How much does it cost to go to an independent school, and how can I find ways to pay for it?
Each school sets its own tuition, and most schools offer some form of financial aid based on need, including tuition payment plans, loans, and merit scholarships. Discuss these items with the school's admission office. Questions to ask include:
1. What are the costs of tuition, room/board, and books?
2. Does the school offer scholarships? Loans?
3. What is the payment schedule required by the school?
4. Are there additional fees for activities, transportation, and services?
5. How does a family apply for financial aid? When do they receive their aid award information?
6. What percentage of students receives financial aid?
7. Do financial aid students also receive help with extras like athletic gear, tickets to events, and travel costs?
About Financial Aid
To apply for financial assistance, you must provide information about your financial circumstances. This information acts as the basis for a school’s decision to award financial aid and will be held in strict confidence.
It is also important to note that application forms must be completed for each year that financial aid is requested. This process takes into account any changes in a family’s financial situation and adjusts the amount of financial aid accordingly. Increases in tuition, room and board costs, and other fees will be considered in the renewal for aid from year to year.
Typically, admission applications will ask whether you plan to apply for financial aid. If you will, the school will direct you to apply using either online or paper forms, providing instructions for completion. The facts and figures required on these applications are very similar to the information reported on federal income tax forms. Copies of the most recent tax returns are typically required to substantiate information presented on your application.
To analyze the required financial data, any schools use an application form called the Parents’ Financial Statement (PFS) provided to schools by School and Student Services or TADS, which calculates the amount that a family is expected to contribute to school costs by applying a set formula to the data submitted. A fee is charged for this service (waived for families whose income falls below a certain level). Ultimately, the decision to award financial aid rests with the individual school. The Parents’ Financial Statement provides the school with guidelines for determining the family’s ability to contribute to their child’s education.
Submit the necessary financial aid forms as soon as your information becomes available. If forms are submitted late or with incomplete information, your family may be eliminated from consideration for aid.
If more than one school offers financial aid and the amount varies, it does not necessarily mean that an error has been made. It may reflect different school policies. However, if the difference is great, call the school and get the information you need to account for the difference.
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) provides a complete website for parents with information on the financial aid process and other resources .
Independent schools strive to provide families with information about the various ways to pay tuition. Among available options are:
Tuition Payment Plans
Many schools provide families with an option to spread educational expenses over a period of months for a relatively small service charge. Other schools ask that tuition be paid in two or three installments throughout the school year, with the first payment usually due in July or August.
Need-Based Financial Aid
Schools award financial assistance when a family is able to demonstrate need. Whether or not a family is eligible for need-based aid depends on the costs of the school and the income of the family (adjusted for several factors, including expenses, assets and indebtedness, or liabilities).
Independent schools may award assistance based on a student’s outstanding performance in academics, athletics, or extracurricular pursuits.
An increasing number of schools have developed loan programs to help close the gap between a family’s resources and school costs. Schools will often combine need-based aid with loans according to your family’s financial situation and the school’s financial aid policy. Although all loans must be repaid, the terms of these loans tend to be favorable.