Alberta Independent School Families Have Below Average Incomes


Vast majority of families scrimp and save to afford average $4,000 annual tuition


September 1, 2020 

New research indicates that Alberta families with children in independent schools tend to have below average incomes. The report, Who Chooses Alberta Independent Schools and Why?, from think tank Cardus compared independent school families (overwhelmingly with two parents) to Alberta’s average two-parent households. Researchers found that independent school families are 1.3 times more likely than other Alberta couple-families to earn less than $90,000 annual household income – well below the provincial couple-family household median of $108,760. This is consistent with previous research, which found that Alberta’s average after-tax family income for non-elite independent school households is below even the average public school family in the province.

Cardus researchers also found that 88% of Alberta independent school families have had to make financial sacrifices to afford tuition. Nearly one out of every four families has made major changes like downsizing their home, changing jobs, working multiple jobs, or taking out a loan. Alberta’s independent school tuitions range from hundreds to $20,000 per student, per year. On average, families pay $4,000 per student, per year.

“This is a myth-busting report,” says David Hunt, education program director at Cardus and the report’s author. “It’s time everyone in Alberta – politicians, taxpayers, teachers’ unions, and others – simply accepted that independent schools overwhelmingly cater to regular folks. It is the rare independent school family that fits the conventional ‘elite’ stereotype.”

Parents themselves confirm their educational decision-making has little to do with extra-curricular activities or seeking advantages over students at government-run schools. Instead, their top three reasons for choosing an independent school are that they believe:

  1. The school offers a supportive, nurturing environment
  2. The school is safe
  3. The school instills confidence in students

Additionally, Alberta’s independent school parents have high voting rates in municipal, provincial, and federal elections, as well as high rates of community involvement and volunteering.

Who Chooses Alberta Independent Schools and Why? is freely available online.


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications
613-251-4500 x508


Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.

Topics: Education