Case Studies: How other families made private school work

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The truth is that private school fees are a hurdle—preventing many Canadian parents from sending their children to the school that will enrich them the most. Tuition can range between $5 000 and $65 000 per year, and some programs require additional payments as well. Because of this, private schools have acquired an elitist and inaccessible image, one that is very far from the truth. In fact, 45% of private school students come from middle-income families. And with financial resources expanding both in government programs and within schools themselves, enrolment continues to climb. The private school student population is continually increasing in diversity, incorporating children from across all economic backgrounds.

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At first, private school seemed impossible. But with some sacrifice, dedication and resourcefulness, these families made it work for them.

Case Study

Name: Lori Tersigni

Income: Two working professionals

Children: Four children, ages eight to 17

Tuition costs: <$16,000

Her story: During the past 10 years, the couple have structured their lives and made choices to allow them to cover the tuition costs of sending their children to the Toronto Waldorf School. “We don’t take vacations. We drive second-hand cars and manage our household budget very frugally,” Tersigni says. “Giving our children this wonderful opportunity is priority number one. I would sell my house before I’d change schools.”

For the first time last year, Tersigni applied to the school for financial support to help cover the tuition fees. “Having two children in high school and two children in lower school was more than we could manage,” Tersigni says. “The school encouraged us to apply for the support. They said it was about broadening opportunities and keeping the school accessible for families with a range of incomes.”

That support decreased the family’s total tuition costs by 20 percent during the last academic year.

Case Study

Name: Rowena McDougall

Income: Two working professionals

Children: Two boys, 10 years and 8 years; One girl, 6 years

Tuition costs: $24,000

Her story: When her kids were 10, 8, and 6 years old, Rowena decided to go back to work. There was no financial need, she merely wanted to fulfill her own personal goals. With the extra income, she and her husband decided to put their dreams of a bigger house aside and invest it in their children’s future. Since then, Rowena and her husband are happy with their choice. "What we were buying was an insurance policy in the form of training. It was a relief when the boys came back from university and told us that what they encountered was no more difficult than anything they tackled at Crescent," she said.

Case Study

Name: Susan Blayney

Income: Single working professional, with child support payments

Children: One girl

Tuition costs: $14,500

Her story: Single-mother Susan decided to send her daughter Brigitte to an all-girls private school, so even though she received regular child support payments from her ex-husband, the annual tuition was solely her responsibility. When Brigitte started at Linden School in Grade 3, tuition was $6,000, only $2,000 more than Susan’s daycare costs. A teacher’s strike loomed in the public system, so to avoid that Brigitte entered private school and Susan began to take in foreign-student borders to supplement her income. When renters were hard to come by, she applied to Linden for a bursary. She received $4,000 on her initial application, and subsequently received a smaller grant as her income rose. Susan sold her house and bought another with a friend, lowering her mortgage and house expenses, and since 1998 she has worked a part-time job in addition to her 9 to 5 position as a nurse counselor. She maintains Linden was crucial for Brigitte’s development as a strong, confident woman.

—Caroline Maga, Maureen Murray
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