4 tips to consider when trying to fund private school education

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Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in our Private School Textbook 2020.

Funding private education can be a daunting task, especially for parents who have yet to navigate the process. Experts in two local schools, Christian Brothers College High School and Ursuline Academy, offered these helpful tips.

1. Familiarize yourself with the financial aid process early on.

Each private school uses a service, usually a third-party company, to assess the level of financial aid to which each student is eligible. CBC uses Tuition Assistance Data Services; The Académie des Ursulines uses FACTS Grant & Aid Assessment. The systems require parents to submit a variety of income information, such as W-2 forms. Jim Brockman, executive director of enrollment management at CBC, says parents can fill out these applications to estimate the cost before applying to the school of their choice. A family’s financial situation can change during a student’s enrollment. (CBC and Ursuline, for example, ask parents to complete the Tuition Assistance Application each year.) In doing so, each student’s level of need is reassessed.

2. Keep track of deadlines.

Each school has a different deadline for submitting their request for tuition assistance, notes Kim Vogt, director of advancement at the Académie des Ursulines. Although every Catholic high school notifies students of admissions decisions on the same day, Vogt says the deadlines for submitting requests for tuition assistance vary. “We have a fixed cash reserve, so we like to look at all of our applicants together, including our families’ current needs, and then make decisions based on that cash reserve,” says Vogt. “Once that decision is made, the opportunity is a bit tighter for families who apply after the deadline.”

3. Be aware of scholarships and don’t rule out other options.

Many private schools offer merit scholarships. Schools can offer other opportunities. After families have reviewed scholarship offers from their favorite schools, Vogt says they should discuss the financial situation further with each school. “Check out the schools’ websites, the scholarships they offer, and other information about financial aid,” says Vogt. “Most schools are able to come up with an individualized plan for trying to work with a family.” There are paths beyond scholarships that families can take as well. Once reserved for college education, 529 plans can now be used for private school tuition. Some families opt for loans, like the Sallie Mae K-12 Family Education Loan.

4. Receiving financial aid is common.

For many potential families, private education is just a dream without financial support. Before you see it as impossible, says Vogt, families should meet with schools and understand that help is often given. In the Ursulines, for example, about a third of students receive some form of financial aid, and CBC provides financial aid to just under 40 percent of families. “If you’re on the fence and you open up a website and you see $ 16,000 or $ 20,000 or whatever, you’re immediately like, ‘Oh, we can’t do that,’ and you move on, ”says Vogt. “Before you say you can’t do that, see what you can do, then see if that school can meet you there.

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