If you’ve ever thought about having your child attend private school, but ruled it out based on cost, you may be surprised to learn that academic institutions often work very hard to make attending their school financially possible for many families. In fact, parents may be unaware of the various avenues to financial aid available to them. Here you’ll find answers to some common questions about funding a private education.
Q. Why should my family consider private school?
A. School choice “is one of the most important decisions parents can make for their child,” says Janet S. Hill, Director of Admission and Financial Aid for the Seven Hills School. When choosing a private school, parents will want to consider class size, curriculum, extracurricular offerings and various other factors. Casey Reed, Director of Children’s Meeting House Montessori School says that often parents choose a private school because they are looking for a less traditional approach to their child’s education.
Q. How far in advance should I start looking into financial assistance?
A. “The financial aid season really mirrors the admissions season,” says Hill. She encourages families considering her school to submit their tuition assistance requests between late November and January 31. Most financial aid decisions at Seven Hills are made in late January or early February.
Be aware that in the world of financial assistance, the early bird often gets the worm. Applying early in the process is preferable.
Q. What scholarships and financial assistance programs exist to help cover the cost of a private education?
A. Private schools themselves provide the bulk of the available financial aid dollars, says Hill. The Seven Hills School, for example, provides more than three million dollars annually in a combination of need-based financial assistance and merit-based scholarships. Currently, about 35% of the school’s families receive some form of assistance. Children’s Meeting House Montessori School also sets aside a portion of its budget to provide need-based assistance to new and current families, says Reed.
Some students may also be able to take advantage of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship program. This program provides scholarships to students who would otherwise attend low performing schools or who meet specific income criteria. These scholarships can then be used toward tuition at participating private schools. To find out complete details on the program, visit http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Other-Resources/Scholarships. This website also details two other state-level opportunities available to children with special learning challenges – the Autism Scholarship Program and the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program.
Families looking for additional funding options sometimes talk to their employers, churches and civic associations for assistance, says Hill. She also points parents to www.finaid.org for a list of K-12 scholarship opportunities.
Q. What steps should I take to investigate which funding options may be available to my family?
A. “[A family’s] first order of business really needs to be to seek and identify schools that best fit their child’s educational path,” says Hill. After all, if a particular school isn’t a good choice for the student, its financial aid package is irrelevant.
Once you’ve narrowed your search, contact the admissions or financial aid office of the school you are considering. The staff there should be able to provide complete information about their particular school’s procedures and deadlines, says Hill. “I think it’s really important for parents to never assume that what’s true for one school is going to be true for all.”
If you would like outside help, Hill recommends the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) as a resource. Visit www.sssbynais.org to find information about applying for tuition assistance, answers to frequently asked questions and other topics.
Q. Is there anything else I should know about covering the cost of a private education?
A. Hill urges parents not to let their initial “sticker shock” prevent them from pursuing a particular school. “Don’t let the tuition keep you away from applying. You’re never going to know unless you try.”