Below is a VERY general summary of historical preschool pricing in the Utah market.
$$$$$ PS-8 (or 12) Private Schools: Challenger, Waterford, Realms of Inquiry, parochial schools, etc.
$$$$ Commercial Day Care Centers: KinderCare, LaPetit, etc.
$$$ Commercial Preschools: Newcastle Preschool, The Holladay Preschool, Learning Dynamics, etc.
$$ In-Home Preschools: One every few blocks along the Wasatch Front.
$ Government Subsidized Preschools: Most high schools, Head Start.
What’s right for your family?
$$$$$: If you have the motivation and the means to put your daughter in a private school all the way through high school by
all means go to that school’s preschool. If you are like most families and your child will attend a Utah public school from
kindergarten onward, don’t go to a PS-Grade 12 private preschool - you’ll pay too much. (See Understand Preschool
$$: If money (or lack of) is the primary factor influencing your preschool decision, shop for an in-home preschool. In-home
preschools are typically half the price of commercial preschools. It can be a bit of a gamble because there are some good
ones and a bunch of not-so-good ones. The upside is they are cheap. The down side is that preschool with handful of kids
in the basement of a home might not prepare your child optimally to negotiate the challenges of Utah’s large public schools.
$: At the lowest end of the tuition spectrum are the preschools in high schools. These are dirt cheap because their
teachers are high school girls who are taking high school child development courses. Your child is their introductory lab
work to see if they have the aptitude or attitude to be a teacher someday. One upside: child to teacher ratio is the best here:
one 16 year old usually has just two or three kids. The downside is the academics aren’t top notch.
$$$: Commercial preschools are highly specialized businesses that exclusively educate 3-5 year olds. There are just a
handful of them in the Salt Lake Valley. Most of them are storefront operations in shopping zones. Some are in churches
(Hilltop & Holladay Preschool). The rarest of them all are free standing-commercial buildings (The Newcastle School,
Learning Dynamics). Typically, these preschools have tuition rates below PS-12 private schools and daycare centers but
they are higher than in-home preschools and public supported preschools.
Understand Utah Preschool Economics
If price is one of your criteria in selecting a preschool for your child, be diligent in understanding what you are paying for. It’s
not as simple as just comparing monthly tuition rates.
The only way to do that is to factor the True Daily Cost.
You take the total cost for the year (total tuition, reg. fees, materials fees, uniforms, etc.) divided by the total number of days
the children will actually be attending during the school year.
Determining you annual costs can be tricky at some preschools. Why? Because of a variety of pricing strategies employed
by Utah preschools. Below are several pricing factors you should look at as you compare area preschools.
School Year Shrinkage:
Several Salt Lake area schools have adopted a pricing strategy that involves shrinking a ten month school year by trimming
the days children actually attend while still charging parents for 10 full months. In other words, you pay 10 equal installments
for 9 months of preschool classes.
Schools do this by starting the school year later, ending earlier and taking longer Christmas and Spring breaks than other
schools. You won't know that unless you count the days on their calendar. For example, in 2007-2008, while Preschool A’s
students were attending and paying for a ten month school year that consisted of 118 days, Preschool X's students were
paying for a ten month school year that consisted of just 106 days. The M/W/F clients of Preschool X provided Preschool X's
corporate owners with a full month of windfall tuition revenue…. and the parents didn’t know it.
The key learning here is that it’s essential to review your prospective school's annual calendar so you can compare apples
to apples with other schools. If you are paying for ten months and you are only getting nine months of service, you are not
getting full value for your dollar.
A “half day” at preschool is not the same at every school. Session lengths can vary by as much as an hour. Sessions at
some schools may be as short as two hours while other schools sessions may be as long as three hours per day. Historic
market session times, including pick-up and drop-off have been three hours long (for example 8:30-8:45 drop-off to 11:15-11:
30 pick-up). That consists of two and a half hours of organized class time with another 30 minutes with the children in
transition. Those times are fairly standard in the Salt Lake market.
The similar key learning here is that it’s smart to factor in the length of sessions as you are comparing relative pricing
Extra Fees & Parent Volunteer Time Requirements:
Be aware of supplemental enrollment fees, deposits, materials fees, snack fees and activities fees. There is a real cost to
you if you are required to provide a class snack or the school mandates a required quota of volunteer time from parents.
Example: Children attending preschool for almost three hours should have a snack built into the day. Almost all preschools
provide a snack. Some don’t. If the school is asking the parents to provide that snack, it’s an incremental cost.
Example: There is a local preschool that requires a $200 materials fee, up front in addition to monthly tuition. That huge
materials fee is an incremental cost that equals about a month’s tuition. Spread over a nine month school year, that fee
effectively raised their actual tuition rate from $185 per month to $207 per month.
Uniforms are an incremental consumer cost. Most Utah preschool students will go onto traditional public schools. Most will
not wear uniforms to grade school. Three year olds who attend preschool should wear everyday play clothes and if they
attend a school grounded in Early Childhood Education principles, they should come home every day with paint on their
elbows and glue in their hair.
This site pertains to preschool in Utah, not daycare. There is a big difference. If you are
looking for an institution to care for your child while you work, read no further... Google “Day
Care, My City” or go to the yellow pages under “Child Care.” Most of the businesses that
advertise as preschools in Utah are primarily daycare centers. How can you tell? Call and
ask “do you care for kids all day?” If they say “yes”, they may be a competent business that
provides child daycare services but they are not a Utah preschool dedicated to Early
Interestingly, daycare centers typically charge a premium for children who attend just part-
day. Their 2-3 hour per day tuitions are usually very high compared to commercial and in-
home preschools in Utah
Unless you are a working mom who requires care for your child while you are at work, don’t
choose a daycare center to prepare your 3-5 year old for Utah’s public schools. It is difficult
for an infant through 12-year-old daycare center in Utah to have a comprehensive academic
program that satisfies choosey Utah moms looking for solid Early Childhood academics.