Tuition for private schools varies greatly based on school type, location, and reputation. The oldest and most selective schools in the centre of a metropolitan area like Toronto, and particularly those offering boarding options, tend to have the highest tuition fees. However, many smaller private schools, particularly faith-based schools in suburban locations, have tuition close to or under $10,000. Families should consider not only the yearly tuition rate but also any additional fees for student services, books, uniforms, or building upkeep.
Private school tuition can be a significant expense, but most schools offer financial aid packages to help families who would not otherwise be able to afford their school. Financial aid packages can take many forms, including need-based bursaries and loans, merit-based scholarships, and tuition payment plans and discounts. Applying for financial aid will not affect a student’s chance of getting into a school, as admissions are based on merit alone.
Families may qualify for need-based financial aid based on income and expenses. Need-based aid can take the form of loans, which need to be repaid, and bursaries, which do not. In order to be considered, most schools require families to complete an application detailing the family’s income, assets, investments, debts, and expenses. Families should bring to the school’s attention any unusual circumstances, such as health issues or another child attending university, as most schools will take these considerations into account when making financial aid decisions.
Many schools offer merit scholarships to deserving students. These are awarded based on academic or extra-curricular achievement, and can take into account the student’s involvement in the arts, athletics, or community service. Most schools require students to submit a personal essay demonstrating why they should receive the award.Students applying to academic scholarships may also be required to submit transcripts, report cards, samples of academic work, and entrance exam results. Students applying to arts or athletics scholarships may be required to complete an audition or try-out.
Tuition Payment Plans and Discounts
Many schools offer tuition payment plans to spread the cost of tuition over the year. Families may pay tuition in several instalments over the school year rather than one lump sum. Often, schools offer further tuition discounts for families with multiple children attending the school, or families with parents who volunteer or work at the school.
Other Funding Options
Families should research external foundations, charitable organizations, and religious groups in their communities that may offer tuition aid based on financial need. In Ontario and Alberta, families may apply to the Children First School Choice Trust, a privately-funded program provided by the Fraser Institute. This program offers up to $4,000 yearly to lower income families sending children to private elementary schools.
There are numerous tax benefits available to families with children in private school. A portion of private school fees for children under 16 may be deducted as a child care expense, based on the portion of the school day devoted to child care supervision (such as lunch hours and recess) rather than academic instruction. Faith-based schools or schools that teach religion and are registered as charitable organizations may be able to issue tax receipts to be claimed as a charitable donation tax credit. Finally, tuition for a Special Needs school may be eligible for a medical expense tax credit if a doctor certifies that the facilities, equipment, or personnel are required for the student’s mental or physical needs.