by Kristin Shuff
Education is one of the most important investments a parent can make for their family. A good education develops strong values and a love of learning, ultimately positioning a child for success later in life. But what options are available to parents who don’t live in neighborhoods with exceptional public schools or simply prefer a different option? Private and independent schools can be an ideal solution.
Private schools often offer rigorous academic studies, smaller class sizes and diverse learning opportunities. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, private school students generally perform higher than their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests and are more likely to have completed advanced level courses. And while graduation rates are nearly the same, 64 percent of private high school students attend a four-year college, compared to just 40 percent of public high school students.
However, most private schools come with a hefty price tag. In fact, according to Private School Review, the national average private school tuition is $9,518 per year. Locally, private high schools average $10,171 in Birmingham, Alabama. Those numbers in addition to the cost of college tuition paint an overwhelming picture.
Here’s the good news: you may be able to invest in your child’s education without draining your bank account. If you’re considering private school for your kids, there are several strategies to explore for your family.
Do your homework
Compile a list of all of the private schools near you and dig deep. It’s important to know if this school will fit into your lifestyle by considering factors such as curriculum focus, special needs or services and overall reputation. Other considerations may also include facility condition, commute time and daily schedules.
Another vital part of that research is to understand what’s included in tuition. Books, uniforms, athletic programs, tutoring, trips and other extras can be expensive add-ons. Review your current budget to determine what you can afford. A school with a higher price tag may save you money in the long run if the tuition includes most of the extras. All of these factors can help you determine which school is the best option for your family.
Maximize your resources
Once you’ve narrowed down the top schools, talk with a school financial advisor to learn what to expect. Advisors can provide valuable insights on financial aid resources and payment plan eligibility. Thinking outside the box can pay off, too. Faculty and staff often receive substantial discounts on tuition, and some schools offset volunteer time with tuition discounts. Research opportunities where you can apply your talents.
Know your options for financing
There are many creative options available today to finance an education. Scholarships in athletics or academics are valuable resources, and many government grants exist specifically for private education. Potentially, you may also be able to acquire a home equity line of credit (HELOC), if your home has increased in value. A notable benefit is that a HELOC may be tax deductible, but you should check with your tax advisor to see how that impacts your personal financial situation.
Consumer loans may also be an excellent option. If you choose to explore an unsecured loan to finance your child’s tuition, take the time to compare lenders to make sure you are getting the lowest possible rate and best loan terms that work for you. For families with good credit, consider a PreK-12 education loan. LightStream offers unsecured PreK-12 tuition financing at low fixed rates and no fees. Plus, borrowers can use funds for related expenses beyond tuition, such as books, activities, transportation, tutoring, board and more.
Overall, private schools can be a great choice, and several different financing options and resources exist to put it within reach financially. If you do the research, you’ll find the right solution for your family and feel confident in the investment made in your child’s education.
Kristin Shuff is the Vice President of Marketing for LightStream, the national online lending division of SunTrust Bank, and a proud mother of a daughter in private preschool. She balances the demands of work and parenting through creative time budgeting, not overcommitting, leaning on her village and using her commute time to keep her mind clear. For more information, visit www.lightstream.com.
NOTICE: This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal or tax advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal or tax professionals based on your specific circumstances. LightStream and SunTrust are federally registered service marks of SunTrust Banks, Inc.