There is a perception among many families that private elementary and high schools are worth the costs of tuition even though public school is comparatively free to attend (not including taxes and bake sales). That’s a debate that will never end. Parents, who always want what’s best for their children, will take advantage of every opportunity possible to provide them with an advantage.
Similar to higher education, private grade schools and high schools make financial aid available for certain students whose families may not be able to pay the full tuition. An increasing number of families are applying for financial aid at private schools, and I was surprised to read that families with incomes as high as $350,000 a year were asking for help paying for their child’s tuition. In fact, when the financial aid is awarded, it’s going mostly to these high-income families rather than low-income families who truly need financial assistance. As schools dedicate more financial aid to their wealthier students, less is available for families who are on the lower end of the income scale.
This type of financial aid is more like a grant than a loan. Families who qualify for financial aid from private schools, for the most part, do not need to pay back what they receive.
- If a family can pay half of the tuition bill while requiring the rest from financial aid, that family stands a greater chance of receiving what they need. Meanwhile, families who could afford to pay only a small portion of the cost of tuition will not receive the financial help needed to bridge the larger gap.
- When the family a student who has previously attended a private schools loses liquid assets as a result of the recession, schools would like to see that student stay in the program.
The financial advantages one has in life, while mostly earned, not inherited, beget more financial advantages. The school-based grant type of financial aid is focused on those who can afford to contribute a significant portion of the tuition, while lower-income private school attendees need to increasingly turn to loans. The need for financing changes the calculation of whether private school is worthwhile.
Does your family receive financial aid for private school? Should school-based grants be offered to more low-income students? Should those who can’t afford private school be satisfied with the public school system?
Published or updated May 9, 2012.