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Private school can be expensive, and paying those hefty tuition bills can be a burden for families from all income levels. The average national cost of non-sectarian private schools is approximately $17,000 a year, and the yearly tuition at schools in urban areas such as New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. can be more than $40,000 for just a day school program. Boarding schools are even more expensive. But, that doesn't mean a private school education is out of the question for your family. While you may think that there is little financial aid for private schools, and yes it can be competitive to get financial aid, there are several sources of funding that you may not have thought of. Here are some ways in which you can find financial assistance to pay for private school:
Talk to the financial aid officer at your school.
The financial aid officer at your school may know about merit and need-based scholarships that your child may be eligible for; sometimes these are not widely promoted. Several private schools offer free tuition for parents earning less than about $75,000 a year. As many as 20% of private school students receive some form of need-based financial aid, and this figure is as high as about 35% at schools with large endowments. Keep in mind that schools with large endowments and longer histories can generally offer larger amounts of aid, but inquire about programs even at schools that are less established.
Check out scholarships.
There are many scholarships and even voucher programs available for students at private schools. The school you're applying to or attending may even have scholarship programs for students; be sure to ask the admission office or financial aid office to find out if you're eligible and how to apply. There are also regional scholarship programs that can assist with finding scholarships. Some notable programs include A Better Chance, which provides opportunities for students of color to attend boarding and day college-prep schools around the country.
Research free or low-tuition private schools.
Private school for free? Believe it or not, schools that offer zero tuition do exist. There are completely tuition-free private and parochial schools across the country. Check out this list of free private schools. You can also research schools with low tuition rates; with a financial aid package, if you qualify, you could find yourself with an opportunity to attend a private school for little to no money.
Don't forget to ask about sibling discounts.
Many schools will offer discounts if you already have a child at the school, or if a family member has attended previously (often referred to as a legacy student). In addition, some private school financial aid officers will reduce the tuition for families paying college tuition at the same time that they are paying private school tuition. Ask if the school you're applying to offers these kinds of discounts!
Take advantage of employee discounts.
This may sound odd, but it's true. Many private schools offer full time employees free tuition or tuition discounts. If you know you want to send your child to private school and your skill set aligns to an opening at a school you like, apply for a job. Be sure to look at requirements for the tuition discounts, as some schools require that employees work at the school for a certain number of years before they are eligible. If you're already a parent at the school, you can still apply. But you'll likely have to go through the same formal job application process as all the other candidates. Don't worry, if you don't get the job, your child can still attend.
Spread out payments with tuition payment plans.
Many schools will allow you to spread out your yearly tuition in installments. They may charge a flat fee or interest for this service, so be sure to read the fine print and determine if this is right for you. There are also many institutions that manage tuition payments at private schools across the country.
Take advantage of pre-payment incentives.
Many schools will offer parents a discount for paying in full by a certain amount. If you have a rewards program credit card, this can be a great way to earn some perks.
You can use tax-free Coverdell savings accounts.
Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, which allow you to save up to $2,000 a year per beneficiary in tax-free accounts, can be used for tuition at private schools. The distributions from these accounts will not be taxed if the amount in the account is less than the beneficiary's educational expenses at an eligible institution.
Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski - @stacyjago