Paying for Private School: 7 Options

Updated May 26, 2016 |
Paying for Private School: 7 Options
Don't assume you cannot afford private school. Don't assume that you make too much money to be eligible for financial aid. Ask. Always ask.
I am always sad to hear parents rule out sending their children to private school because it is too expensive. The conversation usually begins with one of these facts as the reason for considering private school:
 
1. Their child is gifted.
2. Class sizes in the local public school are way too large.
3. Their child has a learning disability.
 
Any one of these reasons is a valid reason for considering private school. But, unfortunately, that is as far as considering a private school gets in most cases. Why? Because either the parents assume that they cannot afford private school or they looked at the page on a school's web site showing tuition and fees and panicked. 
 
Considering sending your child is a major decision. As with any major decision, it makes sense to do your due diligence before ruling anything out. When you take time to do a thorough investigation of the facts, as opposed to your assumptions, you just might be pleasantly surprised at what you discover. That applies equally to paying for private school.
 
Here then are six ways you can pay for a private school education. One just might prove to be the answer you are looking for.
 
1. Write a check.
 
Some people can afford to write a check for their children's private school tuition. If you are in a position in life where you can do this, don't forget to ask about a cash discount. Most schools will be thrilled to get their money up front. The usual practice is to write a check twice a year: in July and then again in December. The school will expect the tuition to be paid in advance before each semester begins.
 
2. Make monthly payments.
 
Tuition payment plans make sense for many parents. They have the cash flow to make a payment every month of 10% of the tuition. Several firms offer tuition payment plans for private schools. The school's admissions office will be able to provide you with all the details. This brief video explains a typical tuition payment plan.

3. Ask for financial aid.
 
This is where far too many assumptions end up being made. On one end of the income scale parents assume that they will not qualify for financial aid because they make too much money or have too many assets. Complete the Parents' Financial Statement and ask. It never hurts to ask. On the other end of the spectrum are the parents I was discussing at the beginning of this article. They assume that they cannot afford to pay for a private school education because they earn too little. The same answer applies: complete and submit the PFS. It never hurts to ask.
 
Financial aid is an important tool in any school's admissions toolbox. Why? Because financial aid allows schools to attract and admit a more diverse student population. Most private schools are working very hard to diversify. Financial aid makes this important initiative become a reality. Several private schools also have had programs in place for several years now whereby applicants from families earning less than $75,000 will essentially have to pay nothing. These income threshold and programs vary from school to school. Ask the admissions 
 
Remember that each school makes its own financial aid award decisions. So, don't assume that the awards will be the same. Schools use the Parents' Financial Statement for the data it provides. But each school has its own formula which it uses to determine how much money it will award to each applicant.
 
4. Take out a loan.
 
Loans for educational purposes are fairly inexpensive and easier to get than loans for other purposes in these times of very conservative credit. Try to amortize the loan over as short a period as you can. Make sure that there are no penalties for paying the note off early. This video discuss loan options.

5. Apply for a voucher.
 
Definitely investigate voucher programs if your state has one. These often are written so that children who have special needs can benefit from a private school education. The voucher programs vary from state to state so be very careful to perform your investigations carefully and thoroughly. There is a plethora of misinformation out there about voucher programs. The programs can be a bit controversial as you can imagine. Find out for yourself. Ask trusted advisers for help.
 
6. Apply to a free school.
 
There are about a dozen free schools in the United States. They each have their own criteria and rules about who is eligible to apply. Definitely worth investigating.
 
7.  Apply to a religious school.
 
No, I am not suggesting that you send your child off to a convent. The truth is that most larger churches and temples offer K-8 schools as part of their outreach programs. Many church associations also offer regional high schools. Some religious groups even offer boarding schools. The tuition at a religious school is generally far lower than a secular private school. Just about every branch of the Christian churches offers day schools. Many temples and mosques also sponsor day schools. Do you have to be a member of that particular faith in order to attend? Not necessarily. Find out what the school or schools which you are looking at require. Your child will still be exposed to all their religious teachings and will have to attend religious services during the school day. As long as you are comfortable with that, then be sure to investigate this option.

Conclusion
 
By now you have figured out that I am adamant that you make no assumptions and ask a lot of questions. I feel strongly about this simply because I have had so many conversations and discussions about private school over the years. Twenty years parents would discount the idea of sending their children to private school because they were too 'snooty'. Whatever that meant. Today parents realize that private schools can offer their children the kind of quality education which is hard to come by in our public schools these days. From that point of view a private school education is a good fit philosophically. The stumbling block then becomes the question of how to pay for that education which they so much want for their children.
 
It never hurts to ask. Please do not stop asking questions until you get the answers you need.

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