If you’re a parent exploring boarding school options for your son or daughter, you’ve likely noticed that choosing a private school is more than an educated decision. It’s also a significant financial decision and truly an investment in your child’s future. You may be asking “are boarding schools expensive?” or “how much does boarding school cost?”
Well, the short answer is that it all depends on the type of school, location, and how much financial assistance your family receives. So, bottom line, despite tuition ranging from $60,000- $75,000 at many schools, you could actually find it is more cost effective than many private day schools in your region.
Boarding School Tuition and Financial Assistance
Paying for boarding school tuition requires both careful financial planning and in-depth family discussion. As you view tuition and fees, keep in mind, boarding schools do offer financial assistance and they follow specific standards and guidelines for disbursements.
At first glance, they may appear expensive, but bear in mind the expenses you will no longer incur while your child 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.
While you compare schools and costs, 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 awards. They are committed to accessibility and affordability and will be sensitive to your concerns.
Now, let’s dive into some common questions and resources.
What factors influence the cost of boarding school tuition?
According to the Education Data Initiative, the total boarding school cost hinges on a number of factors.
- Location – The state or actual city or town where the boarding school is located is often a significant factor in boarding school prices. Urban 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
In fact, most military boarding schools boast a college matriculation rate of 95-100%, just like their traditional boarding school counterparts. Military academy students matriculate to The Ivy League, public and private universities such as: Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, NYU, MIT, as well as the highly selective service academies (USMA, USNA, USCGA, USMMA, USAFA).
Photo: Alumni from Army & Navy Academy – Attending West Point
What is the best way to compare boarding school costs?
- Go to Review Sites to Compare the Cost at a Glance – 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, and other regional association directories.
- 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 to gather more detailed information. Make sure you check the tuition and fees pages, as well as financial assistance (if you plan to apply).
- 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.
- Checking Out Boarding Schools by Region: To get you started, here are some top boarding schools you could compare by looking at each school website or via Boarding School Review.
- West: California schools include: The Webb Schools: Stevenson School, Athenian School, Ojai Valley School, Besant Hill School, Oak Grove School, Thacher, Cate, Villanova Prep, Woodside Priory, 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).
Once again, you can do side-by-side comparisons on Boarding School Review. Also, note that tuition is typically changed every year at schools and will reflect the academic year, rather than the calendar year. Also, as pointed out, costs can vary widely by region.
What is included in boarding school tuition? Are there other fees?
- Cost of Boarding School Tuition – This includes expenses related to: academics, athletics, campus life, many activities, and meals.
- 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.
- Fees – 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.
- Cost of special trips or events – These fees are typically charged separately to cover trips in the U.S. and abroad. Trips are generally optional.
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 These sources include: tuition and fees, as well as summer programs, facility rentals, and endowment funds. Tuition and fees help cover general, day-to-day operating costs, while endowment funds are used for longer-term initiatives, like improving programs and campus facilities.
- 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.. If you are interested in financial assistance options to fund your child’s boarding school education, we recommend contacting the school and gaining acceptance as your first step.
- Steps to apply for financial assistance – 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 – Some boarding schools do offer merit or other types of awards. Unlike colleges, most schools cannot offer athletic scholarships due to state rules. For instance, in California, CIF is very specific about athletes and admission to private schools.
What is the return on investment for boarding school?
- Prepared for College and Beyond – The Association of Boarding Schools reports that 87% of boarding school students report being very well prepared for college academically, which is a greater percentage than those who attend private day or public schools. The boarding school advantage extends well beyond college, with 50% of boarding school alumni going on to attain advanced degrees, compared with 36% of graduates from private day school, and 21% of graduates from public schools.
- Career Development – By mid-career, 44% of boarding school graduates hold mid-level management jobs. Later in their careers, 52% of boarding school graduates hold top-level management jobs, compared with 39% of private day and 27% of 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. Through scholastic achievement in college prep classes, AP and Honors, career-oriented electives, and internships, their college applications stand out. In addition, colleges seek out well-rounded students with a growth mindset.
- Life Skills and Intrinsic Benefits – Boarding school students acquire independence, confidence, maturity, and resilience in preparation for college and life. Their engagement in extracurricular activities, participation in student government, and trips in the U.S. prepare students not only for college, but provide essential life and career skills.
- Eligibility for Scholarships– Due to the strong academic, leadership, and other students achievements, students often gain an extra edge for substantial scholarships. In some cases, these scholarships offset the costs of the entire boarding school education. A case in point would be a full academic or athletic scholarship to a public or private university or a fully paid college education at one of the service academies (West Point, Annapolis, et al.)
Boarding school graduates experience many long-term benefits that make the initial investment more than pay off. 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?