Real Costs of Private School

Article by: Carly Maga for, Canada’s trusted source for camps and schools.

A typical morning at a private school looks something like this: kids stroll in with crisp khakis and designer blouses and wave goodbye to their chauffeurs and nannies and parents, who quickly drive off to their six-figure jobs in a new Mercedes. Or, at least that’s what the misconception of a private school would have us believe.

In fact, that stereotype is nowhere near the reality of a modern private or independent school in Canada. Today’s students come from very diverse financial backgrounds, thanks to schools’ efforts to increase financial aid, scholarships, payment plans, and discounts.

Be upfront about your financial situation, and ask the school for recommendations on how to afford it. Sometimes creative solutions are available. “Most schools do offer payment plans,” says Michael Thomas, director of the Fraser Institute’s Children First financial assistance program. “It doesn’t hurt to ask. All they can say is no.”

Still, a private education is a significant decision to make as a family when it comes to financing tuition and the other costs that come along with private school. So, what’s really involved when paying for private school?

How Much Tuition Costs

This is the biggest cost when it comes to private school, and often the biggest deciding factor. A school’s tuition usually depends on two factors—its location and the type of school it is.

For instance, certain provinces subsidize private schools so their tuition is much lower than in other provinces—they can sometimes even cost below $1,000 a year. Of course, schools located in the heart of a large city like Vancouver or Toronto will likely have a much higher tuition than a rural school, simply because of real estate prices.

The type of school is also key in determining tuition fees. Boarding schools have consistently higher tuition, to factor in the living expenses of the students. Reputation may also play a role here—some of the country’s most prestigious boarding schools can cost between $40,000 and $50,000 a year, or even more. Other types of schools mean much, much lower costs. Religious schools generally have the lowest tuition fees.

What Tuition Gets You

At a private school, a year’s tuition gives a student and their family much more than just a series of classes.

Because class sizes are so small and private or independent school staff is known to be extremely dedicated and skilled, a private education can provide tutoring services or extra guidance, using top of the line resources and equipment, not offered by the public school system. This is especially important when a child has a learning disability.

A private school can also provide daycare services, in a much more challenging and constructive environment than most traditional services. And since Canada has some of the most expensive daycares in the world, a private school tuition usually costs only slightly more and provides many more benefits.

Private and independent schools are also known for their extracurricular activities, which come mostly if not entirely covered with tuition. With a private school, families don’t have to worry about finding a good program outside of school or chauffeuring their kids from place to place.

Given that private schools have proven to give students a leg up when it comes to attending university, networking, and surpassing academic standards, a private school graduate is very likely to land a high-paying job. Tuition can be considered a down payment for a child’s future salary.

Lunch and snacks are also sometimes included in a school’s fees.

What Isn’t Included in Tuition

A parent with children in private education can expect a few extra costs to cover on top of tuition, which can include: uniforms, equipment or trips involved in an extracurricular activity, trips, or a laptop computer.

However, as always, the decision on a private education should rest with what’s best for your child, not the fees involved. Many families of all incomes are finding ways to make any tuition work.

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