Financial Aid for Private K-12 Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Private School Financial Aid

    (4 replies)

    Hi Alll,

    This may be a silly question, but felt worth asking.  Is private school financial aid based solely on income?  If our income is somewhat large, but our debt and other obligations are also quite large, will that offer any help or increase receiving financial aid, or it's unlikely?

    Thanks for any help!

    Schools each use their own formulas, but almost all factor in debt, costs of care for other children or parents, and other financial obligations. It's definitely not just a snapshot of income, but it does factor in things like home equity, savings, etc. as well. It is always worth applying to see.

    After one round of applying and not receiving financial aid at a local K-8 private school, I think they look at the entire household financial picture including savings, debt, and income. The committee can and will also consider intangible factors such as what your family brings to the school in terms of volunteer strengths or underrepresented groups. Each school no doubt has their own additional factors which they may use and I'm sure the admissions staff can provide more information unique to their school.

    They take everything into consideration. If you need the help, you should apply. 

    They look at the whole picture but many school limit how much "luxury spending" they allow one to offset their income and assets by. So for example a high earner with high mortgage due to a luxury house would not get to count all of the high mortgage against the earnings, while a high earner living in expensive local area would allow to offset more for the mortgage amount since the house is average for the local area and not a luxury.  I have friends who did not qualify despite living paycheck to paycheck because they had a work from home spouse and so the school attributed income to the non-working spouse (I was told it is the cause since having stay at home spouse is a luxury and it evens out with the families with two working spouses who have to pay childcare).  So overall most financial officers look at various factors, though what they focus on vary by the school. 

  • I'm starting the process of looking into Kindergarten for my child and am wondering if I should even bother trying to get into one of the private schools or would they laugh me out of town?  I don't want to get my hopes up and spend energy on the application process if I don't quality at all.  Do I need to be below the poverty line in order to get financial aid?  How much is too much in this area?  


    • We are a household of two:  1 parent, 1 child
    • The father has passed away, no financial contribution 
    • 105K gross annual income  
    • I am homeowner if that matters

    Thanks for any insight. 

    I think that since you're a single parent you have a good shot at receiving some financial aid. How much depends on a wide variety of things: how much financial aid you can receive (% of tuition which varies based on the school), the financial state of all the other kids that apply for financial aid (schools only have a set amount of aid to give each year), how big your loans (if any) are etc. Being a homeowner could help or hurt you. When my wife and I filled out the SSS form (organization that determines how much you can afford and sends the info to the schools), we found out (much to our surprise) that they took into consideration how much we owed on our house vs the current market value. They counted that equity as possible income which didn't help us considering the boom in real estate these past few years.

    Absolutely go for it. We got financial aid for our daughter's preschool, even though I thought we wouldn't qualify. But a friend encouraged us – the worst they can say is 'no' – and we received $5k off the $24k annual tuition. Our income (2 parents, 1 kid) was roughly $140k gross at the time. The application process can be exhausting (they want to know evvverything) but very worth it in the end!

    You are well within the range for aid; definitely apply. The amount available varies school by school, but my guess is you will be offered reasonable aid most places you apply. Cast a wide net to see, though. Good luck!

    Each school's financial aid is different and every one's financial situation is different. In our case, we are dual income around $160k combined but also have some assets. We did not qualify for much the first round but we appealed the decision and received a much more generous package. I have a co worked who didn't get anything the first time around and she appealed and got financial to cover half of their tuitions. Good luck! 

    I work in Admissions at a local independent school and have some role in the tuition assistance process.

    Every school has their own aid criteria and budget - no two schools are alike in that way. Qualification for assistance doesn't necessarily mean that the school will have the resources to cover all of the need/requests for aid that they receive; typically larger schools have more tuition assistance resources, but it really does vary. With that said, I've worked at schools in different cities, and my gut is that you would qualify for assistance based on your circumstance.

    With regard to the process, many schools utilize an online tool that takes into account all of your assets, liabilities, the cost of living, and so forth. Through this tool, they can determine your available resources. In some cases, the form can be shared across a shared platform to several schools of your choosing (through FAST or SSS, etc) so you don't have to do it too many times. It is a fairly tedious process and you do have to give a good deal of financial information (I apply for assistance for my own family). However, finding the right school for your child is truly invaluable --- so I think it's time well spent. 

    Of course, we are also blessed with many wonderful public options in the East Bay too so hopefully it will all work out to your liking.

    Hope that helps!

    My circumstances are similar to yours and I get 72% financial aid at my child's school (meaning I pay 28% of tuition and most of the extra expenses). So, yes, definitely apply.

    You definitely should apply. The cost of living here is so high that a single working parent with a mortgage to pay should be offered something. Good luck! 

  • I am wondering if anyone can tell me what the term "financial aid" normally means in reference to private schools?  I am planning to apply for my kids for middle school.  If we get financial aid, will this be a loan, like a college loan, that we have to pay back? Or will it more likely be a discounted tuition? Or does it vary? Thank you! Mom in Oakland

    In my experience, financial aid from private schools is given as a tuition reduction. There would be no obligation to pay it back, and most schools keep the list of families receiving financial aid private. 

  • I'm working on the financial aid application for kindergarten and I have three questions. 

    1. I'm currently pregnant (due March 2017). Is the only place to address the costs associated with another child in the supplemental section at the end? Do I need to do all the associated calculations, for example, estimating the yearly cost and then adding that total to costs for my other children, and listing the total spent on tuition / daycare?

    2. How much detail do I have to go into about the instability of our income? For example, I'll be on unpaid maternity leave from April-June and then I don't get paid in the summer from my base salary (I'm in eduction). But, last summer I worked two jobs during summer to try and cover some of this. I won't be working those jobs this summer. My husband is a graduate student and is graduating in December. He doesn't have a job lined up yet. He could end up doing something low paying, like substitute teaching, or if he got a job at a tech firm could end up making a lot of money (say over 100K). But, we likely will have no idea where we stand in that regard when the application is due. 

    3. When estimating how much we can afford to pay towards tuition I assume they take into account that in addition to tuition there are expenses for before school and after school care. Since those are rarely subsidized, that would mean we would be able to afford less of the actual tuition. Is this a valid assumption? Do I need to be explicit about this in the application?

    Thanks for any help! 

    Hi, I'm also in your same boat of applying for financial aid for the first time. I'm not an expert but I have a couple friends with older children who have done this before and they were able to help me out. For your first question, when you fill out your expected costs for 2017 you will have to estimate the costs for the new baby. There's a comment section at the end where you can explain that you're pregnant etc. The same goes for the 2nd question. Estimate to the best of your ability but be sure to add in the comment section that your income in unstable and give reasons why (maternity leave, husband just graduating with no job etc). For your 3rd question, I'm not sure but I think it's true based on what my friends have told me. I would still add in the comment section that there are additional unknown costs (before/after school care, school breaks, extra fees the school charges for field trips etc). But from what I've been told the point of SSS is to make sure you can cover as much as possible without feeling uncomfortable or living on ramen noodles.

    I have filled out that SSS form every year for the last decade.  It is pretty limited in terms of being able to explain things, although I do believe you can input expenses related to other children so you should make sure those numbers get in there.  There is an additional comments section at the end but I don't know how much, if at all, they consider that.  My understanding is that SSS is just providing a service for the schools, that you pay for, so that the schools themselves do not have to pour over every applicant's finances.  SSS gives the school some raw numbers that the schools use for their information and as a guideline.  Ultimately it is up to the school how much they give you and that will depend on a lot of factors such as how much money they have to give, giving priority to existing families and how much has already been committed to them, the number of people applying for aid etc...  I would suggest writing a detailed letter to the admissions director explaining all of your issues and being honest about how much you can really afford.  This is what I did every year and I felt like for the most part they gave me what I was asking for.  After school care is always going to be extra so figure that in as a childcare expense on the SSS form.  Also, keep in mind that private school tuition increases about 3% EVERY SINGLE YEAR.  Over time that adds up, my child's tuition has increased about $1,000 every year so that I now pay about $10,000 more a year than when we started. Good luck!

    Ah, the SSS form. I don't have an answer about your first question, but there is a section at the end where you can write in detail more about your financial circumstances, and I would provide all the detail you have here. The more the better, IMO. If your husband does get a well-paying job later, you can inform the school so they can adjust the aid package and provide that support to another family in need. Besides not feeling guilty, you'd also gain their appreciation for your honesty and transparency!

    For aftercare, there's a section in the Monthly Income and Expense section (if your school requires that part) called Monthly Tuition/Childcare Expenses, and you would list before/after care expenses under Childcare (even for a kinder).

    Otherwise, reach out to your school financial aid office unless they explicitly say not to. I found the schools that we were applying to to be very helpful and willing, if busy at this time of year. The SSS form is not perfect, and they know that.

    Good luck!

    I can't say for sure what they do and don't look at, but we have received generous financial aid that I am pretty sure has to be taking into account my own chronic health issues and work instability. (I actually included loss of income due to time I couldn't work, which is something they prompt, I believe.)

    I would urge you to go in-depth and provide all of that information in the final section. (Though I agree with another commenter that extended care costs should be something that can be included in the main Expenses section).

  • Tehiyah for middle-income families?

    (2 replies)

    Hello out there! My husband and I make approximately $140-150k/year combined and have fallen in love with Tehiyah Jewish day school but not sure if we would even be considered for financial assistance. Sure, on paper we may appear financially capable of paying for their hefty tuition but sadly that's not our reality after taking all expenses (mortgage, bills, debt, etc.) into consideration. My husband is a little more pessimistic than I am and feels it wouldn't be worth our while even applying...feels we're nor here nor there on the eligibility list. I was hoping to hear quite the opposite from parents on here that may have received financial aid in the past or are familiar with their admissions process. And if so, what kind of help are we talking...20%? 50%? More? We are a non-jewish hispanic family (college-educated couple) - mostly driven by their excellence in academics and sense of community - who would be willing to have an active role in the school community. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

    Definitely apply! I don't have direct experience with Tehiya, but my son attends another independent school in the Bay Area and receives significant financial aid (we pay 28%, are also Latino, and have an income sort of in your range). We applied to four schools, and they all offered him the same "package". At $140-150K, I think it is totally possible to receive aid. We worked with a consultant, who told us he had worked with families with incomes in the 400K range getting at least some aid, because sometimes family finances are not as liquid as they seem. The only thing you know for sure is that if you don't apply, you won't get any. Simple. During the application process, the schools will tell you what percent of their students receive aid. If it's low, then maybe they don't have much to give, but if it's 50%, for example, they probably have a pretty healthy fund set aside for that. In my experience, the schools understand how expensive it is to live in the Bay Area and do not expect you to beg, borrow, and steal in order to send your child to private school. At my son's school, I think the families appreciate that there is a mix of kids, including more middle-income like yours. anyway, I think I'm getting off point... The point is, it costs very little to apply (although it is a huge pain in the butt), and you have nothing to lose. Oh, one last thing: if your child is in 4th grade or higher, I suggest you apply to A Better Chance. They are experts at this, and they will guide you through it all for free. Good luck!

    My grandchildren attend Tehiyah Day School and in my opinion (and I am a retired school teacher), it is (using your words) excellent in academics, offers a sense of community and is most welcoming. I think you should apply, discuss your finances, and I think you will find them open to compromise.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Do private high schools penalize financial aid applicants?

Oct 2013


Hello out there! Just wanted to know if anyone with recent experience can speak as to whether the independent high schools in our area (including San Francisco) will penalize an applicant if the family requests financial aid. I have heard conflicting information and want to know what is going on so that i can make the best choice for my child and pocket book. Thanks for your response! frugal parent

Independent high schools are now quite public about the fact that applying for financial aid can affect your likelihood of admission. Retention of students is important for these schools. My understanding is that they are less likely to accept students to whom they cannot provide the requested assistance because these students are less likely to be able to stay at the school. anon

The answer to your question is ''It depends''.

Having been through this process with several private schools, I can tell you that the response varies. Some schools have more money than others to distribute as aid. Some schools may have proportionally more applicants for the available funds.

The one common factor that will greatly increase a child's chance of attracting aid is if they are clearly identifiable as a ''diversity'' candidate - ALL of these schools are desperate to increase the diversity of their student bodies so they don't just look like another school full of affluent Anglos and Asians. If you child is clearly of a minority ethnic back-ground, or if you are a struggling ethnic parent/family, or you have some clear story of adversity to tell you may find they can be surprisingly generous with financial aid. If you're just another average family working hard to hold it together in the increasingly expensive Bay Area they probably won't offer much, if any, aid.

These schools are pretty slick at marketing themselves to parents, but private schools are businesses, and for that reason they are very hard-headed and logical when money is concerned.

I have nothing in priciple against private schools, some of them are very good (if you can afford them)- but go into this with your eyes open.

Best of luck. Applied to many Private Schools


Financial Aid for Child of Same Sex Parents

Dec 2012


Hi everyone, I'd greatly appreciate any advice you might have. My partner and I are in a same sex relationship. We are looking for a private school for daughter who's ready to be enrolled into Kindergarten next September. We are hoping to get some clarity around how to fill out the financial aid form. As only one of us can claim her as a dependent in the federal income tax return, do we report the same for school enrollment purpose? I do not wish to misrepresent that our daughter is in a single parent household but it is also a fact that our partnership is not recognized federally and only one of us gets to claim her a dependent. Any other couples gone through this process of enrolling your children into private schools and have some advice for us? Thank you in advance.

Our child has been in private schools for 9 years and we are two Dads. You must report the income of both parents. The federal government is not fair, you are right. But it is a good idea to be fair to the school and other families that are applying. Financial aid is needs based. If you have two incomes then you need to report them so the committee can make an intelligent decision about which families are in need of financial assistance. Two Dads

We were in the same situation last year and, while the process of applying for financial aid made us also feel the unfairness of federal tax laws for same sex couples because we do not get all the same rights, the financial aid forms require that you report the incomes and submit tax documents of ''both parents with financial responsibility.'' Each school has a form that you fill out and you also go through a standardized application. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but it is what you will have to do. You are entering a school community that should not pay for our federal inequities. I understand the unfairness, but please don't make your child's local school pay for that. You will be a known family and even if you chose for some reason to indicate only one parent, do you really want this to be how you finance your child's education? Do you really want to hide one of you as parents from school activities because supposedly your child is being raised by one parent? don't stoop to the feds level


How much financial aid are we likely to receive?

Oct 2012


Hello, I am curious about how private schools give financial aid. Our family is low income, and I've been told by other families that we would surely receive financial aid, but how much? At my son's preschool we receive 25%, their max. It is doable but only because the school cost around $9000 for the year. It seems most grade schools cost closer to $15,000-$20,000! Let's just say, 25% off on one of those price tags is NOT doable. What are other people's experiences? Has anyone received more than that, say closer to 50% financial aid? We are a minority family; does that matter? Is Private School Possible

We are a low-income family and receive 80% financial aid at a well-regarded private school that my child loves (and so do we). My child also receives an outside grant (from The Basic Fund) for the maximum amount of $1,600., so in all we pay about $2,000/year in tuition.

We had applied to some other private schools and in one case were offered a much smaller financial aid award, in another case a similar award to what we have now--but this was the school that we liked the best and seemed to be the best fit for our son. We are so full of gratitude for the support the school has shown us and their commitment to our child.

My advice is: apply to schools that you really like, apply for aid, and see what happens. It's hard work, so get ready. Have a public school option as a back-up. Look into private grants that are available to families in the Bay Area--there are others besides The Basic Fund. Good luck! Anonymous


Income is 100k - can we get financial aid?

Sept 2012


Hi BPNers,

I'm hoping that families out there who have gotten financial aid for private schools will share their experiences. Our income is 100k before taxes, we pay a mortgage, student loans, and our own health care. We are able to pay our daughter's part time preschool expenses, but it isn't comfortable. Once our daughter is in kindergarten, we will also have preschool expenses coming up for the next two.

So, my question is... are we likely to get any financial aid at all if we were to apply to private schools when she enters kindergarten? I am sort of bewildered by the process, especially the idea of applying to multiple schools only to find out that it is completely out of reach. Some people I've spoken to make it sound as if we would be in the running for aid, and some have said the very opposite. We don't have our hearts set on the private school option, but would like to explore it if possible. confused

This isn't exactly answering the question you've asked but I want to tell you as a parent who sent my only child to private school from K-12 (and just sent her off to college) that I feel like I wasted a lot of money unnecessarily. If I knew then what I know now I would never have paid for private school for the lower school years. I would have moved her to private school at middle school (or possibly even waited until high school). Something to consider, if your public grade school is adequate -- especially since you have 3 kids, and money is an issue. Wish I'd Considered Public

From what I have seen, each student will have unique opportunities for financial aid at each private school. Many schools use SSS (School and Student Services) to determine the amount of aid that you will need -- and it takes into account the amount that you will need to budget for all of your children. You can fill out the SSS application without sending it to schools to get some sense of your situation. However, each school has to fund the financial aid, and some schools have more money to fund financial aid than others. Go on the tours and decide which schools are the best fit for your child. If there is a school that you think would be an amazing match, let the admissions office know how interested you are! If a school really feels like your child is a good fit, they will definitely try to give you the financial aid that you need. Been through the SSS process

Please apply. You will never know until you apply. Many people think they make too much to apply for financial aid for private schools. My child was accepted to a private school, I applied for financial aid thinking that I might not qualify, and I got the aid without question. It really was just that easy. Fill out the paper work and apply to find out. Don't waste your time asking others to guess whether you will receive it or not. It may only discourage you. go for it!

I noted that most replies said, essentially: go for it, you never know till you try. But it's really not that simple. My understanding is that the vast majority of private K-12 schools are NOT ''need-blind'' (some private high schools are, elementary probably never). Admissions officers will take into account whether students are applying for financial aid in making admissions decisions. If funds are limited, as they always are, especially these days, families applying for aid who would otherwise be admitted or waitlisted will be rejected. (If you read the fine print on most school's financial aid documents, they will say that you cannot apply for financial aid at any time other than when you apply for admission UNLESS you can show a major change of circumstances in the meantime...presumably this is to prevent families from ''sneaking in'' as full-pay and then later applying for the aid that they'll need going forward.)

My vague sense from gossip, honestly, is that with most independent schools, financial aid is reserved for families that meet a certain profile...distinctly needy families who will add very visible diversity to the school. If you're on the cusp (maybe you could pay the tuition, but at the expense of retirement savings or maintaining a rainy day fund), you're probably not within that profile.

I could be wrong, and I'd love to hear from someone with true inside knowledge of this sort of thing. But among many private school parents, this is the word on the can go ahead and just try applying, but you may be taking a big gamble on your kid's chances of getting in. For all their cuddly rhetoric, most private schools are well-oiled money machines. Wish I were wrong

We have a higher income level than what you mentioned, and recently received 2/3 financial aid for our child to attend a private school. We were very concerned that we wouldn't fall in to the right income level for aid, but talking to the school's admissions director helped. I also can let you know that at the school, it was needs-blind admission, because our child was accepted, but put on the waiting list for aid (and then received it). I would advise calling the admissions director at the school and asking if families at your income level receive financial aid. Good luck! Another parent


Could financial aid be taken away after a year?

Feb 2012


Hi, We are potentially facing a transition from public school to private school and find that the financial aid process is not as transparent as we would like. What we need to know from people with experience is, (assuming your financial situation is the same year over year) does a school's financial aid offer duing year #1 hold steady though-out the 4 high school years or is each year different?

In other words, can a school entice you with an attractive package in year 1 and then take the aide away in subsequent years knowing that you are emotionally invested through your child and may find a way to pay more out of pocket in tuition fees? We don't want to get caught in this. It feels like bait- and-switch. Has anyone experienced this? thanks to all anon

My experience of three years of private high school indicates the opposite of what you fear. As I learned when denied financial aid at one school, schools fulfill the needs of their continuing students before offering it to new ones. Our school has more than maintained the financial aid for my student. Consider me Grateful

Most private schools do the following:
- they require a financial id application through a 3rd party (cost usually around $35)
- the third party indicates to the school what your numbers are and sometimes makes a reommednation . Rather than say you should get $XX in scolarship, they said you can pay $XXX
- The school then takes it nder advisement.

Some schools have a financial aid fun they take out of to make up the difference and so the toal available affects what they give to each. Others simply feel it's best to take the student at a lower rate and simly assume a loss.

No matter what the third party says, the school has complete choice. We have gtten it twice because of my heavy involvment at the school.

A school absolutly cannot guarantee you anything for more than the year you are applying for and in my experience most dont play games. The numbers are really based on you, rather than the school.

As a parent who has requested these in 2 different schools and works in shool office i would see what the results are fo the first year. It will most likely not dastricly change unless your situation changes.


Would we be able to get financial aid?

May 2010


I have seen a few postings about financial aid for private schools, but none that address to our situation. Does anyone have experience or information that would help us assess our chances of getting financial aid at the French School in Berkeley? We have a family income of about 100k. We rent an apartment, have two kids, and no assets. We have no debts and no mortgage. Ours is a month to month situation with a little bit of saving. Can anyone give us an idea of what type of response to a request for financial aid we would receive? Anon

The only way you will know for sure how much you will get is to apply. My recollection is that you find out if you will receive aid and how much before you need to commit to attending in the event you are accepted. The school is ''competitively'' priced and, in my experience, does a great job with the financial aid end of things. It is a great school, in my opinion, and well worth some sacrifices. eb parent

Ecole Bilingue gives financial aid to parents who need it, and in your situation, you would probably need it. Tuition for many of the best private schools runs between 15K an 20K for elementary. By the time you are done, it could be quite a bit more, so with 2 kids you would definitely require aid.

If you are French national there is a program that you can apply to and possibly receive aid up to the full amount, I believe. For non-French families the aid comes from the school. I believe the maximum is somewhere around 50% of tuition. But the amounts varied from year to year, based on how many folks need aid, and the tuition that the folks who do not need aid generates. And it is not guaranteed each year. You have to reapply.

The application process begins early, as does the financial aid process. But do not be afraid to apply to the school and apply for aid, if that is where you want to send your child.

Note that for EB, they start young - the school has french immersion pre- kindergarden starting two years before. For many that is a good way to see if the school is a good fit, both financially and academically.

Also note that like most schools, the school asks for additional donations, which is almost a requirement. And there are capital funds required for first year students. So it is a commitment. Our children have and are still attending, and it is a significant financial, as well as academic challenge. But I think it is the best money we spend. Last year, our business was doing poorly, and we considered selling the house, as opposed to leaving the school. The bi-lingual nature of the school makes it very difficult to leave, because you know you can never really go back once you leave and fall behind on the French portion.

Good luck. anon


Can a middle class family get financial aid?

April 2010


I am curious to know what would be the financial assistance for a private middle school for a middle class family like ours. They say there is help for everybody, but would be great to know more, before applying. $1,000 off would not be a huge help... We are a typical Bay Area family, making about $150k's a year and are considering schools like Prospect Sierra, Windrush, etc... Can anyone give us a little more information? Thank you! Susan

We have had our children in the same private school, and would not have been able to afford even the first year without some help. When the economic downturn happened, we unfortunately needed more in order to make tuition and they gave it to us. Our first year we received $6K. There are some really wonderful private schools with good people who want your family to be there.

If your life, schedule allows for it, consider volunteering at the school (and mention your intentions in your letter). There is always a need for room parents, field trip drivers, auction committee volunteers, auction donations, etc.. That is how I have been able to give back to our beloved school when our finances could not. Most grateful

Hi Susan, many middle income families are confronted by the same financial challenges you are facing when considering an independent school education for their children. It's not possible for a school to determine how much assistance a family will qualify for without all the specific information about each family. Each family is so unique in its financial obligations. In thinking of a family in just your situation, Prospect Sierra is piloting a new Tuition Support Program. It is a simpler process that provides small grants to qualifying middle income families. Please visit our website to learn more about it. Lily Shih, Director of Admissions


Reducing School Tuition by Providing a Service?

Feb 2010


Has anyone successfully reduced their child's private school tuition by providing an ongoing and needed service that could not be effectively done by a volunteer parent committee? I am a full-time marketing and public relations person with a background in the development of planned giving programs for nonprofit organizations. Would love to hear about any successful strategies for presenting this option to a school in exchange for a reasonable reduction in annual tuition. Many thanks.

When my son was accepted to a private school, we got a good scholarship. My husband who is in non profit fundraising offered to become their consultant in that area and has been working a great deal with them. This happened b/c we felt we needed to give something back and not b/c we wanted to strike up a deal.

I don't think it happens in the way you describe it, that would stir up a lot of other issues. Get the scholarship first, then offer to help. anon


Should I bother applying if I need a full scholarship?

Nov 2009


Should I bother applying to some of the east bay independent schools if my financial situation would require close to a full scholarship? My contribution could be no more than $5,000 per year and that is really stretching it for me. I am on disability and have no outside support, unfortunately. I read an earlier post by someone that said her child was ultimately denied because the school would prefer to help out a couple of families instead of carrying a single student. Has anyone else had a similar experience? Are these schools really only for the wealthier people after all? -anon

Yes, private schools are by and large for high-income families. Even if your child is offered sufficient financial aid for the first year, tuition will rise every year, and your grant may not. Also, as your child gets older he/she will feel deprived when other children go on outings you can't afford, and have toys/clothes you can't afford.

What I saw at my child's pre-school, and with other friends we had with children that age, was that except for a few outliers the decision of public vs. private lined up very neatly with family income, whatever other reasoning entered into the decision. My suggestion is that you visit the public schools near you, and see how you feel about them when you are there. If none of them seem to work, then contact the private schools directly and find out what percentage of families in your demographic receive full financial aid packages. public school parent

Hello, Have you looked into Crestmont? It is a parent co-op and the cost is about $9500 a year. They do offer scholarships, but even if it is not for the full amount you need, there are numerous ways you can get tuition stipends. There is some amount of required participation, but anything over that goes toward your tuition. It is in Richmond and is a small school with an emphasis on arts. It might be what you are looking for... anon

I serve on the Board of an East Bay private school and am knowledgable about our financial aid policies. You should definitely apply for financial aid. We have families at our school with similar ability to pay as you have. There are schools that provide up to 95% aid. Look on their websites. My only advice is to apply to several schools so that you have more options.

In terms of financial aid, it is hard to generalize private schools' approaches. There are some schools that may prefer to spread funds out among more students, particularly since the economic climate many schools experienced in 08-09. That being said, there are many schools want to use financial aid funds to create an economically diverse group of families within each classroom. For our son's school -Redwood Day Sch.- that does NOT mean all middle and high income (which is generally what happens if you make a lot of small grants) or all low and high income (which is what happens if you make only really large grants). Instead, I understand the goal is to try to have some large grants, some mid-range grants, and some very small grants with the intent of having an average grant of about 50% of tuition. Hoping that helps you. Good luck!! heather


What are my chances qualifying for financial aid?

Nov 2008


What are my chances of getting some kind of financial aid for my son to attend one of the private elementary schools in the area if our income is in the $50,000 yearly range? Would it make a difference that my son is of african american descent as most schools seem to be looking for some diversity in the classroom? I understand that I would have to fill out the financial aid forms but I am wondering if I would even have a chance of getting any help. Would appreciate any feedback from anyone that has gone through this process and what the outcome was.

To the person asking if a salary of $50K is too much to qualify for financial aid for private school, you should definitely apply! I think you have a great chance of being awarded some money. We make about twice that and have qualified for some financial aid at our children's private school every year. It can't hurt to apply. The deadline to apply for F.A. is coming soon (I think it's 11/20) so make sure you get your paperwork soon. Good luck! anonymous

First off this is based on working at one private school and having applied for aid at a different school but is just one person's experience and not on any specific info. I think, with a family income of $50,000, you will qualify for financial aid at most private schools. My understanding is that admissions decisions and financial aid decisions are made separately at most schools. First students are admitted then aid is parceled out to those that qualify and most schools are looking to increase their diversity so being in an underrepresented group helps your odds of admission and perhaps getting aid. That said the schools will probably not tell you in advance how much aid you will get, also most schools expect all families to pay something and will not give full scholarships. Once you get aid they will keep giving it unless your financial situation changes. I would say apply and see what you get offered but be realistic about what you can really afford. It could be a wonderful opportunity or too much of a burden, only you can decide. Good luck

You would definitely qualify for financial aid at a private school. The levels vary from school to school. We make around $100k (2 kids in school) and got about 30% tuition reduction. anon

I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago and applied for financial aid at an Oakland private school for my african- american son to attend. I was denied - they said that based on my income, they have would have to subsidize almost the entire cost of his tuition, and they would rather use that money to help several families than just one. Keep in mind, this is just one anecdote . . .

Most schools use a standard formula. It not only takes into account your income but also your assets and home equity. If you rent, it is generally easier to qualify for financial aid. If you own your home and have a certain level of equity, you will not qualify. I don't know what that amount is. It is always worth it to apply. fin. aid family

I think you should try for finanial aid. It doesn't affect acceptance into the school and many private schools are on a system so you can just fill out the more detailed form once and they will send copies to various schools you apply to. Most schools don't have a set income limit for aid, but determine need based on your taxes and other factors including cost of living in the bay area. not sure whether they can give more aid based on ethnicity but all private schools I know of seek more diversity. we're trying next year

As a Board Member of a local private school I am aware of our school's financial aid program. You have a good chance of receiving financial aid.


Can't afford private school without finanacial aid

Oct 2008


We've heard glowing reviews about Park Day, but could only send our daughter if awarded financial aid. We're concerned about two things:1) how likely is it that, given no changes in our financial situation, we'd be denied aid one year after receiving it in previous years, and 2) privacy issues, since we understand the process is handled by a company back East. We'd love to hear about other parents experiences re: this issue. Thank you! Exploring all options

Park day has the same financial aid process as all the Independent school. You have to send each school's financial aid application along with your last 2 years tax returns. And you have to fill out a long form that goes to some company back east (I think it's online). It's the same type of process for applying for college. I wouldn't worry about confidentiality, this is a priority for them.

This organization ( I can't remember the name)gives them information stating how much you should be able to affford for private school and sends this info to all the schools you request them to send it to. Then each school decides how much financial aid to give you. One school may give you no financial aid and another may give you thousands.

I believe that most schools are committed to their students who are getting financial aid. ALthough there are no promises and you have to apply annually, I believe they try to keep those families with their financial aid.

Apply to more than 1 school. I think 3-4 is a good number. The right school will materialize. And be open. I thought I ''knew'' what school I wanted my son to go to before we even started looking. Once we started going on tours this totally changed.

Our son is at Aurora School and we are overjoyed with his kindergarten teachers and the school in general. Add Aurora school to your list of schools to check our for sure! Feel free to contact me if you want more information about Aurora School. Monica

We go to Park and it's just as wonderful as everyone says it is. We applied for Financial Aid the first year and didn't get it. The second year, we did. My understanding is that the priority is keeping existing families at the school, so unless your financial situation changes for the better, you are not likely to lose financial aid once you get it. We ended up not applying for financial aid the third year because we came into some money and felt like other people needed the aid more than we do.

It does feel weird to open up your finances, but the company is very professional and I have never heard of any info leaking out. Delighted park family

At Park Day School, we have historically made a commitment to families to continue providing financial assistance while the financial situation of the family remains the same. Our experience has been to continue to allocate funds to the financial assistance recipients. The application is processed by an outside company; Park Day School has a small committee, highly respectful of the privacy of the families who apply for financial aid, that reviews all applicable financial materials. Decisions are made by the committee. Assistant Director of Park Day School


Should we apply for financial aid?

August 2008


We're a middle class family who could probably pay for private school on our own (though somewhat painfully), and may not qualify for any financial aid if we applied. We're wondering if even applying for financial aid could decrease our son's chances of admission. Do the schools count it against applicants if they feel the family could have difficulty paying tuition if not granted any financial aid? to ask or not to ask

The private schools have a policy of ''blind admissions'' meaning that they first decide who they want to accept without regard to financial aid and then they look at the financial aid applications of those students they want to accept and decide how to dole out the money. The schools can decide at their own discretion how they want to allocate the financial aid. This is only my opinion and I have no inside information but I think that they use the money primarily to assist families at the lower end in order to obtain socio-economic diversity. This means that instead of spreading the money around more so that some middle class families get a meaningful amount of aid, the bulk of the aid goes to families who need full or close to full tuition to attend. Also, what is considered middle class is hard to pinpoint. That means different things to different people and is rapidly changing. The median household income in the bay area (Alameda and San Francisco Counties) is around $55- 60k but living on that and paying $20k for private school is not feasible. They also look at all of your assets including home equity and 401k's when considering the sources of income you may have. The financial aid application is pretty exhausting and leaves you feeling rather exposed. Not to discourage you, you have nothing to lose by asking and you never know what factors are in play from year to year. Also, some schools have a lot more financial aid to offer than others. Just ask and they will tell you how much they give out each year. Hope this helps. anon

Applying for financial aid is not supposed to decrease your chances, but, in reality, from our experience, it does. If you do not apply, the admission office does not know anything about your financial status (if you do apply, they know EVERYTHING), so, if you can afford the tuition, please apply without the cumbersome and soul-revealing financial aid process... anon


More likely to be accepted without financial aid?

Jan 2008


Does applying for financial aid make it harder for your kid to get in to the private high school they want to go to? Are they more likely to accept your kid if you are not applying for financial aid? When does this application process take place? The school hasn't told us anything about it, but another school said there was a Jan deadline for filling out the forms. anon

at the high school where I work, the Admissions Committee and the Financial Aid Committee are totally separate entities with no overlap. The Admissions committee does not take into account finances AT ALL. The deadline for both applications for admission and for financial aid is often the same so that when acceptance letters are mailed, grant letters can be included. That way parents have all the information they need to make the decision to send their child there or not. hope this helps

I believe most private schools do not consider financial ability when making admission decisions. First they decide who will be offered admission, and after that they review financial aid applications. However, this could mean that your child is offered admission but you are not offered financial aid. At that point you would have to tell them that you cannot attend without financial aid and they would offer your spot to someone else.

There are local private schools that have very large endowments and can provide financial aid to a large number of their applicants, and there are other schools that have a very limited amount of money, so they can't pay the bills if they have too many students on financial aid. So which school you are applying to probably makes a big difference. I found that most admissions directors are very straightforward about financial information. You should just ask them. You might even find info on their website.


Financial aid eligibility- elementary school

Jan 2007


Hi! We are in the process of applying for financial aid for our son (only child) who will be starting kindergarten next Fall. We feel like we look ok on paper (about $90k income, we own 2 properties and have investments), but realistically wouldn't be able to afford the $15,ooo/per year tuition without at least 50% assistance. I am asking for any advice, additional resources, and experiences with the system. Do you have a similar situation, and have you received or been denied aid? I should note that our son is biracial (1/2 African American)... not sure if it makes a difference. Thank you for your thoughts. Anon

With your income and assets, I think they are going to expect you to pay more than what you want to pay. You should fill out the SSS form that most schools use and request a family report. You will get it just a few days after you send in your info, especially if you do it online. That will tell you what they think you can contribute. Each school then decides on their own how much to really give you. But just for reference, I just filed and qualified for a pretty low contribution and I make WAY WAY less than you. Basically, they do not expect you to just let your investments sit untouched. You have to pay what you can. You also need to find out how much your school offers in financial aid. For example, if 50% is the maximum they give, someone much poorer than you is probably going to get that amount before you do. good luck


Can't afford private school

March 2004


In searching for a kindergarden for my son I thought I would look at the private schools even though we can't afford it. I was curious what they had to offer that public schools didn't and if they were so much better. Well, I fell in love with Tehiya Day School and knew it was the perfect match for our family. The problem is we really can't afford it. Our income covers our expenses with a little left over for a camping vacation and some fun activities maybe once a month. We have some savings, not much, and no prospect in the future of becoming well off. I suppose if we give up our minimal leisure activities we could somehow swing it but is it worth it? Our son might be happy in the school but we wouldn't be able to afford anything else - especially the after school activities. We do live in Albany, however and I did like the schools, but not as much as Tehiya. Has anyone had this dilemna? I'd love to hear how people feel about not being able to offer a private school education to their children and those that live in Albany who considered private school but ended up at the public school and have been happy. I was also concerned about ''bullying'' especially among boys and thought that private school would offer a more protective environment and thus less of the school yard antics. ''wanting the best'' mom

I, too, fell in love with Tehiyah Day School! It is a wonderful school and an especially wonderful community. I know that it is a school worth some level of sacrifice. Please talk to Amy Friedman, Tehiyah's Director of Admission about your worries and how much you love her school immediately (before all the contracts are due next week and all of the aid is gone). Tehiyah, in their committment to community, ''will make the money work out when we know that a student and family is a good match for us.'' (Tell Amy that Wanda suggested you to call!)

Also see Albany School District's API scores in this past Wednesday's Chronicle...impressive, if you believe that standardized scores make all the difference. Good luck with your school selection. Wanda Wanda

Have you even looked at your public schools? I find that people are willing to completely blow off thier public school without ever having seen it or visited it and without much information on which to base their assumptions that the school is not going to be okay for their kid. My child goes to Crocker Highlands in Oakland, and it is amazing how many people assume because its in Oakland, it is no good (btw, must brag, it scored a 9 out of 10 in the recent State rankings).

Everybody wants ''the best'' for their kid,but what does that really mean? There are academics but also other factors one must look at. When we looked at private school, I was concerned about the lack of diversity (mostly socio-economically) and how it would be for my kid to always be the one who had the smallest house, and didn't go skiing in Tahoe for a week every winter, and all those social pressures which can be difficult to handle, especially as kids get older. And if you are on the edge about being able to afford a private school, I'm doubting you will have the money they will expect you to donate on top of the big tuition fee you will pay. I am jealous somewhat of what some of the private schools can offer my child, like a huge garden, and the ability to discuss certain issues (like gay rights), but you know what? I can provide that to my child in so many other ways, that I dont' need to rely on a school to do it. So I would encourage you to really look at your public schools and have a different paradigm about what really makes a good school experience for your kid. With a little work and lots of school involvement, you can make it what you want it to be! Hilary

I'm not sure that private schools are any better about bullying than public schools. A lot of kids are just mean. My son was bullied even at a very small private school (though it was not Tehiya). He had a wonderful classroom teacher at Albany's Cornell school, but he was still bullied at recess, and spent most of his time in the library, the safe haven. That had also been his strategy at the private school. Albany Middle school is even worse because there is less supervision and it's a horrible age for meanness. I do think the bullying has more to do with my child's personality and inability to deal with teasing than anything else. But I am seriously concerned with some of the things I hear about the goings on at Albany Middle School right now, and if I could afford to switch him to private school, I'd definitely look into it. He seems to be concerned for his own safety, at times, which is how I remembered feeling in the berkeley public schools, back in the 70's, and what I so hoped to protect him from, in moving to Albany.

Having said all that, I really think the biggest benefit of private school is the quality of the education and smaller class sizes, rather than any particular kindness on the part of the other students or parents. People are people, and some of those aren't so nice, whether they have money or not. A religiously based school like Tehiyah might have a different culture. You may find that in the older years there is less emphasis on sexuality and fashion among the students, but I don't really know that either. concerned public school parent

Both my kids go to Tehiyah and while we do not have financial aid (they think we make too much money) I know many people who have received very generous financial aid without much difficulty. It's worth applying, the worst that could happen is you'll be turned down. Are you absolutely sure you can't afford it? That's what we thought but when we sat down and worked things around our budget we found that we could do it, though it would be tight. Are there any relatives you can ask for help? Since we've been there the tuition has gone up every year (sorry, that may sound discouraging). I know this isn't the direct answer to your question, but I'm hoping it'll give you another way to look at the possibility. Good luck. June

I feel you should be realistic about what you can afford. Unless someone changes jobs or takes on more work, it sounds like Tehiyah is cost-prohibitive for you. That of course, would just be the tuition but what about all of the 'extras' i.e. fundraisers, activities, keeping up with the ''Jones''' and all that the other families may be able to afford. Remember too that the Bay Area is just going to get more expensive. Since you live in a great school district I would give that a go first. Volunteer there when your child starts and that way you will see just what goes on each day. I actually quit my job to be around more when my child started kindergarten to help with the transition, reading, learning, etc.. instead of stressing out over high tuition costs. It's not easy but I think (and hope) we have the same result in her education in the long run. HL

Dear Parent: You sound really devoted to your child but your posting leaves out whether a Jewish education is an important part of wanting to make sacrifices to send your child to Tehiyah. If so, then no the Albany schools are no replacement. If, however, you think that there is no ''bullying'' at Tehiyah or independent schools, you might want to know that the quality of boy bullying in my son's class, and some other instances in some other grades, would sadden you. And Tehiyah in our experience is pretty resigned about it.

I am not sure what you mean by ''worth it,'' but know that our experience after having two sons in two different independent schools in El Cerrito is that a good public school may be doing a better job of meeting consistent curriculum and state-mandated curriculum better than independent schools. At both Tehiyah and the other independent school that my other son attends we are finding huge holes in the curriculum and very different qualities of teacher (uneven teachers can happen in public school as well, I know).

If the Jewish aspect was not important to us, my kids would likely be going to public school in Orinda or Moraga. And I also worry that my kids don't have any real built-in friendships on our street because everyone is in different public or private schools. I sure liked that part of my childhood where I had close friends as neighbors. Good luck to you. Realistic mom

If you really like tehyihah or any other private school I would encourage you to apply for financial aid. We just received our acceptance and rejection letters from private schools for kindergarden. We were in the boat of thinking that we had too much money to receive financial aid but also couldn't figure out how we would pay for private school, short of refinancing our house or me going back to work. (Right now I'm at home with our 4 year old and her younger sib.) We did receive financial aid from Head-Royce and I know another family in the same boat who received financial aid from Park Day. Each school has different amount of resources for financial aid and a different set of criteria for whom they make awards. It's worth a talk with the admissions directors of schools you are interested in. But it appears that some of these schools are making good on their commitment to provide aid to ''middle income'' (in the Bay Area definition of that term!)families. It's certainly worth a try, and if you do not get enough aid, at least you have another good option in the Albany Public Schools. anon.

It's much easier to fall in love with a private school than to pay for one. And Tehiyah is particularly lovable. Have you asked about the possibility of financial aid? Most private schools have scholarship programs and I'm pretty sure that Tehiyah does. If they can't offer you assistance with tuition, you have a hard choice, but not an impossible one. You are lucky to have a better public school option than most of us do; Albany public schools are supposed to be among the best. If the lifestyle compromises required to pay for Tehiyah would make your family unhappy, don't make them -- go with the public schools. Ann

If your child has special needs / learning differences / might need an IEP (individualized education plan) then I would advise that you give public school a serious consideration. We have not had good experiences at Tehiyah with regards to the teachers' and the administration's ability and willingness to modify the program for children with learning differences. We have had to spend a lot of money on outside services, tutoring and therapy, etc. some of which would be provided by BUSD if we were enrolled in public school. So if finances are a concern for you, the possibility of these extras should be factored in to your decision. There is a lot of variability amongst the teachers at Tehiyah, some have been helpful, some ineffectual, and some actually damaging to my child's self esteem. We have received a lot of lip service when advocating for changes, but in my experience the school does not ''walk the talk''. Tehiyah parent

[Editor] See Tehiyah Day School reviews for a response to this discussion.

April 1998

A Better Chance does offer aid to disadvantaged and minority students to high school. I don't know their phone, but you should be able to get it from information. Myriam

You know, some of the Montessori schools offer scholarships of various kinds. Nia House in Berkeley has a good scholarship program, although a long waiting list. Growing Light Montessori offers discounts to single parents and other sorts of scholarships as well. Generally there are waiting lists for this type of thing; but then again, this is probably going to be an ongoing issue for your daughter. Might be worth getting on some waiting lists. -- Mary Carol