Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Schools

There has been a lot of talk the past few days about the new $578 million school in Los Angeles. It is the most expensive school ever! Housing 4200 students, the cost per student is about $137,600. However, if the school is used for 100 years, then the price per student over that amount of time is $1,376.

So how outrageous are those numbers compared to other schools in the country? For comparison, let's use the new Aldo Leopold Middle School that just opened in Burlington, Iowa. Current registration there is about 460 students. The building cost $16.5 million. That means the price per student is about $35,869 for the first year. Again, if the building is used for 100 years, then the price drops to about $358. That's a little over one-fourth the cost of the Los Angeles school. That seem pretty outrageous to me.

Of course, the cost of living in Los Angeles (141%) is quite a bit more than in Burlington (81%). Does this account for the seemingly high cost of the school? When I looked at the median price of a home for the two cities, the Los Angeles home costs about 5 times that in Burlington ($404,400 compared to $81,600). The school's price was about 35 times greater. However, when looking at the price per student over a 100-year time period, the Los Angeles school's price is only about 4 times greater, which is actually a little less than that for houses. (

So, yes, at $578 million, the Los Angeles school is the costliest in the nation. But when taken out over a period of time, and considering the cost of living, it may not be all that pricey after all.

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