Many parents experience sticker shock when they look at the cost of private schools. There is no doubt that a quality education costs a great deal of money, but private schools also provide many families with need-based financial aid that offsets the high cost of tuition. Applying for need-based financial aid and for merit awards can be a critical part of paying for private school. It is advantageous for private school applicants to apply to more than one school so that they can compare the financial aid packages at different schools. Schools differ on how much aid they provide, in part because their budgets, endowments, and commitment to providing aid to ensure a socio-economically diverse student body vary. Here’s how you apply for financial aid:
How Do I Apply for Aid?
Schools award aid based on the economic need of the family. The money they grant families does not need to be paid back. To apply for aid, you need to fill out an application; most schools use the Parents’ Financial Statement (PFS). You can ask for these forms from your school and complete them in print or online. The Parents’ Financial Statement is submitted to the School and Student Services (SSS), an independent organization that helps NAIS (or the National Association of Independent Schools)-member schools determine how much a family can pay in tuition and other costs. Some schools may not use the SSS, so ask these schools their process of applying for aid.
Each school you are applying to will determine your financial aid package, based on their budget, endowment, and other variables. If you receive a more generous financial aid package from one school, you can show it to another school. Sometimes, the school you would like your child to attend will match the better financial aid package of another school. You should also ask your school about sibling discounts, as some schools offer reduced tuition if you have more than one member of a family attending the same school.
How Do I Apply for Merit-Based Aid?
Some schools also provide merit awards for students who have academic, athletic, or other talents. In 2005-2006, they offered $25.7 million in aid, and the average grant was $3,545. Less than 5% of students receive merit scholarships, but you should ask your school about the process of applying for this type of aid.
How Much Aid is Out There?
According to NAIS, or the National Association of Independent Schools, their 972 member schools provided $957.7 million in financial aid in 2005-2006. At these schools, 18.7% of students are awarded some financial aid, and the average grant of need-based aid was $9,232 for day schools and $17,295 for boarding schools. The average tuition for day school is about $17,000, while the average cost of boarding schools is about $40,000. This means that when you look at the cost of a school, you should factor in how much financial aid you might receive. At schools with large endowments, such as the top boarding schools, about 35% of students receive need-based aid, and families earning under about $70,000-$80,000 year may actually pay little to nothing in tuition. These schools offer aid up until about $150,000 or more in family income. Expensive private day schools in places like New York, Washington, Boston, and other cities also offer a great deal of aid. Schools such as Albuquerque Academy with generous endowments provide 30-40% of their students with aid. The size of a school’s endowment may be an important factor to consider when choosing a private school , as schools with larger endowments can often offer more financial aid to their students.