Using Private Scholarships, Loans and Aid to Fund Private School

How to afford tuition

For anyone not familiar with the cost of attending a private school, especially a boarding school, the price tag can seem overwhelming. With many private school tuitions rivaling those of college, the financial investment might make some families feel as though they have to attend the local public schools vs private schools. But, what many families don’t know is that there are options, and a high tuition amount doesn’t mean that it is impossible to afford a private school education. There are several ways that families can make attending a private high school more reasonable, including financial aid, student loans, and even private scholarships. Read on to find out more about these important funding support options.

Financial Aid

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 Financial Aid is the most common form of financial assistance for those looking to attend private school. Families who feel they cannot afford the cost of tuition are able to apply for financial assistance through the School and Student Services (SSS) program operated by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Interested families should complete the Parent Financial Statement (PFS) which asks questions about the family’s financial situation in order to make an assessment about what their contribution towards a private school education should be each year. Schools then use this information, along with the financial forms that are submitted, including W2’s and tax returns, to adjust the individual contribution amount. A bonus of financial aid is that it is considered a grant, and typically does not need to be paid back to the school.  

Student Loans or Parent Loans

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If the financial aid package doesn’t cover enough to make it possible to attend, a loan can be a great way to supplement the financial aid award and make it possible. That’s right, loans aren’t just for funding a college education. Interested families can check with the admission and financial aid office for advice, or visit sites like Sallie Mae, which provide assistance for private school tuition. The loans can often be taken out in either the parents’ or the student’s name, though families who will require financial assistance for college as well, should consider if this form of funding is the right move.

School Scholarships

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School-funded scholarships are another option for families. Students can often apply for scholarships at the schools to which they are applying. Some private schools offer merit scholarships based on academic performance, athletic scholarships based on the student’s ability to contribute to a varsity team, or even scholarships for the arts, should the student excel in a particular artistic discipline. Other scholarship opportunities may be made possible by alumni, who sometimes endow scholarships for students from a specific geographic region or cultural background. Ask the admission office if the school offers scholarships, what the qualifications are for consideration, and how to apply. Families should pay close attention to application deadlines, though, as scholarships are usually competitive and have strict guidelines.

Private Scholarships

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If a school doesn’t offer scholarships or the student doesn’t qualify, families might consider looking for external private scholarships. While these are often more scarce at the private school level, they do exist. A good place for families to start is by checking with the local organizations they are already actively involved in, such as religious groups, youth groups, and even town organizations. Families should also check if their home state has any Scholarship Funding Organizations, and then follow up with the appropriate ones. 

Payment Plans

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Something that many private schools offer is a payment plan. Whether a family receives financial aid or is paying tuition in full, payment plans can make it easier to afford the cost of tuition by spreading out payments over a period of time. The time frames can range from a few months to typically up to 10 months, the equivalent of the academic year. Sometimes, schools offer discounts for paying early, so families should always be sure to ask about that option. This may only apply to those paying full tuition and not receiving aid, but sometimes the discount is extended to families who receive financial aid if they are able to make payments by a specific date.


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The last form of assistance that could be available to families is vouchers. Some states offer these programs that provide state-funded tuition assistance if a family elects to not attend the local public school. Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures to see if what states offer this type of assistance and what is required to participate in the program.