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 number of organizations offering scholarships for private school students is limited. In addition to the list of organizations below you should also check to see if your state has and Scholarship Funding Organizations. Apptoximately 14 states have SFOs.  Most admissions officers will be able to advise you about scholarships available in your area.
Tuition at private schools ranges from $5,000 a year for primary grades in a parochial schools to almost $50,000 a year for boarding school. Like the wide range of private schools available, the costs vary greatly for several reasons. Sound management and healthy endowments are two major reasons some schools seem to be able to offer more for less.
 
Remember: American private schools receive no state funding, yet they must comply with all the laws and regulations which affect their daily operation. Retrofitting older buildings with new technologies, maintaining extensive physical plants, coping with soaring health and liability insurance, legal, and energy costs are just a few of the factors which come into play in determining tuition fees. While private schools are theoretically exempt from property taxes, most of them make substantial contributions to their local towns and cities to help offset the cost of maintaining police and fire protection. The overhead at a private school is enormous and complex with all the attendant impact on fees.
 
There are a host of ‘extras’ which also must be factored into the cost of an American private school education. Text book and academic material fees, sports fees, clothing, uniforms, transportation to and from school, application fees – the list seems endless. Most schools will provide a breakdown of the ‘extras’ for you upon request.
 
Financial Aid
 
Financial aid for expats is generally not available. The assumption is that your company will pay for your child’s education as part of your compensation package. That’s fairly standard
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You have just paid $45,000 for a year's tuition and fees at St. Sedgewick's. You are all set, right? Not exactly. What happens if your child suddenly takes sick before the end of the school year? What if circumstances beyond your control force you to withdraw her from school in March? What if he is expelled? In brief, you are obligated for the entire year's tuition and fees regardless of whether your child completes the year or not.
 
What Are My Options?
 
The only remedy you have is to sign up for the school's refund plan. It typically acts like insurance in the event that your child withdraws before end of year.  The insurance plan will pay for the unused/remaining portion of your child's time at the school. You contracted to pay for an entire year when you signed the contract with the school at the time she was accepted. You do not want to be out of pocket. Neither does the school. This is why tuition refund insurance is an important part of your planning for a private school education. Tuition refund policies are in place at every private school regardless of whether it is day or boarding, large or small, elementary/nursery school or high school.
 
St. Mary's policy is the sort of thing you can expect at most schools:
 
"To minimize the loss to a family due to early departure or change in boarding status, Saint Mary’s School has established a Refund Plan. Under ordinary circumstances, the Refund Plan
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Over the past two decades private schools have developed very generous financial aid programs. This has happened for a variety of reasons. But the most compelling reason is that private schools want to diversify their student bodies. They want to attract academically well-qualified applicants whose families simply cannot afford the enormous expense of sending their children to private school. Generous financial aid programs are one way of helping schools achieve that goal.
 
Here's how Exeter describes why it offers the very generous financial aid it does:
 
"Socioeconomic diversity has been a characteristic of Phillips Exeter Academy from our founding. It's built into our ethic—to attract and teach 'youth from every quarter'—and it's crucial to the nature of our community and our classrooms." 
 
St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire expresses its commitment to financial aid as follows:
 
"We are committed to making St. Paul’s an affordable option for families.
 
To honor this commitment we will:
 
  • Consider a household income of $80,000 per year or less as qualifying for full financial aid.
  • Families with an annual income of less than $200,000 will not pay more than 10% of their income toward tuition per year." 
 
Deerfield Academy outlines its full-need grants as follows:
 
In 2012-2013 over 28% of our financial aid recipients received full-need grants. These full-need grants include 98% or more of tuition coverage as well as other forms of assistance. These can include coverage for laptop and schoolbook purchases, travel allowances, stipends . . .read more
Some people can write a check for a year's tuition and never miss it. But with private school tuitions running into the $30's for day school and getting close to $50,000 for boarding school, the rest of us have to be creative.
 
Here are some options for paying for a private school education.
 
  • Pay the fees in two installments.
  • Sign up with a tuition payment service and pay monthly installments.
  • Borrow the funds you need.
  • Apply for financial aid.
  • Investigate other funding sources.
 

Pay the fees in two instalments.
   
Private schools generally render their bills in early summer and late fall for payment within 30 days. These invoices will include one half of the academic year's tuition charge as well as incidentals. Incidentals include fees for items such as as technology, sports, activities, laundry, and so on. Be sure to ask whether the school offers a cash discount.
 
Sign up with a tuition payment service and pay monthly installments.

The way these plans work is that you in effect are borrowing from them.  You borrow one year's tuition fees and incidentals. Then you repay in equal installments, generally 10 installments. The plan in turn pays the school on the tuition due dates. This is a good payment option if you need to spread the payments over several months.
 
Note: not all schools accept all these plans. Each school makes its own arrangements with a specific tuition payment service. These firms offer private school tuition payment plans:
 
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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.