As summer camp has become more expensive amidst inflation, the vast benefit provided to Black/non-white students is under threat as activities in the summer could become class-divided.

In 2022, summer camp prices rose by more than half nationwide. Amidst another wave of inflation hitting the US economy, prices for summer programming are up at varying increases between states. While some weekly rates remain generally affordable, STEM, Athletics, and Arts-related programs have become significantly more expensive. More fundamental and generalized summer programs cost as low as $50 a week, however, specialized summer programs could reach weekly rates from $270 to around $700. This renders programs inaccessible for lower-class students hoping to emphasize specific talents or focus on key educative areas. 

As summer already carries its own price tag as the second most expensive season, even the cost of keeping children at home during the break can be significant. With 48% of families believing that taking on debt during the summer is normal, it’s clear that parents anticipate these higher total charges. Additionally, any youth recreational activities, childcare, and other child-related expenses inflate by 10% in the summer at a baseline for the average family in the United States.

These rising costs hit Black students the hardest, with their parents valuing child summer activities greatly among demographics and reporting more benefits for their children when they participate. Black parents have enrolled their children in summer camp at a steadily increasing rate since 2008. By 2019, not only did 50% of Black families say that they have at least one child in summer programming, but more than 9 in 10 Black parents with a child enrolled expressed that they were satisfied with their child’s experience. In fact, the demand for summer programming by Black families has begun to outpace their availability, as almost 7 out of 10 Black parents who do not have a child enrolled in summer camp would like to. Additionally, the cost of programs was reported to be the biggest obstacle for Black parents, as 36% cited this as the primary reason for not enrolling their child.

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas. Photo Credit: Sam Judy

Simultaneously holding a higher standard for their child’s summer experience and defining teamwork, respect, and communication to be the most important skills to gain from summer programming, Black parents are statistically more likely to utilize these services than their white counterparts. Organizations like the Dallas Chapter of Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA take special steps to make services both accessible and useful to Black and Brown students. The YMCA emphasizes inclusion as an organization originally established to serve Black Americans. Greater Dallas Boys & Girls Club took steps in the wake of the pandemic to provide supplemental educational support to Black and Brown students. Services from B&G and YMCA range from $50 to $130 a week.

Other options provided through city funding such as Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, offer a variety of activities, sports facilities, and a library at an affordable rate. However, more specialized programming including music and STEM education is not as comprehensive as more expensive camps.

Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center provides summer activities for children at affordable rates. Photo Credit: Sam Judy

Facilities like Kidventure Camps offer specialized field trips and lush programs including creative writing, game creation, and archery tag. A more distinct quality of Kidventure’s programming is the specialized attention on developing skills in communication and human interaction through empathy and character training. Field trips are included in summer programming as well, allowing students to interact in new and more stimulating environments. Kidventure charges $270 weekly and is among the most accessibly priced in Dallas for as wide of services as they provide.

Even more dynamic programming is available at camps like Steve & Kate’s Camp, which has programs related to moviemaking, coding, sewing, and sports among much more. However, the price for providing your child with such a wide variety of interests to pursue is steep at $105 a day and over $3,000 for a summer pass. For this price, your child gets free reign to pursue whatever interests them, whether that is baking, stop-motion animation, dance, crafts, or many other activities. Your child decides what they would like to do and for how long.

More STEM-focused camps like KidzToPros and Elite University provide unilateral attention across STEM, Sports, and the Arts. KidzToPros emphasizes more STEM/Technology-driven learning, such as Game Design and LEGO Robotics, and Arts-focused activities such as Anime/Cartooning and Improv Comedy. Variably, Elite University focuses more on outdoor activities and sports such as horseback riding while still offering STEM education and Culinary training. As these services range from $375-$500 a week, they offer an extensive summer recreation experience for among the most moderated prices when weighed against contemporaries.

Source: KidzToPros

Despite having greater ambitions for their children in areas specific to STEM education, physical activity, building life skills, and exploring career interests by a wide margin, Black parents remain statistically less able to access facilities offering comprehensive programs related to these subjects. As camps primarily serve middle-class white children, working-class Black families are increasingly excluded from more extensive summer programming. 

Photo Credit: Sam Judy

Consistent with education as a whole, summer facilities and programs are becoming increasingly class-divided while Black students are statistically underserved. Despite public funding for summer programs being strongly favored by non-white communities, summer camp is now a $3.5 billion dollar industry in the year 2023 and is projected to grow. Aside from fiscal barriers, issues like transportation and inaccessibility to the proper resources remain significant obstacles for Black parents hoping to provide their children with structured summer play. As demand grows and prices increase, more Black students miss out on important time between semesters to explore interests, build skills, and foster talent.