How to Pay for Private School, Even When You’re Low on Funds
Private school isn’t completely out of financial reach if you enlist the help of financial aid and scholarships.
If given the choice, millennials are more likely to send their children to private school, according to a national poll from EdChoice, and it’s no wonder why. With smaller classes; specialized, creative instruction; and an opportunity to explore subjects that public schools might not offer, private education is increasingly attractive.
But tuition holds back a lot of families. For religious schools (which nearly 80 percent of private school students attend), the average tuition can range from around $6,890 to over $10,000 a year. For non-sectarian, tuition averages over $20,000 a year. Paying for private school can burn a hole in your pocket.
It can be tough for families to pay so much money each year, especially if more than one child attends private school.
But outside scholarships — as well as financial aid from the private schools themselves — can make it more affordable for middle-class families. So what are your options? Here’s how to pay for private school without going broke:
1. School Financial Aid
The first stop on the journey to financial aid is the school itself. Many schools use a third-party assessment to determine the amount of aid a family qualifies for. Some of the assessments include the FACTS Grant & Aid Assessment and the National Association of Independent Schools’ (or NAIS’s) School & Student Services (SSS), along with Financial Aid and Student Tuition (FAST).
These applications estimate how much a family could reasonably contribute toward tuition. They analyze income and expenses, assets and debts, the age of the parent(s), family size, and how many children attend schools that charge tuition.
Even if you think you may not qualify for aid, go ahead and fill out the application. If you aren’t approved for enough assistance in your opinion, you can appeal to the school. Schools are often open to payment plans and working individually with families who are looking for ways to pay for private school.
That being said, most schools require families to pay at least a little something. This is meant to encourage them to prioritize education in their budget. At the Paideia School, a non-sectarian school in Atlanta, every family is expected to pay some amount toward tuition. As such, the financial aid awards range from 20 to 99 percent of tuition.
2. Outside Scholarships
Outside scholarships and grants are another way to pay for private school. There are plenty of options for families seeking assistance, though some may be state- or city-specific. For families sending their children to independent schools, NAIS offers a list of outside scholarships that schools may consider.
The Children’s Scholarship Fund also offers scholarships for students in kindergarten through eighth grade in 23 cities throughout the country. Families are expected to pay at least 25 percent of the tuition, and the average award is about $1,700. The Children’s Scholarship Fund also lists unaffiliated scholarships by state.
In one example of how these scholarships have made an impact, Jason Tejada, a scholarship recipient in New York, attended the Incarnation School. This helped him escape from the drug culture engulfing his community. He then went on to study business at Columbia University, then to work with JP Morgan Chase after graduation.
With the help of the scholarship, Tejada excelled both academically and personally in private school.
Meanwhile, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation offers scholarships for high-achieving seventh- through 12th-graders. Young scholars receive a “personal academic and college counselor, funding for academic and enrichment programs in the summer and during the school year, internship and study abroad opportunities, [and] educational resources including books and technology.”
A Better Chance provides funding to students of color between the fourth and ninth grades at over 300 participating private schools throughout the country. The funder is looking for competitive applicants who have strong academics and excellent teacher recommendations.
The AAA Scholarship Foundation gives financial assistance to economically disadvantaged families and to children with disabilities living in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.
If you’re looking for financial aid, Scholarship Owl might be the site for you. It helps you track and apply for many scholarships. All you need to do is fill out a single form.
3. State Voucher and Tax Credit Programs
Many states offer school vouchers that allow parents to use public funds to pay for private school tuition. These vouchers essentially reimburse families for the amount that the state would have given to a public school. They have advocates and opponents for a variety of reasons, but if you live in an area that offers them, your family may find them useful.
The American Federation for Children provides information about tax credits and voucher programs that can assist families when enrolling their children in private school. EdChoice also has listings of education savings accounts, school vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and individual tax credits and deductions by state.