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How Does Financial Assistance Work at an Independent School?

By Brian Murphy, director of financial assistance and enrollment management
Myths of financial assistance at independent schools are explained.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” –Ben Franklin
 
Parents and educators understand that the gift of an outstanding education is the greatest gift we can give children. As parents begin exploring school options for their child, affording an independent school education can seem financially out of reach and nearly impossible to imagine.  
 
Independent schools understand that affordability means different things to different people. When it comes to investing in education, there are several misconceptions about affordability that, undoubtedly, discourage many outstanding families from seriously exploring a private school education. For example, according to the National Association of Independent Schools, over 150,000 students in independent schools receive more than two billion dollars to reduce tuition and other costs of schooling. Thousands of schools across the nation provide financial assistance to ensure that an independent school education remains accessible to qualified students regardless of their economic circumstances.
 
Myth: “Our family makes too much money, so there is no way that we will qualify for assistance.”
Fact: Regrettably, many families will prematurely disqualify themselves before officially engaging in the financial assistance application process. For most schools that utilize a need-based financial assistance program, there is not an income limit that automatically makes a family ineligible to receive assistance. Financial assistance professionals take into account a family’s income, assets and expenses, including educational costs for other children. If a family does not feel that they can afford the full cost of tuition, regardless of their income, it is worth the time and energy to submit a financial assistance application.
 
Myth: “If our family applies for financial assistance, it will negatively impact our child’s chances for admission.”
Fact: Many independent schools incorporate a need-blind admission process. That is, decisions regarding a student’s admissibility and decisions about financial assistance are made independently. 
 
Myth: “I understand that financial assistance will help reduce the cost of tuition for our family, but what if we cannot afford the non-tuition related expenses?”
Fact: It is always important to ask each school about their non-tuition-related expenses policy. However, at many independent schools, financial assistance recipients can expect to receive the same percentage of assistance for the purchasing of textbooks, transportation, mandatory school trips, and in some cases, technology needs.
 
Myth: “We received financial assistance for our child’s first year at the school, but we will not be able to afford the full tuition for future years.”
Fact: Every independent school has unique financial assistance policies, so research the policies for each school you’re considering. At many independent schools, as long as a family’s financial situation remains relatively consistent from year to year, a family can expect to receive a similar financial assistance award throughout the student’s tenure at that school. It is important to keep in mind that in order for the financial assistance professionals at the school to determine a family’s demonstrated need each year, families will need to complete the financial assistance application each year. 
 
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