Nineteen years after beginning a second career Adrienne Newberg, a financial advisor with Waddel & Reed, Inc. in Owings Mills, has personal and business experience when it comes to affording a private education. Her own three have graduated college and two have completed graduate school– one with an MBA, the other as a physician. While the time of carpooling, packing kids snacks, and managing her children’s education portfolio has passed, Adrienne is more than happy to share her knowledge with those of us currently in the fray.

“I can all too well sympathize with parents who must manage their children’s education and all the social, financial, and personal choices it presents. Having a long term family action plan with clear goals allows families to enjoy the choices they make.”

Adrienne Newberg and her daughter. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Newberg.

Adrienne Newberg and her daughter. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Newberg.

tips on affording private school

Research & Create an Action Plan

Make no mistake about it; this is a long term investment. Like any long term investment doing thorough research of the schools you are targeting and setting up clear goals can help minimize cost. Private school involves more than just tuition it can sometimes include the following but more often these are additional fees that vary from year to year: books, field trips, lunch, snacks, transportation, material fees, uniforms, instruments and other miscellaneous costs. 

It is also important to consider whether the school is the right fit not just your child but your whole family. Remember your goals are not just for your child. It is important to consider your family’s long term plans. If you can involve grandparents or other extended family even better. This is all about choice. It may mean choosing smaller vacations, or less vacations and/or making birthday and holiday gifts contributions toward tuition instead of toys and day excursions.

Gathering this information will guide you as you design an action plan according to the types of tuition assistance, education savings accounts, foundation based assistance, and family contributions to use in order to afford private school.

School-Based Tuition Assistance

Don’t be shy. A common misconception is that school based tuition assistance is only for a few families. However, many private schools actively ask all families (some even require it), regardless of income, to apply for tuition assistance. An additional option is asking for a discount if you are able to pay the full amount of tuition. While it is rare, there are also some schools, depending on their professional needs and your expertise, that would be willing to accept professional services ie. teaching, finance, administrative, tech, in exchange for some or all tuition.  

Another important tip is to mind the deadlines. Pay attention to when tuition assistance applications are due. Usually, schools assign financial aid based on a first come first serve basis. Even if you have attended a school for some time applying early can make a big difference. However, if you happened to make the choice to apply to private school outside of the regular application time line you may still be illegible for limited tuition assistance. The key is to ask. 

Some Education Savings Options*

There are several ESA accounts that can be used to allocate money for educational expenses. All of them have specific guidelines. Talk to your tax accountant and a financial advisor regarding your personal situation prior to making any financial decisions.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

This is a tax differed account limited to $2000 cash contribution per year per child. Parents manage and own the assets of this account and can directly deposit funds from their paycheck or other accounts as long as it is within the contribution limits. Grandparents and extended family and friends can also contribute within the limits. Only one account may be set up per child. Withdrawals are limited to qualified educational k-12 expenses. Once the child is 18 the account cannot be funded.

The Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)

These are accounts set up by parents/guardians on behalf of their children, have no contribution limits, and can be made up of cash contributions, stocks, bonds and other assets. Withdrawals can be made for educational expenses. However, while the adult manages the account for the minor until the age of 21 all the assets are actually owned by the minor the entire time. Also, once the minor turns 21 they can withdraw the money and use it at their discretion (that includes non-educational expenses.) These accounts are NOT tax-differed. Specific guidelines are set to determine how the parent and/or the child must claim the income on their taxes.

 Private Investment Account

Open your own investment account for education. You get to determine how much you contribute, make withdrawals, and who owns it. Private investment accounts would also be subject to income tax laws.

*Keep in mind that all education savings accounts for your child, even those owned by extended family, must be reported on your financial aid applications and are considered part of your family’s contribution. These options all work best if you start long before children are of school age.

Foundation-Based Tuition Assistance

Ms. Newberg insists on researching scholarships to help defray the costs.

Here is some specific scholarship info CP researched for foundation based tuition assistance. The main database for foundation and school based tuition assistance is the School & Student Service by Nais which provides lists of institutions that provide tuition assistance. This is also the portal many independent schools use to process tuition assistance applications and a great place to find more tips on navigating financial aid. Check individual organization deadlines’ as many do not follow the same time frame as the schools. Also, many faith based schools and organizations offer faith based scholarships and grants. Merritt based scholarships are few but are an option worth checking into.

Nation Wide:  A Better Chance helps talented students of color  in 6-11th grade enter top independent schools. 

Maryland: Broadening Options & Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program awards students applying to private schools based on household income, with the lowest income served first.

Baltimore: The Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust, in partnership with our nineteen independent member schools, recruits and supports through the admissions process academically ambitious, African American students with financial need from the Baltimore area


*Third party websites are provided for informational purposes only. Adrienne Newberg & Waddell & Reed are not responsible for the accuracy of the information.