expenses & aid

expenses & aid

Financing a Boarding School Education


A private school education and more specifically, a boarding school education, provides an unquestionable advantage for young students. Still, the decision to attend represents a significant investment for any family. There are several established avenues through which families can finance a private school education.

The Financial Aid Office

The first place to turn with financing questions is the boarding school's financial aid office. They can explain in some detail the full range of options available to you. Generally, there are several main categories of boarding school financial aid:

  • Need-Based Financial Aid

Need-based financial aid is awarded as a grant and does not have to be repaid. The money comes from the school's budget and applicant families are asked to demonstrate and document their need for aid. Most TABS member schools use the Parents' Financial Statement from the School and Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS), which is administered by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Learn more at www.nais.org.

  • Merit Scholarships

Like the name implies, some schools offer scholarships to students who are especially accomplished in either academics, sports or the arts. These scholarships are typically highly competitive but do not require repayment.

  • Tuition Loan and Financing Programs

Tuition loans are offered through a few schools, banks, or other lending agencies. These loans are credit-based, which means the loans are subject to credit checks and must be repaid with interest over time. Payments are spread over a pre-determined length of time. However, interest rates for tuition loans are generally more favorable than rates for most consumer loans. Check with the financial aid office at the school you are applying to for more details.

  • Tuition Payment Programs

A number of lending agencies offer tuition payment programs to help families manage boarding school costs. These programs are not technically considered loans. Basically, tuition payment programs spread tuition bills across manageable installment payments over the course of an academic year. The installments are interest free, but there may be some enrollment fees. Check with the financial aid office at the school you are applying to for more information.

The School and Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS)

The SSS is owned and operated by NAIS and used by more than 2,000 K-12 schools (including many boarding schools) and other organizations to help determine a family's eligibility for financial assistance. The SSS ensures that all schools and organizations use common criteria for evaluating need.

Many boarding schools us the Parents' Financial Statement or PFS to gather family financial information. Schools typically distribute the PFS to families as part of their financial aid application process. Once the SSS receives the PFS from one of your chosen schools, the information will then be shared with all the schools to which you are applying. You only need to fill out the form once.

The PFS will ask for basic financial information including all of your sources of income, a list of your assets, your debts, and ongoing expenses. Some schools use a different service, or require supplemental items (e.g., a recent tax return).

Contact the financial aid office at the school you are applying to for more information. They will provide specific guidance on your aid options plus a list of application deadlines. The NAIS web site at www.nais.org is another good financial aid research tool.