Nearly half of the students enrolled in private and independent schools in Canada are from middle-income families. Affordability is often one of the considerations that comes up during the planning and initial search stage.
Tuition varies greatly in Canada depending on many factors, including location, academic program, staffing ratios, facilities and amenities. There are small private and independent schools that cost less than $4,000 a year and boarding schools that peak in the $40,000 range, with many choices in between. Use the advanced search to find schools wihtin your budget
Some schools provide various forms of financial assistance and school administrators repeatedly stress that parents should not be afraid to inquire about available monetary support. A school's ability to provide financial aid will depend on many things, including its fundraising capacity and the size of its endowment.
Read stories from families who have made the private school choice and how they have worked it into their budget here.
What schools can offer parents
- Some established schools are offering a greater percentage of financial aid to meet the needs of a more diverse socioeconomic background of students.
- Schools seeking the best and the brightest will offer financial support to students who excel in academics, the arts or athletics.
- Some schools offer payment plans or sibling discounts.
Advice on paying for private school
- Start planning and, if possible, saving when your child is young
- It will likely be a commitment of at least several years; look beyond the first year's tuition
- Consider your priorities. Choices and sacrifices sometimes have to be made. Perhaps it may mean fewer vacations abroad or waiting a few more years to purchase a new car.
- Talk to your accountant or financial planner to help evaluate what you can afford
- Consider asking extended family, like grandparents or aunts and uncles, for assistance
- Take into account what is included and excluded in tuition. There may be additional expenses, but there may also be offsetting expenses in areas such as onsite childcare, a lunch program, transportation or extracurricular activities. For example, there are savings in childcare costs, at some preschools and daycares in Canada. To learn more, read our guide to preschool costs.
- An education is an investment in your children
Private School Scholarships and Bursaries
Many independent schools offer some financial help. Schools usually rely on an independent firm to assess a family's financial circumstances. If you are applying for a bursary, be prepared to provide a range of personal financial information. Schools set their own policy and guidelines to determine how bursaries are granted; no single benchmark guarantees a set amount of money. A school's ability to provide financial aid will depend on many factors, including its fundraising capacity and the size of its endowment. At some schools, 30 percent of the students are receiving aid based on need or merit. Don't be afraid to ask about bursaries if your family requires financial support.
Children First: School Choice Trust Grants provides funding worth 50 per cent of tuition to a maximum of $4,000 for families with financial need, who wish to enrol their child in a private or independent elementary school in Ontario and Alberta. About 450 new grants were awarded for the 2006-07 school year and grants were renewed for over 800 families already in the program. Tuition assistance is available from Kindergarten through Grade 8.
In both provinces, parents choose the school. Children First, which is administered by The Fraser Institute, received about 7,300 applications for this school year. Applications are usually accepted beginning in January.
Visit www.childrenfirstgrants.ca to learn more about the Children First: School Choice Trust.
The March 2007 federal budget made scholarships and bursaries to attend private elementary or secondary schools income tax exempt. Students may now take full advantage of opportunities to attend schools of their choice, which for some, even with full scholarships, due to the tax implications, effectively priced acceptance out of their reach. The new regulations open doors and present a wider range of options for families.