This is the third article in our series on Affording Christian education. In the first two articles I talked about typical policies for private schools and some tuition discounts that might be availble. In this article I'll discuss some other sources for tuition funding and what you should expect from schools related to payment plans.
You mean we should ask our friends and relatives to help pay for our kid's tuition?? Well, maybe. Remember that tuition is more than just a payment for a service - its an investment in a future. Our close friends and families invest in our and our childrens' lives in other ways. At WCA we've seen lots of different circumstances and there have been times when others have helped with tuition. In many cases, this help comes from grandparents who are considering their assistance as an important investment in the lives of their grandchildren. I have three granddaughters and though they haven't reached school age yet, I would absolutely pray about helping them, if that need came up. At least I'd want my son and daughter-in-law to ask, even if I wouldn't be able to help.
Churches & Employers
I mentioned in the last article that some churches and denominations with schools have discount programs for their members. We've also seen times when churches help schools and families with tuition. This is obviously fairly limited as it would be hard for churches to help all of their families. We've also seen occasions when fellow church members have helped with a family's tuition payment. We've even had some employers participate in a family's support. Again, this is not very frequent but we have seen it happen before.
Other Sources – you never know how the Lord can provide...
It would be difficult to list all the different ways WCA families over the years have found assistance with the investment of tuition. Many times folks have begun the admission process feeling pretty doubtful about their prospect of affording the tuition and have seen some fairly amazing things, like anonymous payments on their behalf (no kidding!). I can't guarantee that any of these unexpected things will happen for you, but we've learned never to completly rule out the possibility.
Payment Plans and Budgeting
Our experience (as parents and school administrators) shows us that for most families, the overall tuition number often isn't the most important factor - it's the monthly number. And that's why most, if not all private schools have payment options for families. Of course, you can always pay the complete tuition amount all at once! Most schools also have semi-annual and monthly payment plans. And for the monthly plans, they might be spread over ten or twelve months - sometimes at your convenience and sometimes at the school's. We're even able to have a family's payment due on the specific day of the month that they choose - and other schools might be able to do this, as well.
Structured to Match Your Family's Budget Flow
As you're having tuition assistance discussions with a school, make sure to ask about their payment plan options to see which one will best fit your financial situation. Understanding the options and knowing the monthly tuition payment amount will also help you with the tuition assistance discussion. Often, you can talk with a school about your ability to afford tuition in terms of an amount per month instead of an amount per year.
Budgeting Help - Setting Priorities
I can anticipate your next question because I've asked it several times myself - "How much tuition each month can I afford?". Every family has their own budgeting tools, ranging from a simple spreadsheet to more elaborate programs that track finances and include the ability to set bugets. My family has bounced around a bit between options but recently we've landed on one particular program - You Need a Budget (YNAB). Lots of folks have written reviews and comparison articles so I won't redo that here, but since the subject came up in this discussion, I couldn't help but at least mention it. YNAB has particularly helped us to align our priorities with our spending, which is an important step in making these decisions. Though knowing what tuition costs is critical, knowing how much the education you're seeking is worth to your family is even more important. (In case youre wondering, I don't receive any kickbacks or commissions from YNAB - I just like it!)
Everybody Knows That!
If you're disappointed I didn't share anything that was new, I apologize. But please don't miss my overall point - if you believe you can't afford the tuition and don't even try, I would strongly encourage you to at least invest the time in pursuing it, applying for tuition assistance, seeking some additional sources, and praying! You never know how things might work out!