Parents of children attending a private school may require financial aid to fund their children's education. When you are paying at least $5000 for private school tuition or up to $40,000 for boarding school, you should look into all your options. Banks are willing to offer personal loans or credit extensions but going to the bank does not have to be parents' first choice.
Many schools will offer financial aid to parents that may come in the form of a loan or it may be straight tuition relief - tuition reduction that comes from a fund set up for just that reason. If you have already applied to a private school and are just now looking for financial aid, you should know about one important book on the subject: Laurie Blum's Free Money for Private Schools.
Does the government fund private and independent schools in Canada?
Financial support for private and independent schools in Canada is available by province. In Canada's four western provinces and Quebec the respective provincial governments partially fund the operating costs of independent schools, while in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces there is no public funding for independent schools. No province in Canada provides capital funding for private or independent schools (source: Measuring Choice and Competition in Canadian Education, the Fraser Institute, February 27, 2014).
Types of private school financial aid
For a typical private or independent school, financial aid and tuition assistance comes in one of three forms:
need-based financial aid
merit awards (scholarships)
tuition relief programs
Tuition payment plans might also be considered a form of financial aid although they usually only cover the year that your child is in school. There are other tax breaks available to parents who send their children to private schools. Some provinces allow parents to claim part of their private school tuition as a charitable donation (This is only fair as private school parents pay municipal taxes that support public schools).
As you look at private schools, a deep look at how the financial aid process works will make private education a real possibility for your child.
Researching Private Schools and Financial Aid
Begin researching bursaries early by visiting independent and private school websites. Parents may also call a school to ask specific questions about the potential financial aid they may qualify for. At many schools there is an application fee for applying for a bursary, a cost that could cost up to $65, so families will want to know whether they stand a chance of receiving aid to minimize their expenses.
Get organized first
Financial aid applications are very thorough, and you will need to have an organized and comprehensive record of your finances to apply. Applications for financial aid will often ask you to detail family income, real estate assets, mortgages, vehicles, investments (including RRSPs), liabilities, expenses and even information about child support received. Many schools use a third-party service such as
Financial Aid for Canadian Students (FACS) to collect, analyze and recommend candidates for financial aid.
Be realistic about your own finances
Bursaries are traditionally meant to supplement your families' contribution. Some private schools are able to cover full tuition, but many will offer up to half of tuition costs for those who qualify. Most schools have a committee that will meet and decide how to distribute the financial aid allocated for that academic year among current and new students that are eligible and apply for bursaries.
Acceptance by aid programs
Students are accepted to private schools based on their own merit, whether they are a fit with the school and meet the academic or extracurricular criteria. Applying for financial aid will not help or hamper a student's chances of being accepted. But, once accepted, families will still have to pay the necessary tuition, whether it is in full or through the aid of bursaries.
Financial aid can come in many different forms so use your imagination and have some trust in the process. Financial aid resources are numerous. To add one more example, parents in Ontario and Alberta can tap into Children First, a program provided by the Fraser Institute.
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