How to afford private school tuition

If you’ve had it with public school, and you’re looking into private schools for your child, you’ve probably noticed a big down-side… cost. Private school can be extremely expensive.

In fact, the National Association of Independent Schools(NAIS) notes that the average private school costs $19,075 annually. Some figures are lower, such as the annual $10,045 quoted in 2008 by the Council for American Private Education. Still either figure can give the average parent a whopper of a headache.

Many schools offer tuition reduction programs. Still, even tuition reduction programs don’t reduce costs enough for all families. If you need more ideas about how to afford private school, without having to rob a bank, check out the ideas below…

Save on taxes. Insanely, the IRS doesn’t allow you to write off private school tuition, but you can write off some related expenses, such as charitable contributions to your school – even small ones. Say you donate $200 and occasionally donate supplies, books or food to your school. It all adds up and can be deducted. Remember, if your contribution totals more than $250, you’ll need to get a receipt from your school, otherwise hold onto shopping receipts for smaller purchases. In most cases, you can also get a tax credit for after school programs and summer camp programs, even if these programs are held at the school, because they qualify as child care, not school.

See if you can pay at tax time: Normally families with children tend to get a nice big chunk of cash around tax time. Many democratic schools may be willing to work out a payment plan that includes waiting until tax time.

Ask about scholarships: Not all democratic schools offer scholarships, but it’s always worthwhile to ask.

Loans: There are loans available for private K-12 education costs. Of course, interest is an issue, but in a situation where your job will soon pay more or you know you’ll be coming into some cash, a loan may be useful.

Look into a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA): This is an account created to help parents and students save for eligible educational institution expenses, and in this case, any public, private or religious school that provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under state law, do qualify.

Ask for help: Grandparents, or other relatives or friends can write a check for education costs directly to a school to avoid  incurring gift taxes. You may also want to consider asking for $ as holiday gifts. Most kids will be willing to lose some material gifts in trade for cold hard cash, especially if the end result is attending an amazing school.

Skip college savings: For one thing, your child may not even decide to go to college. Secondly, an amazing early education sets the stage for your child’s entire life, making private school payments worth far more than college savings. Thirdly, there are plenty of need-based and achievement-based college grants and scholarships available down the road that can help pay for college.

Have a family fundraiser: Democratic schools hold fundraisers all the time, but so can democratic school families. Have a car-wash once a month, host a bake sale or hold a seriously cathartic garage sale (clean house + cash)!

Scale back: I know one family interested in private school, but they say, “We can’t afford it.” Yet the kids get designer duds, they pay $80+ a month for cable and they buy new cell phones even if the old ones work fine, among other stuff. Excessive stuff has obscenely taken over America. Be aware of what you’re spending cash on. Simply buying less stuff may allow you to afford private school.

Involve the kids: Like adults, kids can cut back on excessive spending too. Straight up tell your child that you can’t pay for cable or hand out a huge allowance, because that money is needed for school. Don’t freak about money with your kid, but seriously, they can handle chill budget discussions. Older kids can mow lawns for neighbors, babysit or care for neighbors pets during summer break. This isn’t about being mean, or a bad parent, or a slave child ring master – most kids who are happy in their private school are more than happy to help out financially. My son knows that money we save by not buying cable or excess video games helps fund his school costs. Because he adores his school he never complains about what we don’t have and will even offer up birthday money if his school asks for family donations.

Dedicate yourself to a better education for your child: Many parents manage to pay for private schools simply because they are truly dedicated to a healthier educational environment for their child. Get dedicated! Make a budget and stick to it. If you’re a two parent family, and you need money, both parents should attempt to work. Any job can help bring in money, and yes, even in this economy there are still jobs out there. Work just a few extra hours a month. I know many single parents who aren’t near well-off, and yet, they still send their child to private school, because it’s important to them, so they work extra carefully on their budget or take on a few extra hours of work a month.

It is hard for many families to afford private school, but the alternatives aren’t always very attractive. Your child is worth the effort and a kid who is happy in school, equals an all-around happier family.

Can you think of other creative ways to pay for private school? Share your ideas in the comments. 

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  1. Brandy Henry says

    This is such a great article. At our Non-traditional schooling conference in April, I plan to have two sessions on this topic. Thanks for getting me started. I so much agree with the excessive stuff element.

    There are also many Americans who believe, truly believe, that you HAVE TO always have a car payment, to do a BIG back to school shopping trip every year, expense at vacation time is required, and that entertainment expenses are a right. Vices are expensive too. If both parents together smoke a pack of cigarettes a day that’s about $150-$175 monthly. If they each smoke that, it’s $300 – $350. That’s half way to almost all of VFS tuition.

    I think we also forget that public education comes with ‘expenses’ as well. It’s gotta be draining when your kid starts to hate school, needs to keep up with expensive fashion trends, when the entire family has to adhere to such a militant schedule, strangers telling your family how you’re going to spend your evening – aka homework.

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