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How to afford private school?

Last updated: 
December 15, 2023

There are various tuition assistance options to help families afford private school. First, let’s recognize that tuition amounts vary by school type, size, and location. A common misconception when considering private schools is those that cost less are the most affordable, but this isn’t always the case. Financial aid and other tuition assistance programs can significantly change your financial obligation to the school.

The most common tuition assistance options include:

  • Financial Aid — Most schools offer need-based financial aid grants that don’t require repayment. 
  • Scholarships — While far less common in K–12 than in higher education, some schools offer merit scholarships awarding academic, athletic, or community achievements. There are also nonprofits, civic organizations, corporations, and religious groups in the United States that provide need-based education scholarships.
  • Education Loans — Education loans are dispersed directly to schools, helping families spread out tuition payments.
  • Tuition Payment Plans — Most private schools offer tuition payment plans to help families budget.
  • 529 Plans — These tax-advantaged investment accounts allow families to save for educational expenses (regulations vary by state).

The earlier you plan for private school tuition, the better. Carefully review your finances—are you paying for subscriptions and memberships you don’t use? Talk to a financial advisor and a tax professional to better understand your options. Depending on where you live, there may be government programs or state tax incentives that help offset the cost of tuition. 

The key thing to remember is that each school’s financial aid criteria and budget are different, so the packages your family receives may vary significantly by school. Private schools also have additional fees outside of tuition to factor into your budgeting. Schools with larger tuitions may be factoring more of those costs into their tuition.

Long story short, until you’ve gone through the tuition assistance process, you just never know—the school with the highest tuition listed on its website may turn out to be your most affordable option.

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