With the school year just beginning, it has become clear that there is one American industry that seems wholly unaffected by the recession: private tutoring. While spending and employment is down in most areas, parental spending on tutors is growing at a rate of more than 5 percent a year, according to the Education Industry Association. According to Sandi Ayaz, executive director of the National Tutoring Association, the number of tutors certified by her organization has grown by 18 percent each of the last five years.

In Manhattan, private tutoring can cost anywhere from $85 to $450 dollars per hour. The average rate in the rest of the country is $45 to $65 per hour. More affordable options exist, including tutoring centers and online-only platforms, for those without the disposable income to spend thousands of dollars a month on private tutoring.

While the necessity for extra help outside of the classroom is clear, some worry that such industries disproportionately favor the socioeconomic classes who already hold significant advantage over their less-wealthy counterparts. Whereas tutoring once served to help those children who are falling behind in a subject or are learning disabled, tutors are now being used to ensure a student’s grades are equal to or above their peers’ and to polish their college applications.

Students whose parents cannot afford to hire tutors are certainly at a disadvantage here, but Lloyd Thacker, a former college admissions officer and the executive director of the Education Conservancy, cautions that over-tutoring for students who do not need it may create just as much of a disadvantage: “Not only does it jeopardize your child’s ‘studenthood’– those qualities that make learning happen–but someone finding your way for you and packaging you in the process jeopardizes your ability to be yourself.”

Clearly, private tutoring plays a vitally important role in education. But, like many other things in American society, are we overdoing it a little bit?