The economics of tutoring

The New York Times has a piece analyzing the ROI of private, non-remdial tutoring.  On the one hand, journalist Paul Sullivan quotes a “cynic” who likened “tutoring and private school as a forward contract on the Ivy League, with anything less being a disappointment.”  On the other, he notes

[o]n the positive side, for children, tutors can often comfort them and let them talk to someone beyond their parents. “They can say what they want and that person will translate it to Mom and Dad,” Ms. [Sandy] Bass [editor and publisher of Private School Insider] said. “That’s what the kid needs because they’re afraid of letting Mom and Dad down.”

I sense that non-remedial tutoring is driven more by the former than the latter.  I wasn’t personally tutored in grade school or secondary school, but I did take the ubiquitous BarBri bar review course after graduating from law school.  I took this course because I felt that I had to:  everyone else was taking it, and I couldn’t afford to not have the same “edge.”  (Never mind that state bar exams are designed to test one’s knowledge of the law, a skill presumably learned during the preceding three years of law school.)

Is non-remedial tutoring just an arms race?  I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and comments.