Niche Resources

Tips on Paying for Boarding School

After months of research, countless conversations with admissions offices and trips all over the country, you and your child have decided that boarding school is the right choice for your family. But now, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it.

For some, the annual price tag may sound like too much of a roadblock to even consider boarding school in the first place. After all, with the average cost clocking in at $48,050 a year, a boarding school education is a bit like tackling a college tuition long before those days arrive.

So how do other families make it work? First of all, it’s comforting to know that today’s boarding school students come from a range of economic backgrounds, and many schools do everything they can to ensure this balance. The National Association of Boarding Schools reports that nearly 37% of boarding school students receive annual aid. With support from the school’s financial aid packages, along with merit-based and foundation scholarships, the motivated student almost always has options for lowering the actual cost.

Though paying for boarding school may feel daunting at first, boarding schools understand that paying tuition is a large hurdle for many families. The school will clarify the full life of fees, budgeting tools, and how to coordinate with a financial institution to make payments more plausible for your income. There is a structure in place to make sure the right students have this amazing opportunity.

Understanding the True Cost of Boarding School

If you’re still in the early stages of your research, consider that boarding schools vary greatly in price. Though $48k is the average tuition, schools can range anywhere from free to $60,000+ per year. State-supported boarding schools tend to be on the lower end while historically exclusive schools in wealthier parts of the country tend to lean higher.

As you begin researching your list of favorite schools together with your child, also remember that the sticker price may not be the final per-year cost.

Finding the actual cost of the program involves considering what will contribute to the overall price, and what may lower it:

Factors that add to boarding school cost Factors that might reduce it
Factors that add to boarding school cost Room and boarding fees
Factors that might reduce it High percentage of students on scholarship (meaning scholarships are common)
Factors that add to boarding school cost Orientation, graduation and administrative costs
Factors that might reduce it Financial aid opportunities
Factors that add to boarding school cost Uniforms
Factors that might reduce it State-reduced tuition
Factors that add to boarding school cost Books and personal expenses
Factors that might reduce it Voucher programs if you live in a qualifying state
Factors that add to boarding school cost Travel to and from school throughout the year
Factors that might reduce it

Boarding School Financial Aid

Most private boarding schools use what’s known as the Parent Financial Statement (PFS) to determine the amount you can contribute to tuition each year and how much should be covered by the institution. If you’re seeking financial aid, this is one of the most important steps to offset your cost. Be sure to keep an eye out for financial aid deadlines, as they tend to differ from application dates.

Many boarding schools offer aid or tuition-free education to accepted students if their household income is below a certain threshold. This allows the admissions office to build a broader range of students, so it’s always worth looking into programs with a higher sticker price if they advertise such programs.

At the Arthur Morgan School in North Carolina, the institution’s financial structure is built to support exemplary students from all economic backgrounds. Nicholas Maldonado, Arthur Morgan’s Recruitment and Admissions Coordinator, explains, “At Arthur Morgan School, roughly 80% of our students receive a scholarship. We have worked hard to have a large and stable endowment that keeps our tuition low and our scholarship awards substantial. A lot of our families also receive third-party scholarships. With a little bit of research, families can find all sorts of scholarship opportunities for boarding school.”

Most importantly, ask about available programs early on if tuition is a concern for you. A school’s ability to offer aid speaks to the student body, the school’s endowment and attentiveness to parents and their needs.

Additional Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships, similar to those awarded for college, are given to students with impressive proficiency that will lend to the school’s environment inside or outside the classroom. Though there tend to be fewer merit-based awards available per class, look for these scholarship opportunities when considering your school search, especially if your child is passionate about a particular area of study.

When attending a boarding school with a religious affiliation, it’s worth checking it with your house of worhip’s administration office to see if they offer scholarships for students looking to further their studies. Similarly, Maldonado advises checking with the school to see if they have affiliations with a variety of organizations. Your relation to certain programs could contribute to lowering the total boarding school cost.

Here are scholarships to consider right now:

$500 High School Freshman Scholarship

$500 High School Sophomore Scholarship

$500 High School Junior Scholarship

$500 High School Senior Scholarship

$2,000 “No Essay” College Scholarship

State Programs

Depending on your state and income level, you may be eligible for one of the tax-funded school choice programs. Commonly referred to as voucher programs, these scholarships are meant to offset the cost of private schools for low-income families or students with specific special needs.

The Association of Boarding Schools is a helpful resource state voucher programs, relevant tax credits and educational savings accounts.

Paying for private school, especially one as all-encompassing as a boarding school, is not exclusive to families with high incomes.

Tools for Paying for Boarding School

Once you’ve determined the final cost specific to your student, speak with your admissions office to find the payment plan that works best for you. The National Association of Independent Schools, or NAIS, includes a wealth of information about admissions and paying for boarding school.

Team Up with the Financial Aid Office

It’s normal to have anxiety when speaking to your admissions office, but unnecessary. Many are afraid that mentioning financial aid will be uncomfortable or decrease your child’s chances of being accepted. Financial aid offices are used to having these conversations, however, and the more information you provide, the more they can help guide your decision.

Timing Your Payments

After speaking with the financial aid department, choose the most manageable payment plan for your lifestyle. Typically, you’ll have a range of choices — from one large annual payment to spreading your contributions across the whole school year. Financial institutions that specialize in private school loans often facilitate longer-term payment plans for clarity.

A Note on Tuition Insurance

Sometimes, life throws a wrench into private school plans. Most boarding schools, no matter your payment schedule, require tuition insurance. This support system is particularly helpful if you’ve arranged a payment plan over the cost of the year. If your student decides to leave the school or has to drop out due to a sudden move or illness in the family, both you and the institution are protected from losing money.

The Bottom Line

Paying for private school, especially one as all-encompassing as a boarding school, is not exclusive to families with high incomes. Whether you’re just getting started in your search or your child has just been accepted to a boarding school, consider meeting with your financial aid office face-to-face to go through all the important questions about the upcoming school year. By finding a payment structure that works for your family, you can look toward the years ahead with ease.

Find the right boarding school for your family

Author: Ginny Bartolone

Ginny is a freelance writer and actress based in Montclair, NJ. She regularly contributes to a range of wedding, lifestyle and spirituality websites, as well as in her own blog, She is also currently completing a book about her two hikes across Spain.