Paying For It

Private school can be a big investment. Learn more about tuition costs, extra fees and the funding options available. We'll cover financial aid, scholarships, and outside financing. Explore some of the most expensive schools and learn where your child can attend free.
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The cost of a private school education ranges from virtually nothing at several free schools to well over $100,000 at a couple of exclusive European boarding schools. For the purposes of this article you and I will consider the tuition if we are looking at day schools. We will examine tuition and room and board only as we review boarding school costs. I am leaving out all the extras such as riding or music lessons, school trips, travel to and from the school, local transportation, health insurance, computers and so on. These sundries add up quickly so don't forget to take them into account. Also not included are acceptance deposits, application fees and admissions testing.
 
Here are some examples of what the various types of private schools charge. Remember that this is merely a sampling. You should explore every school which interests you as part of your school search process. Set aside financial concerns for the moment. Focus on finding the school which is the best fit for both you and your child. While paying for private school obviously is a major concern, you will discover that you will have a couple of options available to you.
 
One final bit of guidance: you will have to visit each school's web site in order to determine what the current costs are. Generally you can find that information under the admissions links.
 
Day Schools
 
Day schools are non-residential schools. Most of them offer classroom instruction Monday to Friday. Intramural sports and activities are fitted
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One of my young employees was horrified to discover that a certain Los Angeles day school charges $30,000 tuition. "How do they pay for that?" was his shocked cry. It's difficult for a 24 year old who's only making $40,000 to understand how families can afford college much less private school. So, exactly how does a family afford a private school education? Here are some ways they can make that special educational opportunity possible.
 
Scholarships
 
There are not many scholarships for K-12 private school students. Still, it is worth doing your research in this area to uncover the scholarships which do exist. Several states have programs set up which allow citizens to contribute to funding for private schools. Arizona and Washington offer special tax credits for gifts to private schools for scholarships.
 
Financial Aid
 
This is the most exciting part of the 'paying for private school' picture. Understand that each private school is independent. Each school stands on its own two feet financially speaking. That's why financial aid will vary from school to school. Older, established schools such as Andover and Exeter have substantial endowment funds. That's why they and a few other schools can offer a virtually free education to students who come from families which make below a certain amount. $75,000, for example. But you will have to visit the schools' web sites to find out the details. Better yet, call and ask.
 
Loans
 
If you are strapped for cash, but have assets which can be pledged as collateral,
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The article in the New York Times sounds ominous. Certainly, as it points out, private school endowment funds have seen declines in their value as a result of the economic and financial meltdown of 2009. But there are other factors which the article does not address which make the impact on financial aid less of an issue than the writer would have you believe.

Let's look at the facts.

Conservative Investment Policies

The investment approach for private school endowments has historically been a conservative, cautious approach. Trustees and their advisors have generally been good stewards of their finances. They avoided risky investments such as derivatives and real estate despite calls from some quarters to maximize returns. The reason for the decline in their portfolio value is simple: just about every investment-grade instrument declined.

Sustainability

Back in the 90s, sustainability became an important principle in private school mission statements and philosophies. The National Association of Independent Schools has taken a leadership role in supporting all kinds of sustainability initiatives including financial sustainability with its 1,500 member schools.

From the Nais: "In order for independent schools to thrive in the 21st century, NAIS believes that they must be sustainable along five dimensions: financial, demographic, programmatic, environmental, and global."

As a result, schools with significant endowments (greater than $10 million) generally were well-positioned to weather the economic storm which 2009 brought on with a vengeance.

Financial Aid is a Priority
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Financial aid can be very confusing for many parents. You wonder whether you make too much to be eligible. Is there a specific time when you apply? Here are five facts most of us didn't know about private school financial aid.
 
1. You have to apply for it.
 
Applying for financial aid at most private schools is a separate process from applying for admission to the school. You also need to make sure that you apply early. This is particularly important if the school has no specific admissions deadline or rolling admissions.
 
2. You may be eligible for free tuition if your family income is below a certain amount.
 
Exeter, Andover, Groton, St. Paul's and Deerfield all have financial aid programs which offer a tuition free education to admitted students whose income is below a certain threshold. The threshold varies but is in the $60-75k range.
 
3. There is a common application form.
 
Many private schools use a common financial aid form. This vastly simplifies the process of applying to several schools. You will have to fill out the Parents' Financial Statement (PFS) online at www.nais.org/financialaid/sss. You can also complete a paper version of this application. This will be available from school admissions offices.
 
4. Most schools have a sliding scale of aid.
 
You may think that you are ineligible for financial aid because your family income is $150,000. The truth is that you may indeed be eligible for some aid. It will depend on factors such as how many children you have at the
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Money always talks. Pay cash for something, no matter what that something is, and you will get a better deal. A discount. Better terms. Nowadays the same thing applies to getting into private school. Assuming that your child offers everything the school is looking for, if you tell the school that you do not need any financial assistance, you can be virtually assured of acceptance. Why is that? What's changed?
 
The Perfect Storm
 
The impact of the financial markets' meltdown in 2008 meant that endowments shrunk significantly in most cases. 20-30% shrinkage seems to be the norm, though, of course, it is extremely difficult to unearth any data. You and I will have to wait until schools have filed their Forms 990.. Form 990 is the tax return not for profit organizations file each year. Most schools file at the end of their fiscal year which typically is June 30. 
 
Added to the financial meltdown are the vast numbers of jobs which have been shed as companies have folded or down-sized. That means there are less parents able to afford private school without at least some financial assistance. Another factor is that many parents who were counting on sending their children to private school are scaling back their spending. The result is that there are fewer applicants for many schools.
 
The top tier schools are feeling minimal impact as they still have a huge demand for places and relatively strong finances. They can make the adjustments needed to weather the storm. It is
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Paying For It

Financial Aid

Paying for private school can be expensive and financial aid can be a huge help. Here we'll cover the financial aid options, how eligibility is determined and how it can affect the admissions process.

Financing Basics

There are several ways to finance a private school education, learn more about your options here. We'll explore some of the most expensive schools, explain why tuition is rising and show you how it's all paid for.

Free Schools and Scholarships

Don't let the cost of private school deter you, many schools offer scholarships. Explore scholarships, how they are funded and get a list of schools your child may be able to attend tuition free.