Well my assumption was that it was a public school because of the reasons people have already stated.
HOWEVER, In Australia (I wouldn't know about other countries), we have a "contributory" fund/fees that don't have to be paid, but the schools still bug parents for. In saying that, I think that parents and guardians would be asked to pay these funds but should they be of a low income, they would not have to contribute as much/none.
In terms of paying for books, robes, other supplies, the price gets lowered for parents if they decide to buy them second-hand (which the Weasley's do). I am assuming that students would have the option of re-selling or donating their old school supplies to others/the second-hand stores/the school.
And one more thing I was just thinking then - why would the Weasley's be buying new robes for their children constantly if they could alter them? Mrs Weasley is an intelligent woman when it comes to house-related things and I'm sure it says throughout the books that she darns the socks or sews things. Surely she could add a few inches, re-dye the robes, etc. by magic. If we can lengthen Hermione's teeth, surely we could add length to the hem of some robes.
They discussed it on MuggleCast =] It's just a mistake in the story, to help the plot =]
Originally Posted by babekitty_92
Do you pay to go to Hogwarts?
I always thought that you did not pay for Hogwarts, only for books and supplies. Whenever the Weasleys mention the cost it is never tuituion, but what they will need for the term. No one to my recollection ever specifically mentions tuition.
Because it is the only school for magic in Britian and anyone with magical ability is accepted I assumed it was like a public school funded by the Ministry and by donations as previously mentioned.
I think that if some students paid and others didn't, like the Weasley family, Draco would have made some comment about it while talking about how poor the family is. He probably would have said things like, "They wouldn't be able to go to the school if not for donations from families like his, or how awful that his family's money is paying for blood traitors and mudbloods to attend the school."