Financing Options at a Glance

Updated  January 31, 2017 |
Financing Options at a Glance
You can pay for boarding school in several different ways. One option will be right for you.
As you begin to think about sending your child to private school, how you are going to pay for her education is probably going to be at the top of your list of questions. As you can see from the table below, most private schools offer a variety of payment options. Hopefully one or more of these options will suit your needs. Copy and paste this table into your worksheet that you have set up to keep the private school search process organized. That will remind you to ask specific questions about financing your child's education.
 
Payment Type
N-PK
PK-8
9-12/PG
One Payment  
 
Two Payments  
 
Tuition Payment Plans  
 
Loans
 
 
 
Financial Aid
 
 
 
Work Study  
 
Scholarships  
 
Vouchers  
 
Sibling Discounts
 
  
Free Schools
 
  
Miscellaneous Fees
 
  
 
One Payment
 
What this means is that you write one check for the entire year’s tuition. Some schools will give you a cash discount when you pay the entire bill up front. Paying tuition in one payment usually takes care of everything except the sundries. Sundries are charges for riding lessons, some elective courses, some athletic activities, music lessons and so on. Most schools will bill you monthly for those charges.
 
Two Payments
 
When you pay using two payments, be aware that most schools expect one payment in June or July or at some time well before school begins and the second payment in December. The split varies from school to school. Some schools split the years fees 50/50. Others 60/40. For example, if your child’s tuition and fees total $50,000 and the school wants 50% in July and 50% in December you would write two checks for $25,000 each. If the school bills 60% of the tuition in July, you would pay $30,000 then and $20,000 in December. Each school determines how its tuition payments work. Be sure to review payment options carefully when you actually visit schools.
 
Tuition Payment Plans
 
Most tuition payment plans are arranged through and managed by an outside tuition payment firm. Usually you will pay a registration or setup fee of between $50-100 when you use the tuition payment plan option. You pay the tuition payment plan firm the schools spread over 10 monthly payments. The tuition payment plan firm pays the school twice a year: once in the summer before the fall semester begins and another payment in December before the winter semester begins. Be aware that whether you pay in one or two payments or use a tuition payment plan, you must take out tuition insurance. Tuition insurance is not optional. Many schools will even factor tuition insurance into your contract terms. You need tuition insurance for those unexpected situations which can and do occur when you least expect them. For example, your child becomes seriously ill or injured requiring her to withdraw from the school. You are still obligated to pay her tuition even if she cannot go to school. Tuition insurance covers those situations, protecting both you and the school.
 
Loans
 
Sometimes loans make good financial sense. For instance borrowing against assets may be a better option for you than selling the assets. As with all matters financial, consult your finance professional. Her expert advice will be worth it.
 
Financial Aid
 
Most private schools offer some kind of need-based financial assistance program. Two caveats here: complete all required documentation at least a month before the admissions deadline and be aware that the financial aid amounts will vary from school to school. Why? Because each school has its own pool of money allocated to financial aid. If you need financial assistance, be sure to ask each school about its financial aid program. Make notes so that you have the facts you need to make the right decisions. This video explains how most financial aid programs work.
Work Study
 
Cristo del Rey High schools offer work study programs combined with rigorous academics. The work study program component is basically designed to offset part of the tuition assistance which the school awards your child. Additionally the work study programs provide valuable real-life work experience for their students. This video describes the Cristo Rey work-life experience.
Scholarships
 
Scholarships for private school education are few and far between. Having said that, always investigate this option. Various affinity and labor groups offer small scholarships if you and your child meet certain criteria.
 
Vouchers
 
Vouchers have always been a lightning rod in private K-12 education. The idea of using state and local tax dollars to pay for a private school education is repugnant to many people. Actually, vouchers rarely pay for all the fees at a private school. But they can make the difference between attending or not attending private school for many families. There are many voucher/scholarship tax credit programs in the U.S. Sometimes called school choice programs, the basic idea behind vouchers is to provide parents options other than sending their children to public schools. This video offers a brief explanation of the way school voucher programs work.
Sibling Discounts
 
This comes into play when you have more than one child at a school. Most schools will offer a discount for the second and third children. Discounts vary from school to school.
 
Free Schools
 
There are a handful of private schools which offer an all-expenses paid education thanks to the generosity and vision of their founders and benefactors.
 
Miscellaneous Fees
 
I mention this only so that you are aware that private schools can and do charge for things like health insurance and technology. These kinds of fees always vary from school to school.  Fees are usually paid as part of your payment plan.
 
Sundry fees such as laundry and boarding your horse will be billed to you monthly. Those bills are due upon receipt as a general rule.
 
Most schools have detailed information about their tuition and fees on their web sites. Take time to read this information. Make a list of questions to ask the school when you visit. Call or email to get the answers you need.
 
Questions? You can contact me via Twitter. @privateschl

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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.