holding glass jar with money for education


If you’re exploring boarding school affordability and tuition costs, you’ve likely noticed that it’s more than an education decision – it’s also a financial one. Learn about affordable boarding schools in the US, what a boarding school costs, financial aid, and how to find a boarding school and the return on investment.

First, let’s review the types of boarding schools, dig into tuition, financial aid, and then provide you with a list of affordable boarding schools to get you started. Finally, in the end, we will also give you some resources to assess the return on investment based on data and statistics from top educational associations.


Types of Boarding Schools

Think about your boarding school preferences as you review the list below. This will help you narrow your research as you seek out affordable boarding schools. Do you prefer:

  • Coeducational or All-Boys or All-Girls
  • Denominational or NonDenominational
  • Middle School or High School or Grades 4-8th
  • Local, Regional, or Anywhere in the U.S.
  • Specialized Interests: Equestrian, Aviation, Leadership
  • International: ESL or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)
  • Specific Sports or Athletic Scholarships (for college)
  • College Prep (e.g. Ivy League Bound, U.C. Bound, Private Colleges)
  • Military Academies (secondary military boarding schools)
  • Learning Differences (Learning Strategies (e.g. ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia).

Affordable Boarding Schools in the US

Affordable boarding schools in California are highly diverse. 

Army and Navy Academy is one of the most competitive in terms of tuition costs compared to other college prep boarding schools on the west coast. If you have a boy in grades 4-8, you might also consider St. Catherine’s Academy in Anaheim.. Both of these schools offer local a day (non residential option) to keep your costs much lower and they also offer financial aid.

Boarding schools for low income families are available. 

It may appear hard to find, but ask about financial aid and special diversity programs as you explore boarding schools. US boarding schools are typically nonprofits and they take accessibility and affordability seriously. Boarding schools follow specific national standards and guidelines for financial aid disbursements. Boarding schools for low income families are out there, so don’t get discouraged.

Affordable boarding schools in the US vary widely in costs. 

Although looking close to home can sometimes be the right fit, remember tuition varies from state-to-state and from school to school. If you are doing a Google search for “most affordable boarding schools near me,” you might come across boarding schools within your hometown, but most likely will find schools at a distance within your state or regional area.

Boarding school affordability creates access. 

Paying for boarding school tuition requires both careful financial planning and in-depth family discussion. As you view boarding school tuition and fees, keep in mind, boarding schools do offer financial assistance to make a boarding school education more affordable and accessible to a broad range of students.

Create a financial plan to understand educational expenses. 

At first glance, boarding schools may appear expensive, but bear in mind the expenses you will no longer incur while your teen is living away from home. Boarding school tuition and fees will cover everything from classes to room and board (meals), but also, transportation, clubs, activities, campus health care, and many other services. This means you won’t have to shuttle your son or daughter to sport practices, activities, or appointments. Boarding schools do it all and they do it 24/7.

Compare boarding schools costs and financial aid packages. 

While you compare boarding school costs and aid, make sure you contact the Admission Office to explore all of your financial options. Generally speaking, boarding schools offer need-based financial assistance, payment plans, loan options, and sometimes special scholarships or merit awards. They are committed to accessibility and affordability and will be sensitive to your concerns. Now, let’s dive into some frequently asked questions about boarding school affordability.

5 Factors that Influence Boarding School Affordability

According to the Education Data Initiative, the total boarding school cost hinges on a number of factors.

  1. Location – The state or actual city or town where the boarding school is located is often a significant factor in boarding school affordability. Urban boarding schools in Los Angeles or New York for instance could be much higher, but don’t be fooled. Boarding schools, even in very remote locations, like in some of the New England states, are not less expensive.
  2. 5 Day Boarding – For some families living locally, it may be practical to opt into a 5-day boarding program to reduce boarding school costs. However, keep in mind that many boarding schools do not offer a 5-day boarding option and the cost between 5 and 7 day boarding could be insignificant. Sometimes known as “suitcase schools” at the college level, you don’t want the campus to be empty on weekends due to a high number of students commuting.
  3. 7 Day Boarding – To gain the full benefit of a boarding school experience, it is advisable to allow your son/daughter to stay on campus and come home for selected weekends and holidays. This immersive boarding school experience is ideal to gain the full benefits of academic support, maturity, independence, resilience, strong values, and lifelong friendships. Ask the school about the percentage of day vs. boarding school students.
  4. Grade Level – Some private boarding schools offer lower tuition rates for middle school students vs. high school students, but it’s typically not a significant reduction in the overall boarding school cost. There are some boarding schools that begin in elementary school (4th Grade), like St. Catherine’s Academy in Anaheim, but they are few and far between.
  5. Type of Boarding School – Military academies are often less expensive than traditional boarding schools, even though both provide many of the same benefits, like a college-preparatory curriculum and development of life skills like time management and independence. Military academy students matriculate to The Ivy League, public and private universities, as well as the highly selective service academies.

Photo: Alumni from Army & Navy Academy – Attending West Point

5 Ways to Find an Affordable Boarding School in the US

  1. Go to Review Sites to Compare Boarding School Costs: Boarding School Review allows you to compare up to three schools at a glance and tuition amounts are generally kept updated on this site. There are also other directory listings on sites such as: Niche, Great Schools, Private School Review, AMCSUS (military schools), The Association of Boarding Schools (boardingschool.com), and other regional association directories (WBSA).
  2. Go to the Tuition and Financial Aid Pages on School Websites: Once you have worked up a short list of boarding schools from directories or search engine lists, you can then go to the website for each respective school of interest to gather more detailed information. Make sure you check the tuition and fees pages, as well as financial assistance (if you plan to apply).
  3. Check National and Regional Data: If you want to get a national picture of private day schools and boarding school tuition, you can check the Education Data Initiative. Also, there are articles on Boarding School Review to provide overview information. However, it is better not to look at national averages, but to look at your selection of schools within your region of choice.
  4. Checking Out Boarding Schools by Region: To get you started, here are some top boarding schools you could compare.
    • West: California schools include: Army and Navy Academy, The Webb Schools: Stevenson School, Athenian School, Ojai Valley School, Besant Hill School, Thacher, Cate, Dunn School, Midland School
    • East: The Hotchkiss School, Choate Rosemary Hall, Phillips Academy-Andover, (CT), The Hill School (PA)
    • Midwest: Culver (IN), St. John’s Northwestern (WI), Cranbrook Schools (MI), Grand River Academy (OH), International School of MN (MN), Lake Forest Academy (IL)
    • South: The Hockaday School and St Stephen’s Episcopal School (TX), The Bolles School (FL), Brandon Hall (GA)
    • Military Academies include: Army and Navy Academy (CA), St. Catherine’s Academy (CA) Riverside Military Academy (GA), Fork Union, Randolph Macon (VA), Hargrave (VA), Camden (SC), Missouri Military Academy (MO), Marine Military Academy (TX), Admiral Farragut (FL), New York Military (NY).
  5. Call Schools Directly: Reach out and call the admission office to speak with the admission staff member or the director. They will help you determine if their school is a good fit and address your tuition questions. Some boarding schools also offer prorated tuition to transfer students, so ask about “rolling admission” and spring semester admission. Many schools offer summer camps, which is another affordable way to get to know a boarding school.





3 Frequently Asked Questions about Boarding School Costs 

What’s Included in Boarding School Tuition? 

  • Cost of Boarding School Tuition – This includes expenses related to: academics, athletics, campus life, many activities, and meals. Schools with rolling admission generally offer transfer students a prorated tuition.
  • Initial deposit or First Payment – This payment is typically due upon signing the enrollment contract. It will secure the space and demonstrates your commitment to enroll your child.
  • Fees for Special Programs – This could cover ESL, ESOL, Learning Strategies, Equestrian, Aviation, and other specialized programs.
  • Additional Costs – Boarding schools typically charge fees to cover books, uniforms, laundry, and incidentals. There could also be fees associated with health center services and transportation to airports, as well as optional spring trips abroad.

Do boarding schools offer financial aid? 

  • Nonprofits – Most private boarding schools operate as nonprofits that have various sources of revenue to support their operational expenses and financial assistance awards.
  • Types of assistance – Many boarding schools offer financial assistance based on need and/or student performance to help families with the cost of a boarding school education..
  • Steps to apply for financial aid – The Admission Office will help you navigate the steps to apply. Boarding schools are highly committed to diversity, so they generally follow national standards to assess a family’s ability to afford a boarding school tuition.
  • Merit Awards and Scholarships – Some boarding schools do offer merit awards or specialized scholarships. Unlike colleges, most private schools cannot offer athletic scholarships due to state rules.

What is the return on investment for boarding school? 

  • Prepared for College and Beyond – The Association of Boarding Schools has cited that boarding school students report being very well prepared for college academically by comparison to private day schools and public schools. The boarding school advantage extends well beyond college; a large percentage of boarding school graduates pursue graduate degrees.
  • Career Development – By mid-career, boarding school graduates often hold mid-level management jobs. Later in their careers, a high percentage of boarding school graduates hold top-level management jobs, compared with lower percentages from private day and public school graduates.
  • Acceptance to Colleges of Choice – Although not every student will gain admission to The Ivy League, West Point, or a top university, students attending a boarding school definitely gain a competitive edge. They stand out as they possess college readiness skills.
  • Life Skills and Intrinsic Benefits – Boarding school students acquire independence, confidence, maturity, and resilience. Their experience living with a roommate, rigorous academics, and cocurricular activities provide essential skills for college and life beyond.
  • Eligibility for Scholarships– Due to the strong academic, leadership, and other students achievements, students often gain an extra edge for substantial college scholarships. In some cases, these college scholarships offset the costs of the entire boarding school education.

Boarding school can be a life changer for your teen, giving her/him access to rigorous college prep academics, an environment that fosters independence and maturity, and unparalleled mentorship, guidance, and support. While the initial investment may seem high, the return on investment is incredible.

So, why wouldn’t you consider an investment in a boarding school education? Can you afford not to? Check out schools on Niche and other schools sites or contact us.

As a public service, Army and Navy is standing by to assist you as you navigate tuition, financial aid, and seek an affordable boarding school education for your teenage. If we’re not the right boarding school, let us help you find the right one.

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