Getting the financial aid you need
How to manage private school tuition
Although tuition fees are undeniably high — parents can expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 for day school to more than $50,000 at some boarding schools — it’s a common misconception that private school is only within reach for a select few. Many cashconscious parents send their children to public schools thinking it is their only option, but according to experts, there is a considerable amount of tuition money doled out by schools and other organizations. The key is to go after it.
The very talent you’re trying to nurture in your child could secure a scholarship to offset at least a portion of tuition fees. Private schools are often seeking to invest in promising students who excel in academics and/or athletics.
For this reason, parents should look for schools based on their child’s skills before finding the schools offering the highest dollar amount.
A popular option for parents seeking assistance is bursaries. Although scholarships are generally merit-based awards and can be given to students for a range of reasons, including academic excellence, special ability in arts or exceptional athletic performance, bursaries are generally awarded on a needs basis, providing parents with relief by reducing the annual school fees significantly.
It depends on the school — some offer only small discounts, while other schools cover up to 100 per cent.
A large number of schools in the GTA decide how to distribute bursaries with help from Financial Aid for Canadian Students (FACS), an independent organization that evaluates the fiscal needs of families applying for financial aid and provides recommendations back to the schools in the form of a parents’ financial statement (PFS).
Parents can apply to FACS directly through Apple Financial Services, an independent third party. The cost of the PFS analysis to parents is $115 for the first school and $15 for each additional school. The ultimate decision and subsequent funding is then handled by the school’s financial aid committee.
One school that uses FACSs is Branksome Hall where tuition fees start at over $32,000. Director of Enrolment Management at the school, Kimberly Carter, says the school offers over $1 million in funds each year for needs-based bursaries and merit-based scholarships for applicants.
“At Branksome Hall, all admissions decisions are ‘ needsblind’, so applying for financial assistance does not impact your application to join the school,” says Carter.
Branksome Hall’s bursaries, like those of many schools, are limited and given on a first-come, firstserved basis, so families are encouraged to apply early.
For families that don’t qualify for bursaries, there are alternate avenues to explore. In Ontario, a number of tax deductions are available for different schools, programs and circumstances, which could ease the strain on the hip pocket.
For example, Canada Revenue Agency offers some tax credits on tuition to schools that provide both academic and religious education as long as it is registered as a charity or linked with another organization that offers tax breaks.
If it is a medical necessity for a child to attend a special facility or if mental or physical needs require a child to attend a certain school, tax relief can be provided in these instances as well.
Having to contemplate putting more than one child through private school may be a complicating factor. But it doesn’t necessarily have to pack twice the punch when it comes to the pocketbook. For families with one child enrolled at a private school and another on the way, be advised that a large number of schools offer discounts of around five to 10 per cent off the fees of the younger student.
Doing the math
If, at the end of the day, you still can’t crunch the numbers, it can be helpful to speak to a financial planner or go straight to the school to see if there’s anything it can recommend.
“It depends on the school — some offer only small discounts, while others cover up to 100 per cent.”
There are resources available for those who once thought private schools were out of reach