Exploring Colorado’s Private Education Sector: Top Three Findings

Hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, rafting, snowboarding, spelunking—Colorado is at the top when it comes to choices for outdoor adventures. In the last few years, it has been a pioneer of recreational choices. What many people might not know, though, is that Colorado is also a pioneer when it comes to school choice.

It is the home of the nation’s first and only school voucher program created and authorized by a public school district, the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program, and as of this posting, the district is preparing to file certiorari, which could take its constitutionality case to the U.S. Supreme Court. This coming legislative session, Colorado’s legislators are likely to consider proposals for a tax-credit scholarship program and education savings accounts (ESAs), the newest form of private school choice available only in five states today.

But how do the private schools in Colorado react to such programs? And how have those schools changed over time?

In Exploring Colorado’s Private Education Sector, the fourth installment in the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice’s School Survey Series, I synthesize information collected in two unique surveys of Colorado private schools. One was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, the other by the Friedman Foundation. Learn more from this summary of our top findings, including Colorado private schools’ openness to participating in school choice programs, tuition costs, and unfilled student seats.



When asked if they would participate in an ESA program, more than two-thirds of respondent private schools (69 percent; 101 of 146 respondent schools) said “yes” or “probably yes.” The response-levels were similar for tax-credit scholarship and school voucher programs, 71 percent and 66 percent, respectively. When it came to the potential rules and regulations for those three types of school choice programs, private school principals and administrators were most concerned with those pertaining to setting curriculum and instruction, school admissions and enrollment guidelines, and testing and accountability.



The average amount for tuition and fees charged in 2014–15 by respondent private schools was $8,111 per student. For comparison, Colorado spent approximately $8,647 per student in public schools in 2012–13, which is the most recent data available. Approximately two-thirds (67 percent) of Colorado private schools, on average, charge less than $6,000 in tuition and fees per student; three out of five (60 percent) Colorado private schools charge the same for grades 1–5; and nearly three out of five (57 percent) charge the same for grades 6–8. More than one-third (37 percent) of Colorado schools charge $10,000 or more for grades 9–12; however, the median tuition and fees amount per high school student is $7,575.


Colorado Private School Tuition



When asked about their 2014–15 school year enrollment and capacity, 163 private schools indicated they had more than 9,000 open seats for K–12 students. When this number of open seats is projected for all 281 private schools in Colorado, the estimate is closer to 15,000 open seats. This means that Colorado’s private schools have enough room to increase enrollment by 33 percent.


To download the full report, click Exploring Colorado’s Private Education Sector.