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Financial Aid for Private K-12 Schools

Private elementary, middle and secondary schools (K-12) are an attractive and necessary option for some students. However, they can be as expensive as college, with annual tuition rates in the tens of thousands of dollars. Financial aid for students attending private schools is scarce, but not impossible to acquire. About one-fifth of students at private schools receive some form of need-based financial aid and less than 5% receive merit-based financial aid. Most such aid is provided by the schools themselves, so parents should contact the school and see if they offer any scholarships or other aid. The school will also know about any private scholarships or vouchers received by their students in the past.

There are many K-12 scholarship and voucher programs for private and parochial schools. These include large national scholarship programs, such as the Children's Scholarship Fund and Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program, as well as dozens of regional private scholarship programs. There are also a variety of state K-12 education tax deductions and credits and state-funded voucher programs, including state corporate income tax credits. There are also several free tuition private schools.

(If you're interested in college scholarships visit The Fastweb site provides a free scholarship matching service, along with timely and practical information and advice about planning and paying for college. Private school students win more college scholarships than public school students, but the advantage is modest. Free information, advice and tools about paying for college are also available from the FinAid site.)

Private schools may offer a variety of financing options. The options include tuition payment plans and education loans. These allow you to stretch out the tuition payments over up to a year or longer. You should also ask the school whether they offer a cash discount for paying the tuition in full by the due date. Again, the best source of information about financial aid for private schools is the schools themselves.

If you have more than one student at the same private school, ask for a discount. Some schools will provide discounts based on the number of children enrolled.

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts may be used to save for K-12 education in addition to saving for college. This allows families to save for a private school education in a tax advantaged manner.

If you also have children enrolled in college, you should ask their college financial aid administrators to use "professional judgment" to make an adjustment for the private school tuition you pay for your other children. Some schools call this a "special circumstances" review. (You should also mention any other unusual aspects of your family's finances.) This can increase the college student's financial aid package by decreasing the discretionary income figure used by the need analysis formula.

There are also a handful of books about paying for private K-12 schools.

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