Abstract This paper presents data relevant to discussions on the financing of secondary education in Tanzania. The issue of financing is important because expansion in public schools is severely limited by budgetary constraints, high unit costs, and the fact that no part of public expenditures is currently recovered through fees. Given the financing difficulties, it may now be appropriate to reconsider the role of fees as a means of mobilizing private resources to supplement government funds. A prior question, however, is whether or not households already incur a significant cost even in the absence of fees, and further, whether or not they are willing to bear additional charges. The empirical analysis for Tanzania shows that although students pay no fees, their school related expenditure is in fact quite substantial, amounting in 1981 to US$139 for state students, and US$439 (including US$242 for fees) for private students. The results also show that students' expenditures vary more by enrollment characteristics than by family background, suggesting that given the substantial expenses involved, students do not spend more or less than what is necessary, regardless of their background. The large proportion of privately enrolled students in Tanzania indicates, however, that wealthier parents are both willing and able to bear a substantial user charge. A possible implication of these results is that user charges for public secondary education could potentially play an important role in mobilizing private household resources for the sector. Their actual relevance in Tanzania needs, however, to be confirmed by additional research.