Financing a Private School Education
While everyone will agree that private school education is not cheap, it doesn't have to break your budget. Affording a quality education does take some planning, and most families employ several strategies to keep the costs within reach. In this planning it is important to realize that the family bears the primary responsibility for financing a child's education to the extent that it is able. After that there are others out there to help you in your efforts.
Perhaps the best source of information lies with the financial aid officers at the individual schools you're considering. They can explain the full range of options that they offer and may be able to provide some information on the limited outside funding sources available. Understand that each school may offer different strategies and may have different policies. It is important to ask each school about the specifics of their various options and see how these options fit within your financial planning.
For the typical private school, financial aid and tuition assistance comes in three forms:
- Need-based Financial Aid
- Merit Awards
- Tuition Payment Plans and Tuition Loan Programs
Need-based Financial Aid
How much aid is available? For the academic year 2005-06, 972 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) members awarded $957.7 million in financial aid. These same schools reported that 18.7 percent of their students received some financial aid. The average award for boarding schools was $17,295 and for day schools, $9,232.
Schools award financial aid grants based upon the financial need of a family. These grants do not need to be paid back and are used to offset tuition costs. The money for these grants comes directly from the school's budget and demonstrates the school's commitment to having a socioeconomically diverse student population.
To determine your family's eligibility, you will have to fill out an application for financial aid. You can get this form from the school's financial aid officer. Most NAIS schools use the Parents' Financial Statement (PFS) from the School and Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS). This is an NAIS-owned service that helps schools objectively determine a family's ability to pay for school tuition and other educational expenses. If the school you are considering does not use SSS, be sure to ask what steps you need to follow in order to apply for assistance.
Although the Parents' Financial Statement (PFS) is not available in an electronic format for e-mailing or downloading, families can complete the application in an interactive online format. For more information, please read our PFS Online page.
The amount of aid a family receives may vary considerably from school to school. The size of its endowment, its tuition costs, and its philosophy of awarding aid affect how much a school offers. If your decision to send your child to a private school depends on getting some financial help, it pays to apply for aid at more than one school.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Independent Schools. © 1997-2008. All rights reserved.
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