Financing an independent school education may seem unattainable, but affording private school can actually be within reach. While the cost of private school is an important commitment for families, it is the aim of many academic institutions to work with families to make an independent school education possible.
"[Private school] is a serious investment for a family. But to have our child surrounded by other students who are there to learn from teachers who are invested in how well my son does in and out of the classroom has been a true blessing. The evidence of [schools like] MPCS being 'worth it' is in the relationships he has built, the spiritual growth he has experienced, and the bright academic future that college will give him."
—David Epps, Parent
AN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL EDUCATION IS WITHIN REACH
The first step families should take when considering a private school is to do some research. (Be sure to check out WingTips for insight into how to choose the best private school for your family.) While there are indeed fees associated with a private school education,* the costs vary greatly from school to school. Here are some things to consider:
1. Check the cost of tuition. What exactly is included in the listed tuition rate? Parents should do their research regarding “pop-up fees”—dance tickets, club dues, uniforms, athletic fees, etc.—for any school they are considering. This is a valuable part of financial planning and should include a conversation with the school.
The value of an independent school education and experience will at times include some of these additional fees within tuition rates. For example, at Mount Paran Christian School, the cost of a full-service catered lunch, school supplies, some textbooks, yearbooks, computer devices, and activity fees for many field trips are already included in tuition. These are typically out-of-pocket expenses for families in most schools. Many schools like MPCS attempt to include the vast majority of fees within tuition to minimize additional and unexpected costs later in the year.
2. Tuition may be lower than you think. For example, the preschool tuition at MPCS is sometimes less or comparable to the cost of many day care preschool programs. The preschool at MPCS offers a balanced, educationally-sound, play-based curriculum that prepares students for kindergarten at a readiness level which far exceeds other church or day care programs.
3. You may save on some costs. Optional fees at a private school can include early or late-care or extracurricular programs and athletics activities in a one-stop shop. When comparing costs, it may be more beneficial to take advantage of the offerings from an independent school. It is also certainly convenient to have everything offered in one place instead of spending time (and gas dollars) driving through traffic across town to get to early care, dance, music lessons, or after-school sports practices.
4. Explore all the schooling options available. Some private schools offer multiple learning modes that may better suit the pocketbook while still offering access to an independent school education. At MPCS, one such option is the homeschool hybrid program for students in kindergarten and first grade. Schools may also offer online course options at a reduced tuition rate, which can be great for students with exceptionally busy schedules, such as athletes or young actors who travel.
"The community of our school is the greatest benefit of our investment. There is a sense of belonging within the arts, academic, and athletic communities. Because of this, my daughter has had more opportunity to develop her leadership skills, take part in many after-school clubs and activities that have helped her grow into the smart, talented, and accomplished young lady she is now."
—Michelle Abel, MPCS Parent
MAKING AN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL EDUCATION POSSIBLE
While financing an independent school education is a significant commitment for families, schools are dedicated to making such an education possible. Schools allocate institutional funds and donor contributions toward assistance for families with financial need. Julie Ray, chief financial officer at Mount Paran Christian School, shares that a private school education is an important consideration and worth the financial commitment: “Investing in independent education means your child is not lost in a sea of 4,000 students. He or she will be more than a number—your child will be known. Students in smaller school settings have better opportunities to make a sports team or join a performing arts cast. They have focused attention from teachers and coaches to develop skills to support their success.” Here are some steps families can take to plan for affording a private school education:
5. Create a budget. Families should prioritize monthly spending to see how private school tuition fits within the budget. Keep in mind that most schools offer payment plans to help parents budget for the cost of tuition. The full tuition is typically not due in one lump payment, though there are often discounts if paid in one-payment. Some schools even offer discounts for siblings. Families should also consider exploring school savings plans, such as 529 plans, which can be used for paying for private school with tax benefits.
"Our son has been afforded a well-rounded and challenging curriculum that has truly prepared him for college and beyond. MPCS has demonstrated excellence in every aspect of our experience. The teachers are highly-qualified and diligent in preparing students for the next level. We have never questioned whether it was worth the investment. Everything is first class, and we have had a great experience!"
—Morrow LaVon, Parent
6. Apply for financial assistance. Programs such as school-allocated aid, the Georgia GOAL scholarship program, and the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship also assist families in affording tuition. Typically, tuition only covers 90-percent of the cost of attendance—this keeps costs as affordable as possible for as many families as possible. The difference is made up through a school’s annual fund. For instance, MPCS’ financial assistance is based on need, with 25-percent of the school’s Annual Fund supporting financial aid. Cindy Gibbs, director of the MPCS Annual Fund, shares, “Every student at MPCS benefits from the Annual Fund: small classes, exemplary teachers, resources many public schools cannot offer, exceptional offerings in exploratory subjects, more personal attention with individualized student learning, all within an unapologetically Christian environment. Paying tuition gives students access to all of this, and charitable gifts help to sustain and expand the mission of the school. Giving to the Annual Fund also helps keep tuition as low as possible for all families.”
In many states, schools utilize governmental Education Expense Credits to aid in school choice for parents. MPCS works specifically with the Georgia GOAL Student Scholarship Organization to provide an opportunity for students who are transferring from a Georgia public school or homeschool program or who are entering kindergarten. The Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program is a state tax credit program. Since its inception, MPCS has been able to provide a Christ-centered education to more than 270 students who may not have been able to attend otherwise. On average each year, 70 students attend as a result of the GOAL program.
“The Georgia GOAL program has been a blessing to our family. It has given us the opportunity to have our daughter learn in a Christ-centered environment. As a result, she is growing to be a kind, loving, considerate, and compassionate young lady whom we love and admire. She is striving to be the best she can be and is maintaining a 4.0 GPA. We feel very blessed. Thank you!”
—A Grateful GOAL Parent
Finally, the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship provides eligible students with the opportunity to attend private school. MPCS is able to offer support to some students with mild learning differences in the areas of reading, math, and language arts. The Georgia Department of Education outlines specific criteria at the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship site.
7. Consider additional sources of income. Some families find that dual incomes or multiple forms of employment may be necessary to afford a private school education, but they know it is worth it. MPCS alumnus and current Seattle Mariners MLB player Taylor Trammell ‘16 shared in an interview that his parents’ commitment to his MPCS education left a strong impression: “I've always had the edge that I want to be the best. My dad served nine years in the Navy and then has worked for the Post Office for 20 years. He wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every morning. My mom worked for Sam's Club for 21 years, and she worked at my school as a marketer while I was in high school and cleaned a dentist's building - worked two jobs. My brother and I went to private school in high school and that's not cheap. They worked their tails off to put me and my brother in the best situations we're in now. They put themselves on the back burner so we could shine.”
FINANCIAL PLANNING IS WORTH IT
Ultimately, parents of students enrolled in private schools will attest that the financial sacrifice is worth it. One grateful parent shared, “Having our son be able to attend Mount Paran has given him the opportunity to a superior high school experience with access to the best staff and programs in the state. It has also given him the chance to be educated in his faith and allowed him to grow extensively.”
Assistant Head of School for Christian Life Steve Kyle says, “I always think it important to encourage families to look at the long term spiritual impact of NOT having your children in a private Christian school. All the data supports that Christian school graduates are far more likely to remain faithful to their faith, read their Bible, attend church services, etc. All important variables when considering the cost. The sacrifice is worth it.”
"We committed to MPCS for our children after an in-depth search of area schools, both public and private. We felt strongly that, in addition to solid academics, we wanted the school environment, teachers, and administration to reinforce what we were teaching at home. The Christian-focused environment and expectations, combined with small class sizes and many academic opportunities, have provided a great education and foundation for our child's success."
—Kelly Barton, Parent
For more information about the MPCS experience and why the school could be a great fit for your family too, click here.
*A private school refers to any learning institution that does not receive public funding from its state government. Independent schools are private schools that are overseen by a board of governors or trustees. Although these two terms are similar, schools that fall into either or both categories are not all the same. (from ectutoring.com) Private schools have autonomy in designing curriculum and may be either religious or secular in nature. For more about why parents choose an independent school for their children’s education, read the WingTips blog.
Amber Irizarry is the Communications Content Specialist at Mount Paran Christian School. She earned a Master's degree in Communications from Georgia State University and a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of North Georgia.