penn graduates, do to change that reality not just for our kids, but for the thousands of kids in the district? 

We cannot change these injustices if we put our kids in cushy private schools. 

Consider the amount of money families spend on private school tuition. What if instead of spending that money on private school, we chose to invest it into the local community? 

The tuition for Phillips Academy at Andover, one of the top private schools in America, and a school that many Penn students call their alma mater, has a tuition cost of over $55,000 a year

Don’t get me wrong, kids who attend elite private high schools have advantages. They probably learned better study habits, adjusted early to the rigor of Penn, and had access to better college counselors. 

I’ve met students at Penn from some of the most elite private schools in America. But I’ve also met students from large public schools in not-so-stellar districts too. We’re all here now. It doesn’t always matter where you went to high school. As Penn alums, we will already instill strong academic values in our children. 

So it’s our job to pay it forward, and invest perhaps our most valued capital into the public school — our kids. 

UROOBA ABID is a College sophomore from Long Island, N.Y. studying International Relations. Her email address is uabid@sas.upenn.edu.

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