Private schools cost money (yes, there are even some hidden costs to be aware of). With little to no state funding, tuition is the way to cover the cost of the operational expenses and create the educational experiences that set these schools apart. Parents looking for assistance, and in particular private school scholarships, are often left with few resources outside of any program run by the school.
Brian Broderick, executive director of the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools, says parochial schools in particular often run between $3,000 and $5,000 per year per student, while other local independent and elite private schools can cost more than $20,000 per year per student.
There are ways for parents to offset the cost and make a private school education affordable for their student.
Applying for financial aid
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Many private schools offer financial aid and scholarships to future students. Parents apply through organizations such as Private School Aid Service or Student and School Services used by most independent schools. Using tax forms and information about their income and expenses, parents are rated for aid and the reports are submitted to the individual schools.
Some schools take financial aid into their own hands and parents apply directly to the school for aid and the final decision for tuition reduction is made by the principal or a governing board.
Financial aid, unlike aid in college, is a reduction in tuition, not actually borrowed money, and does not get repaid. Organizations like Private School Aid Service and Student and School Services determine what a family can afford to pay and schools use their scholarship and aid funds to offset the cost of the tuition reduction to families.
Need versus merit-based awards
Some schools also set aside money for merit- and need-based scholarships. University Liggett School page in Grosse Pointe Woods offers the Liggett Merit Scholarship to attract incoming ninth-grade students based on academic strength and extracurricular interests. To earn a merit scholarship, students must apply to Liggett, submit teacher recommendations, participate in an interview and complete an entrance test and writing sample. The school offers full- and half-tuition awards.
“Since 2008, Liggett has given more than 40 Liggett Merit Scholarships, and many of our Liggett Merit Scholars have gone to matriculate at some of the finest colleges and universities in the country,” says Michelle Martin, director of marketing and communication at University Liggett School.
The Roeper School in Birmingham also offers need-based aid to lower and middle school families while awarding need- and merit-based scholarships to upper school students. Carolyn Lett, diversity and community outreach coordinator for Roeper, says one-third of the students at Roeper receive some type of aid or tuition reduction and the school supplies nearly $2 million annually for the tuition assistance and scholarship program.
Lett says by awarding the scholarships, the school can attract gifted students who might not be able to afford it, but also control where the money is used giving the school the most diverse student body possible.
Broderick says the aid for Catholic schools is different. Most of the tuition assistance money is donated to the Archdiocese of Detroit and distributed to the local Catholic schools based on the needs of the student applicants. Individual schools also have scholarship programs that are supported by the congregations of the churches affiliated with the schools.
Outside of the schools or working out individual arrangements with relatives, there are few options for those looking to help fund the education.
“The parents may find something on their own, but there isn’t a third party source that we can refer them to when they are looking for additional aid or scholarships,” says Lett.
When to apply for financial aid and scholarships
When it comes to financial aid, Lett says Roeper is on a rolling admission cycle, with no hard deadlines for application, however, those looking for merit awards should apply as soon as possible. The scholarship ends in the fall for those looking at middle school and upper school admission. At Liggett, the application process begins now for the next school year.
Broderick says most of the smaller private and parochial schools are able to make the financial aid and scholarship decisions later in the year, most often in the spring, for parents looking to enroll their students there.
To learn more about the non-public schools in the area, visit the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools website or the National Association of Independent Schools website.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2016.