An Overview of Paying for Boarding School

Updated May 24, 2016 |
An Overview of Paying for Boarding School
This hub is designed as a guide to the financial side of things as you explore boarding schools.

One of the first questions parents ask about sending their children to boarding school is how to pay for it.  Boarding schools charge from $25,000 to $65,000 a year. That is a lot of money for most of us. Since I am not Boston Kennedy but rather a poor Scots-Canadian, I remember well confronting that reality when we were investigating schools for our daughters. With that experience very much in mind, I have created this  hub as a guide to the financial side of things as you explore boarding schools.

How Do They Pay for It? examines the answers to a question one of my young employees asked me when he discovered that many boarding schools cost significantly more than what he made in a year. He didn't realize that most private schools offer financial aid.

Financial Aid 101 explains how financial aid in private schools works. Private schools give families millions of dollars annually to help them afford a private school education. Even families who have incomes in the $150,000-$250,000 range can be eligible for financial assistance depending on their financial situation.  

Paying for Private School introduces you to the several payment options available to you. The important concept to understand here is that if you need financial assistance to send your child to boarding school, ask about it at every school on your short list. Always ask.

Making the Financial Aid Process Work for You walks you through the financial aid process one step at a time. The process is unfamiliar, even confusing,  to most parents. But when you begin the process well in advance of deadlines, as I suggest, you will make it through all the steps in good shape.

Private School May Be Free If You Make Less Than $75,000 explores in detail the remarkable opportunities which are available to families in certain specific income brackets. You must remember that each boarding school is unique. Each school has different income brackets for their financial aid programs. Curious to know why a school would offer your child a free education? That's because you meet their financial requirements, and, more importantly, your child offers the school everything it is looking for in an applicant. Gone are the days when boarding schools were homogeneous communities. These days diversity rules. Schools take diversity seriously, and in doing so they have put their money - and lots of it - where their mission is.

Borrowing to Pay for Private School looks at that option in detail. One thing which I have learned over the years is to learn about the various options you have. Try to understand them as best you can. Then sit down with a professional adviser and have her explain which ones best suit your particular circumstances. You are unique. What works for one family might not be the best option for you. A qualified professional adviser such as an accountant, a financial adviser, a tax attorney or your trusted family attorney will see advantages and disadvantages in each option and point those out to you. Money well spent.

How Much Do Schools Cost? attempts to illustrate how schools can cost nothing all the way up to over $100,000 a year. (That high end school happens to be in Switzerland and most likely will not be on your short list.) Some boarding schools have day students. That will save you on room and board if you are fortunate enough to live within commuting distance of a residential school. But most boarding schools expect the majority of their students to live on campus except during vacations when school is closed. Thanksgiving, Christmas and mid-winter break are examples of times when school is closed. Tuition is expensive enough. Add to tuition your child's room and board and you can see why an annual cost of $50,000 or more is the norm for American boarding schools.

True or False: Do Declining Endowments Mean Less Financial Aid? deals with the aftermath of the financial meltdown in the fall of 2009 and the rapid erosion of the financial markets.  It is remarkable how most boarding schools were able to weather the buffeting their endowments took and continue to offer generous financial assistance to families. Schools accomplished this through prudent fiscal management and stewardship of their resources.

Will The School Give Me A Refund If My Child Withdraws Early? is not a question on most parents lips' as they begin to explore boarding school for their child. Still, it is a matter which requires serious consideration as you begin to fill out and submit your applications and supporting materials. Having a clear understanding of the contract you and the school are entering into is an important aspect of this final admissions part of the process.

Why Are Tuition Costs Rising? We paid $11,000 a year for our eldest daughter when she attended Kent School in the late 80s and 90s. 25 years later Kent's tuition has more than quadrupled. So has the tariff at most other boarding schools. This article attempts to explain why tuition costs keep going up.

Non-American? Thinking of sending your child to an American boarding school? Fees and Financial Aid For Overseas Parents explains how the financial side of things works. This short video illustrates one school's take on international students and the extra steps they have to follow in the admissions process.

Don't Need Financial Aid? Step to the Front of the Line! The fact that you do not need financial assistance means that the school will have one less demand on its financial aid pool. They will appreciate that. The usual criteria for admission still apply, of course.

Think of The Parents’ Financial Statement (PFS) as a window into your financial condition. Rather than have you submit confidential information directly to the school, you submit your PFS to a third party which reviews and assesses your need. The third party service then reports its findings to the schools which you designate.

Scholarships and Free Schools offer other options. The terms and conditions of the scholarships vary from state to state. There are just a couple of dozen free private schools in the United States. The number of free boarding schools? There are two that I know of.

Questions? Contact me via Twitter. @privateschl


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Financing

Financing Overview

Don’t let the cost of boarding school deter you. From private loans, to scholarships, there is help available. When is payment due? Does your boarding school offer a tuition payment plan? How much financial aid is available? In this section you’ll find the answers to these questions and more.