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How parents pay for private school

Ever wonder how some parents manage to pay for four years of private high school and then send their kids to college?

Sometimes, so do they.

"There's just (so) much that I don't do because I made this choice," says Ann Botticelli, who budgets around the $1,400 monthly payments for her son's high school tuition.

It's worth it, she says. Her son, who is making the most of the opportunity, is "a very engaged and appreciative student," she says.

The 'secret'
It turns out the secret to stretching the family paycheck to cover high school tuition isn't really a secret. While some parents opt for payment plans that allow them to spread those tuition bills over eight to 12 months, others are also hanging on to cars longer, taking more modest vacations, working extra hours or jobs, and trimming some "extras" from the family budget.

It's by no means easy. The average-median tuition (which is an average of the median tuition costs of each grade) for a year at independent schools that are not affiliated with a religion is $17,145 for day students and $33,533 for boarding school students, according to 2005-2006 data from the National Association of Independent Schools.

Parents who need help to make the payments are tapping a variety of resources. The most common source: financial aid from the school itself.

The NAIS asked 362 families who applied for financial aid this year where they were getting money to pay tuition.

The families' responses:

Costs have skyrocketed, too, with increases ranging from 65 percent to 92 percent over the 10-year period ending in 2003, depending on the source of the statistics.

From 1993 to 2003, tuition increased between 65 percent and 71 percent, according to the NAIS. The National Center for Education Statistics, which tracks a larger variety and number of schools, shows an increase of 92 percent.

The cost of a year at a private high school increased by 2 percent to 6 percent between 2005 and 2006, says Mark J. Mitchell, vice president of school information services for the NAIS. The percentage increase in prices is "similar to the rise in college tuition," Mitchell says, which has been rising faster than inflation. "If this tuition trend continues, fewer and fewer families will be able to afford it."

Few are borrowing
While they may be pinching pennies, few parents are borrowing to cover tuition.

Families are reluctant to use unsecured loans to pay for private school, according to the NAIS survey. "Relatively few people take out these types of loans," says Mitchell.

"To me, you have to be able to cover it in cash," says Botticelli, who is also saving for her two children's college tuition while she pays for private school.

In the current 2006-2007 school year, of the parents who applied for financial aid, about 16 percent borrowed money through means other than a home loan, according to the NAIS. The majority of those -- 70 percent -- borrowed through a bank or credit union. Twenty-three percent borrowed from family members, 9 percent obtained a loan through the school and 6 percent borrowed from friends.

Next: "... private schools are a lot more affordable than folks think."
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