Private School May Be Free If You Make Less Than $75,000

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Private School May Be Free If You Make Less Than $75,000
Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth set the pace. Now several top private schools are offering free or greatly reduced tuition for children from families making less than $75,000.
It is some of the most exciting news to come out of the private school community in years.  Basically Exeter is free to those with need. Families with incomes less than $75,000 will contribute nothing for an Exeter education. Same thing at Groton. St. Paul's is close behind with a $65,000 threshhold. Deerfield's limit is $80,000. Phillips Andover offers 'need-blind' assistance to all deserving applicants. Read At Elite Prep Schools, College-Size Endowments to understand why this has come about. What is exciting to see is that these private schools state their threshholds clearly. Years ago sometimes the financial aid pages required a lawyer to decipher exactly who was eligible for assistance. They were that complicated.
Inclusive vs Exclusive
So, what's happening here? Why are these highly competitive schools offering a free education to children from families with incomes below $75,000? Simply because they want to make their excellent educations available to a wider constituency. When tuition and expenses creep into the $45,000 range, it means that only a tiny percentage of American families can afford to attend those schools. Schooling has to be free in order to attract students from families making less than $75,000.
Private schools have had a reputation for being exclusive as opposed to inclusive. Visionary school leaders and their trustees have realized that exclusivity based on financial considerations is not always a good thing. Many academically qualified students won't even bother to apply to a private school simply because it is beyond their means. Eliminating that financial barrier opens the doors to inclusiveness.
Top Colleges Lead The Way
Harvard University took the initiative in fall of 2007 by announcing that children from families making less than $60,000 would not pay if they were admitted to the university.  Yale and Dartmouth offer similar programs. Just about every university offers financial aid. However, Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth simply draw a clear line and state unequivocally that families below that $60,000 threshhold don't have to pay.
Ask About Financial Aid
Financial aid sounds complicated. It often is. On the other hand, with institutions like Exeter, Groton and St. Paul's blazing a need-based trail for financial aid, the process just became a whole lot easier. Make sure you ask about financial aid programs. The financial aid officers at the schools in which you are interested are experienced and helpful. Ask.
Free Schools
Several schools around the country are tuition free or virtually so by design:



The Cristo Rey Model
Another option is the Cristo Rey model. The Jesuits came up with a work study approach to helping families in inner cities  finance a private school education. It has been highly successful and has attracted substantial corporate support. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has championed this model as it tries to transform American education.

Each private school offers its own financial aid program. So do not assume that the amount of financial aid which one school offers you will be the same as another or other schools. Always ask each school. Be prepared to file The Parents' Financial Statement as part of your documentation. Schools use The School and Student Service for Financial Aid, a third party service operated by the National Association of Independent Schools, to document your financial need. My last piece of advice is common sense: apply well ahead of each school's published deadlines.


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