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The Myth: I Make Too Much to Qualify for Tuition Assistance

Posted by Chris Starr on Mar 2, 2023 11:54:11 AM

It is not surprising that the tuition page on many private school websites has a large “bounce” or exit rate. Private schools provide a high value education, customized curriculum, signature experiences, and individualized attention—which has led to annual tuition fees that can seem daunting to many.

Many families believe in the value proposition of private school, and may even have the means to afford 40-60% of tuition but never apply thinking their household income, while too little to pay full tuition, is too high to qualify for aid. These families are unaware how valuable they might be to the private school community and the incentive a school might have to meet them part-way.

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Independent Schools value having a student body that is socioeconomically diverse because they recognize that qualified students who believe in the school’s mission and who will participate in the life of the school are found at every income level. Schools aim to divide their financial aid resources across different income levels and may offer awards as small as $2,000 and as high as the near full tuition. There is a strong incentive for private schools to attract families in the middle tier—who could afford 50% or more of tuition based on their household income.

Last year, Oak Knoll awarded over $2.8 million each year in tuition assistance to families with a range of household incomes from $30,000 to $300,000—that’s quite a large range. Currently, 20% of the total student population receives some level of tuition assistance. In addition to tuition assistance from the school, families can take advantage of individualized payment plans, or seek tuition loans from third parties. More information can be obtained by contacting the Oak Knoll Lower School or Upper School Admissions Office.

Families who are far out of tuition range should still inquire about scholarships and large financial aid packages. But with the knowledge that private schools also want families in-between, those that might turn away thinking their income is too high to qualify for assistance should keep the private school dream alive.

Beyond income, factors considered in the financial aid process include family size, how many tuitions a family is paying, financial assets and liabilities. Typically schools use a third party to collect and analyze a family’s financial circumstances. In trying to determine what discretionary income a family may have to put towards an independent school tuition, financial aid directors also take into consideration any unexpected out of pocket expenses a family may have. It is important to know that schools expect families to prioritize the cost of their child’s education over other discretionary expenses.
No matter if you are a full or partial-paying family, know that you are offering a tremendous gift to your child and the entire school community.

According to the federal government’s school dashboard (referred to as The Nation’s Report Card), private school students outperformed public and public charter school students in every single subject area assessed. 

And consider these statistics derived from a National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) longitudinal study:

  • 71% of independent school students scored above average on their SAT’s as opposed to 20% of public school graduates
  • 76% of independent school students go on to complete a four-year degree as opposed to 38% of public school graduates
  • 55% of independent school graduates go on to obtain a post graduate degree as opposed to 21% of public school graduates
 Independent school graduates also expressed greater satisfaction with their careers, greater confidence in professional development opportunities, greater technology skills, and placed a higher value on community service and civic participation.
Creating an education program that produces these lifelong results is costly and private school tuition can be daunting. All interested families should rest assured that every dollar of tuition is an investment in their child’s future. 

Topics: education, admissions, private school, tuition

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