At this point you are considering—or perhaps you already have chosen—a private high school education for your child or children.
Like many families, you might be concerned about the cost of this education. You understand that a private high school education is an investment in your child or children, but you might not be sure how to afford this experience.
What you might not know is that schools understand your concern and in fact provide tuition assistance so that cost does not have to determine whether or not qualified students can enroll. Thousands of schools around the country award millions of dollars each year, so you just need to get answers to a few key questions.
What is financial aid?
Financial aid, or tuition assistance as some schools refer to it, is monetary assistance that schools provide to families to reduce the cost of private school education.
Most financial aid comes directly from the schools and is based on the family’s need. This need is the difference between the cost of education and the amount the family can afford to pay (Need = Cost of Education – Family Ability to Pay).
Some schools offer merit scholarships/awards that are not based on need. Often these merit awards are based on academics, but some schools offer merit awards based on art, music, service, leadership, etc. In some states merit awards based on athletics are possible, but members of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) cannot award athletic scholarships.
Financial aid also can consist of tuition payment plans and/or loan programs. Most high schools offer tuition payment plans, while a much smaller number offer loan programs in partnership with a lender.
How can I learn more about financial aid?
The best first stop for questions about financial aid is the schools themselves—their websites and/or their admissions offices. Schools will be happy to explain their processes and deadlines. Questions to ask and/or information to seek might include the following:
- What are the deadlines for applying for financial aid? Missing deadlines could result in no aid or reduced aid, and deadlines do vary slightly from school to school. Also, many schools will offer new families an estimated award at the time of acceptance, but this often requires families to submit information by an earlier deadline date.
- What are the costs beyond tuition? Most schools have costs beyond their published tuition. These might include meals, books, supplies, course fees, clubs/activities, uniforms, and/or technology fees.
- Does the school meet full financial need? Most high schools cannot afford to meet your full need, but having an idea of about how much of it they will meet could be helpful. Unlike colleges that have access to state and federal grants, work-study, etc., most high schools are limited to their own budgets to fund financial aid.
- What forms do I need to submit as part of the financial aid process? Most schools will require federal income tax returns, but there might be others (e.g. business forms/returns).
- Is the school’s admissions policy need-blind? A “need-blind” admissions policy means that the school does not consider ability to pay when making admissions decisions. Most schools fall into this category, but a small number of schools will consider ability to pay for some of its students in the admissions process.
How do I apply for financial aid?
While the process of applying for financial aid can vary a bit from one school to another, there are a few key steps that are fairly universal.
- Fill out a financial aid application. Most schools use a third-party service, and you apply for aid through those organizations, who in turn tell the school how much your family can afford to pay for private school. Common examples of such services include School & Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS) and Private School Aid Service (PSAS), although some schools might have their own partner company. Be sure to meet published deadlines!
- Indicate which schools should receive your information. Several schools might use the same form, in which case you would only have to fill out that given form once by telling the company which school(s) should receive your information.
- Submit the form after reviewing it fully. Be sure to submit the form by the deadline, but also review the information fully before submitting the form. Also, be sure to submit required documentation by published deadlines.
- Receive a financial aid decision. Each school with which you have shared your information will receive a report from the financial aid partner company. Based upon that information, the school will calculate your need and will determine your award if in fact you have need.
Additional Financial Aid Resources
For additional information about financial aid, refer to the following:
As always, please feel free to contact the admissions and/or financial aid offices at the schools in which you are interested.
Finally, please do not let cost shape your high school search too early in the process. In many cases, a school will work as hard as possible with the family of a qualified student. In many more cases than not, cost is not the overwhelming factor in determining whether or not a child can attend the high school of his or her choice!