Personal Finance

Wealthy Families Apply for Private School Financial Aid

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Last updated on July 23, 2019 Comments: 11

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?


Article comments

Frances Doherty says:

We are raising our 3 Grandaughters they lost both parents.They go to Catholic Schools and we pay 90 percent tuition with minimal help our retirement is dwindling our income is 55k the tuition is 10k,we see others go free…

Anonymous says:

My son went to private school for 3 years, every year we applied for financial aid to no avail. My husband and I make under $150K. I found out that one of my sons friends (who happens to be African American) was receiving financial aid even though his family made twice as much money as my family did. We left the school when my son was accepted into a charter school which is fine but very different. I understand that diversity is needed at all schools but we are a good family who were very involved in volunteering at school. The amount we were asking in aid was 30% of the yearly cost of tuition and they literally offered us nothing three years in a row. If families that earn upwards of $350K a year are receiving financial aid I find that offensive but I also completely believe this is happening

Anonymous says:

When one sees their child’s school’s statistics on financial aid, i.e., 27% receive financial aid and yet the recipient families are driving Teslas and those who don’t, Toyotas, it is most irritating. Families with multiple children in the same school receive aid and since aid is largely based on income, those whose grandparents pay tuition or employers only up to a certain point, receive aid even when their assets, second homes, luxury cars, etc., far exceed those who do not qualify for aid. It would be more equitable were assets to be considered.

Anonymous says:

Public or private school does not matter as much as the learning done outside the school. Based on the findings from the Freakonomics guys it is the education in the home that makes the difference between students learning. The reason private school tends to produce better educated students is that those who attend are more likely to be involved (or at least hire tutors) with their children’s learning and keep the learning opportunities going during the summer.

Anonymous says:

We send our son to a private elementary school because the public schools are not that great here and we can’t afford to move to a better school district. I am surprised by the study because our school gives aid to the famiies who can’t afford it.

Anonymous says:

Both my boyfriend and I went to private Catholic high schools. And neither of us came from well to do families. For myself, my high school was a lower price and my family was able to get reduced tuition since there were 5 kids in my family who all went to the same school. For my boyfriend, he went to a high school not known for having a large population of lower-middle class students. But since he played football and did extremely well in academics, he was able to go for less than half of the cost of one year for all four years of tuition.
The public schools in both of our areas were not great but I also do believe that enrichment at home is important. No matter how amazing the school, there has to be some support at home.

Anonymous says:

THe CNN article says that 20 % of the applicants make over $150k. So that means 80% make under $150k. I assume most of the aid goes to that 80% with higher need. If a family makes $150k and has 3 kids in a school with $30k tuition rates then that family could certainly have financial need to pay that kind of rate.
I would assume that the financial aid system would vary wildly across k-12 private schools. The CNN article cites a couple schools and that may not be any kind of broad trend. Its just a couple schools among thousands. I’m sure there are many schools that don’t give any aid to families making mid 6 figures and reserve all their aid for needy families. It all depends on how the individual school operates itself.
Shellye also mentioned athletes and academic wiz’s and I bet that some of the ‘financial aid’ is in the form of incentive scholarships for talented students.

I think people pan public schools far too much. There are many very good public schools in our nation. I went to public schools and got a fine education. Of course there are many awful schools out there but that doesn’t apply to the nation in general. If your schools suck then thats a local problem. I would agree that private schools are better on average but some of that is simply cause of demographics. Round up 100 rich kids with college educated parents and their test scores are going to be higher than 100 random kids. There are also many cases where public schools are better than private. The public schools in my city have higher test score averages than the private school in my sisters city.

Anonymous says:

Can you cite your source for the statement that wealthy families get more private school financial aid than lower income families?

Anonymous says:

I’m a big believer in education and lifelong learning since a good education can open up many doors that would otherwise be tightly shut. But the ever-increasing cost of receiving that education is putting a serious strain on our youth and if it continues we’ll eventually reach the point where going to college just isn’t worth the cost.

Anonymous says:

I don’t think anyone should be satisfied with the public school system, unless it’s one that has a high quality curriculum, quality teachers, a high graduation rate, etc. Not sure if there are any of those out there anymore. My kids went to private school for elementary and jr. high grades before the light bulb finally went off and I realized they were getting no better of an education than they could in the public schools in our area. Why pay for mediocrity? We never got financial aid during their years, although we did get a tuition discount one semester when I did some temp work in the school office.

If your student is a standout athlete or an academic wiz, and you have to withdraw them from private school due to financial hardship, you will be the first to be offered financial aid to keep your student at their school so they can benefit from the kid’s talent. Private schools are as much about marketing and image as they are about education. Having a football team that wins the state title makes it much easier to sell the school to prospective students, and if your kid is a star running back and dad loses his job, you know the athletic director will be there, checkbook in hand, to keep that kid in his school.

Anonymous says:

I don’t think low income families who can’t afford private school be satisified with the the public school system because more likely than not the local public school system is horrible and not educating children.