What's the Most Expensive School in the World?

The Tour de France in 2000 along Lake Geneva or Lac Leman. Tom Able-Green/Getty Images Sport

It's no secret that private school is expensive. With many schools clocking in with annual tuition fees that rival the costs of luxury cars and middle class household incomes, it can seem like a private education is out of reach. These large price tags leave many families trying to figure out how to pay for private school. But, it also leaves them wondering, just how high can tuition go?

In the United States, this is often a tricky question to answer.

When you refer to private school tuitions, you're not just including the stereotypical elite private school; you're technically referring to all private schools, including independent schools (who are independently funded through tuition and donations) and most religious schools, which typically receive funding from both tuition and donations, but also a third source, like a church or temple that offsets the cost of attending the school. That means, the average cost of private school will be considerably lower than you might expect: about $10,000 a year overall in the nation, but tuition averages also vary by state.

So, where do all these astronomical price tags for private school education come from? Let's look at the tuition levels of independent schools, schools that rely solely on tuition and donations for funding. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), in 2015-2016 the average tuition for a day school was about $20,000 and the average tuition for a boarding school was about $52,000.

This is where we start seeing the annual costs that rival luxury cars. In major metropolitan areas, like New York City and Los Angeles, school tuitions will be even higher than the national averages, sometimes drastically so, with some day school tuitions exceeding $40,000 a year and boarding schools moving past the $60,000 a year price tag.


Not sure what the difference is between private schools and independent schools? Check this out.  

OK, so what's the most expensive school in the world?

To find the most expensive schools in the world, we need to venture out of the United States and across the pond. Private school education is a tradition in Europe, with many countries boasting private institutions hundreds of years before the United States. In fact, schools in England provided the inspiration and model for many American private schools today. 

Switzerland is home to several schools with some of the highest tuitions in the world, including the one that comes out on top. This country boasts 10 schools with tuition costs that exceed $75,000 a year according to an article on MSN Money. The title of the most expensive private school in the world goes to Institut le Rosey, with an annual tuition of $113,178 per year. 

Le Rosey is a boarding school founded in 1880 by Paul Carnal. Students enjoy a bilingual (French and English) and bicultural education in a lovely setting. Students spend their time on two lavish campuses: one in Rolle on Lake Geneva and a winter campus in the mountains at Gstaad. The reception area of the Rolle campus is located in a medieval chateau.

The roughly seventy-acre campus contains boarding houses (the girls' campus is located nearby), academic buildings with about 50 classrooms and eight science laboratories, and a library with 30,000 volumes. The campus also includes a theater, three dining rooms where students dine in formal dress, two cafeterias, and a chapel. Each morning, students have a chocolate break in true Swiss style. Some students receive scholarships to attend Le Rosey. The school has also undertaken many charitable projects, including building a school in Mali, Africa, at which many students volunteer.

On campus, the students are able to participate in activities as diverse as flying lessons, golf, horse riding, and shooting. The school's athletic facilities include ten clay tennis courts, an indoor pool, a shooting and archery range, a greenhouse, an equestrian center, and a sailing center.

The school is in the midst of building Carnal Hall, designed by renowned architect Bernard Tschumi, which will feature an 800-seat auditorium, music rooms, and art studios, among other spaces. The project reportedly costs tens of millions of dollars to construct.

Since 1916, students at Le Rosey have spent January through March in the mountains in Gstaad to escape the fog that descends on Lake Geneva in the winter. In a fairytale-like setting in which students live in pleasant chalets, Roseans spend the morning in lessons and the afternoons enjoying skiing and skating in the fresh air. They also have use of indoor fitness centers and an ice hockey rink. The school is reportedly looking to relocate its winter campus from Gstaad.

All students sit for the International Baccalaureate (IB) or the French baccalauréat. Roseans, as the students are called, can study all subjects in French or English, and they enjoy a 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio. To ensure a truly international education for its students, the school will only take 10% of its 400 students, ages 7-18, from any one country, and about 60 countries are represented in the student body.

The school educates some of the best-known families in Europe, including the Rothschilds and the Radziwills. In addition, the school's alumni include many monarchs, such as Prince Rainier III of Monaco, King Albert II of Belgium, and Aga Khan IV. Famous parents of students have included Elizabeth Taylor, Aristotle Onassis, David Niven, Diana Ross, and John Lennon, among countless others.

Winston Churchill was the grandfather of a student at the school. Interestingly, Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond, Jr., members of the band the Strokes, met at Le Rosey. The school has been featured in countless novels, such as Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho (1991) and Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel by Truman Capote.


Article updated by Stacy Jagodowski

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Grossberg, Blythe. "What's the Most Expensive School in the World?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 18, 2017, thoughtco.com/le-rosey-most-expensive-school-2774658. Grossberg, Blythe. (2017, October 18). What's the Most Expensive School in the World? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/le-rosey-most-expensive-school-2774658 Grossberg, Blythe. "What's the Most Expensive School in the World?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/le-rosey-most-expensive-school-2774658 (accessed March 18, 2018).