According to an EdChoice survey, more than 72% of millennials would prefer to have their kids in private schools. Private schools tend to boast smaller class sizes, specialized creative instruction along with as wider academic subject offering.
The only catch is that a private education for your child can cost you thousands. The average private elementary school average can run $9,263 per year and the private high school average is $14,017 per year according to resources.
A few years ago, if you would have asked me if I would asked me if I’d enroll my son into private school, I would have quickly said no. While the thought is nice, I figured the expense would surely prevent my husband and me from meeting out other financial goals.
Yet and still, this year we managed to enroll our son in a local private school (despite not having the biggest budget) right now and we hope to keep him there since he loves it so far. If you’re looking to afford private school for your kids as well, here are a few tips that will help you make it affordable.
Consider a Cheaper Private School
Yes, that’s an option seeing as how not all private schools are the same. Some are faith-based and some have different pricing based on the student’s grade level. My husband and I are not paying anywhere near $10,000 per year for our second grader to go to school.
However, tuition is steep as it’s currently at $7,600 for grades K-3rd but new families receive $1000 discount during the first year. Another private school about 40 minutes away lists their annual tuition at $5,400 for grades 1-6th but we’d rather not deal with the commute.
Tuition rates will vary depending on where you live and what your preferences are. If you have a handful of options to consider when it comes to choosing a private school, compare tuition costs and choose something that might better fit your budget.
While considering a more affordable private school may be an option, it still won’t be as cheap as a public school. This is why you should see if you can qualify for a grant. Most schools will offer private funding to families who would struggle with paying regular tuition prices.
There’s a program called FACTS Grant & Aid Assessment. There all also other programs including the National Association of Independent Schools’ (or NAIS’s) School & Student Services (SSS), along with Financial Aid and Student Tuition (FAST). You need to apply for these grant programs and include your family size, annual income, assets and debt in your application materials. You can also apply for multiple children.
My husband and I only used the FACTS program this year and qualified to have $4,000 taken off which was a huge relief. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be considered for a grant, but it’s worth looking into if you need the financial assistance.
Sometimes, in order to receive grants for private school, you may have to complete work-study hours as opposed to paying back the funds. At my son’s school, parents who receive tuition assistance through the FACTS program have to complete a total of 30 work study hours per semester.
Work study tasks range from operating the concessions stand at sporting events and grading papers, to helping clean teacher’s classrooms and volunteering to help in the cafeteria or school library.
Each week, my husband and I help clean a teacher’s classroom to work toward meeting out work-study hours requirement. Sometimes, I also volunteer to help with events if I have time and it’s a great way to get more involved at my son’s school.
If you can’t find any work-study opportunities, see if you can create one at the private school you’re looking into. If you have a special skill or trade, you can offer your services in exchange for a tuition discount.
I don’t have much experience seeking out scholarships for private school, but I know it is an option. Most scholarships are private or either city/state-specific.
The Children’s Scholarship Fund provides scholarships for students in kindergarten through eighth grade in 23 cities throughout the country. The average award amount is $1,700. To receive the award, families are expected to pay at least 25 percent of the tuition. Another option is the Children’s Scholarship Fund which lists unaffiliated scholarships by state.
Employment at the School
If you’re not sure if you can qualify for any funding, see if there are any positions open at the school that you can apply for. Since private schools don’t rely on state funding, they often need to hire many different employees to take on certain tasks.
For example, in the fall I responded to a principal’s email requesting parents to apply for an after-school care worker position. I applied, interviewed and got hired along with someone else.
Now, I earn extra money by simply keeping kindergarten through 5th graders entertained a few days after school from 3-6. The extra money I earn goes straight toward my monthly tuition payment for my son, so thanks to the part-time job and the grant, I basically pay nothing for him to go to private school.
The only way this could work for you is if you have flexibility in your schedule or are a stay at home parent looking for other work. You could also consider getting a side hustle to help you supplement tuition payments if you are unable to find a job at the school.
Tighten Your Budget
I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but you’ll have to work on tightening your budget even more if you truly want to add the expense of private school to your plate (at least in the beginning). My husband and I still wanted to live comfortably so we reigned in our spending in areas that weren’t going to make us feel super deprived.
This does work best if you have a two-income household because odds are, you’ll need to spend a few thousand on tuition each year.
Find out how much your monthly payments would be for tuition, then see if you can make it more affordable by lowering some of your expenses and adding in some sustainable side income. This is super important because you don’t want private school expenses to overtake your entire budget. You still have other financial goals so you’ll need to work with the resources you have and become more disciplined with your spending.