How to Prepare for the Price of Private

With more than a handful of private schools scattered throughout the Preston Hollow and North Texas area, the educational options for families are endless. But while parents might prefer a private education because of programs offered or religious preferences, one look at the bill could change everything.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics most recent records, the national tuition average in independent schools for the 2011-12 school year at the elementary level was $7,770, and the secondary level was $13,030.

According to school websites, the average tuition for schools in North Texas at the elementary level will be $20,566, and secondary level will be $23,915 for the 2016-17 school year.

There’s no denying tuition is expensive, and it only adds up the longer a child is in school. At those rates, the average cost is more than $300,000 for families who send their child to private school kindergarten through senior year. That’s more than sending a student to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, for a four-year undergraduate degree, with room and board.

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Some families may choose to wait until high school to enter the private school realm. While that can save considerable dollars, the average cost can still be more than $95,000; more than four years of in-state tuition plus room and board at the University of Texas at Austin.

Despite the cost, there are many reasons parents may choose private school. According to Head of School at Alcuin School Walter Sorensen, shopping around is a crucial part of discovering which school has the best program in which their child will thrive.

“While [private schools] adhere to rigorous accreditation standards, they have the freedom to develop their own curriculum, allowing for variety and creativity in teaching, course content, and the ability to tailor and accelerate classes according to the needs of the students,” said Sarah Markhovsky, director of admission at the Greenhill School.

For many families, education for their children is an optional financial expenditure. Others may find it necessary to meet their child’s learning or physical needs, sending them to institutions such as the Winston or Shelton schools.

A factor enrolling families should consider is the inflation of tuition as the child advances through the grades, along with regular increases in overall tuition.
“As the cost of living increases, [tuition] typically increases,” said Tommy McBride, a wealth management advisor with Merrill Lynch. “If you’re barely able to get into kindergarten with your first child, you need to reevaluate.”

Many schools offer financial aid so as not to prohibit deserving students from the education they want. Some institutions also offer payment plans for families who need to spread out costs over the course of the school year, though the payments due can incur interest.

“Financial aid programs are designed to match the financial needs of families with the resources of a particular school,” said David Baker, director of admission and financial aid at St. Mark’s.

But according to Markhovksy, many require lump sum tuition payments at the beginning of the school yearly, shortly after acceptances are given out. Third-party tuition loan programs and repay loans are another method families can use to make payments on time.

In addition to advanced saving and preparation, the added costs of extracurricular activities, textbooks, and uniforms can’t go ignored.

“How much families are willing to pay typically depends on the value they place on the education that private schools provide,” Baker said. “Careful budgeting is important for families who choose to send their children to private school.”

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