I'm a lucky parent who had a very smart young student who wanted to pursue his education at a private high school.
At first, the initial $15,000 annual cost was frightening, especially for a family living on a tight budget due to the serious health complications of one parent.
But he wanted to go, and it was an excellent school. Luckily, sending him was worth it and more affordable than I realized. In many ways, it either saved us money or provided the potential for him to earn more in the future than he would have otherwise had.
Here’s how my son benefited from going to private school and how we were able to eliminate some of the money stress.
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There were scholarships available
The first relief was that there were some financial resources available to help qualified families lower their out-of-pocket costs for tuition to the school.
Because my husband’s health had deteriorated to the point of him not being able to work, we ended up qualifying for that financial support.
The cost was far from free like going to the public school in town would have been. Yet, it was far closer to meeting the needs of our budget.
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Our community covered transportation costs
The school my son wanted to attend was a full 35 minutes from our home. The thought of driving wasn’t great, but we decided we would do it.
What we initially didn’t know is that the school district is obligated to provide funding to pay for transportation to the student’s school. We pay taxes for transportation, after all. This helped cover an indirect cost that we would have otherwise had on our own.
He had access to outstanding educational programs
The high school he attended offered key opportunities for my son, including access to the International Baccalaureate program (IB diploma program) along with advanced placement programs and gifted programs.
While there were some advanced placement programs available at public schools, there weren't many. More than getting straight A’s, which he was getting in public school, I wanted him challenged and taught beyond what the educational system approved.
Going to a school that offered these programs was actually more affordable than it would have been to challenge him intellectually in other ways, such as paying for extra classes.
Smaller classes sizes meant more hands-on help
There were some tough classes and midterms at the public school for my daughter, but getting in to see a tutor and working with an off-site professional was hard to do and expensive if I had to pay out-of-pocket.
At my son’s private school, the smaller class sizes meant he got more hands-on support from his teachers that I didn’t have to pay for. They knew him better and provided a higher level of support. I didn’t have to pay for the help he needed to excel.
He had hands-on counselors to help him prepare for college
One of the ways my son benefited the most from going to private school was that he was able to meet with a counselor who worked with him weekly on his goals.
They helped him not only get educationally prepared but also helped him prepare financially and find ways to lower the potential cost.
By comparison, my daughter, who went to the local public school, had very little help with college decisions and planning until her senior year. Even then, they didn’t put the time in to help her find scholarships or learn about opportunities.
A prestigious college accepted him based on where he went to high school
He applied to numerous colleges and was accepted to plenty. Yet, he had his sights set on a school that may not have been as easily accessible as others.
When meeting with his high school college planning counselor, she let us know that he had very good odds at that school because the college had good success with students from the high school in the past.
Colleges want to choose students who are going to stick around for four full years. Since this college had solid success in that area with well-performing students, they were more likely to consider his application. This helped his future earning potential quite a bit.
His college gave him money based on where he went to high school
The college he went to offered him a scholarship to reduce his costs significantly based, at least in part, on where he went to high school. The scholarship was funded for the specific reason of supporting students that have gone to school.
The direct result of this is that my son isn’t going to end up with any college debt. His education is paid for, though not fully, through his scholarships. This wouldn’t have been possible if he went to a public high school.
He had fantastic teachers
Some of the teachers at the private school were highly experienced in their fields, one of which was a former judge. He managed to work with some of the best coaches in the high school arena too.
That may not translate into direct educational savings, but having quality teachers certainly helped him do better, and it would have cost a lot of money to get access to people with those credentials if he went to a different school.
Safety matters, too
During his high school years, there were far too many shootings and scares. While this can happen anywhere, it gave me peace of mind that the school already had in place a strong security system and a closed campus. That was unlike our local high school.
There’s something to say for peace of mind in this troubled world. Having a school offering a more secure educational environment, especially further from home, was valuable to us and we didn’t have to pay anything to feel more comfortable with his safety.
Exceptional networking opportunities
Here’s another hard-to-realize benefit of going to a private school. If you’re an alumnus, you have an instant network of people to support you later in life. That means finding a well-paying summer job in the field you want to be in is an option.
For example, high school students were able to work in law offices during the summer months doing menial tasks but getting the experience they would need to work in the field. This also created a strong network for years to come when looking for a job out of college.
The football players got the support they needed
To be on the football team, you had to do well and meet educational goals. Yet, unlike some schools, there wasn’t a “helping hand” behind the scenes if a student was struggling.
Instead, they got more help and encouragement from their coaches. The coaches supported education first, and that often led to many students performing well academically and on the field.
More attention to athletic scholarships
A noted high school in our area with a huge state championship reputation is a good thing for some students. While it didn’t apply to my son, many of his friends got more recognition from college sports teams than they would have if the student went to a public school.
The players perform better with better coaching and support. That puts them directly in the spotlight, and for many students from inner city areas that barely could put together a team, this was critical in getting scholarships to college they otherwise wouldn't have had.
Grants were available
It’s often the thought of parents that “I could never afford that.” In some cases, that’s a reality, but in other situations, grants and programs are available to help offset the cost.
For my son, savings came from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (he went to a private Catholic high school). While we paid his tuition, there were some students who were able to pay nothing for the same education thanks to available grants.
He learned team building and built strong relationships
While it may be hard to put a value on this benefit, my son’s school provided him with a wide range of opportunities to develop relationships not just with other students but with teachers and coaches.
They taught on a more personal basis and had the opportunity to reflect on a student’s individual needs, which benefited my son many times over his education.
Just having someone available to help guide him through difficult, I-don’t-want-my-mom’s-help moments was a nice benefit. Plus, those are skills that will provide a huge financial reward for years to come.
It was the best environment for him
The cost of private education isn’t easy to cover, but for my son, there was true value in this environment.
He would easily have gotten lost in the shuffle at a big high school in our community, but here, he had a more positive environment, more individual attention, and the ability to flourish academically no matter what he decided to pursue.
For us, that was worth the cost. However, it also gave him the best opportunity to excel and be the best version of himself which is a value that will pay off for the rest of his life.
If you see value in sending your child to a private school — especially if you don't feel that public school is right for them — reach out directly to the school. Ask them about financial aid, grants, scholarships, and other assistance programs.
Don’t assume you can’t afford for your child to get into these programs for a better quality education without spending a pretty penny. There are plenty of ways to get the benefit of private school while keeping more money in your bank account.
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