Establishing financial literacy skills such as how to effectively budget and plan for your child’s schooling is important in ensuring your child receives the best education possible. Researching different payment options that best fit your financial situation can allow for your child to attend an institution that is both an environmental fit and can help your family budget for other school-related necessities.
Plan to Save
“Budgeting for school is important because making an investment in your child’s education is really essential,” says Julie Haffke, director of admissions and enrollment management at Ruffing Montessori School in Cleveland Heights.“It really pays off and makes a wonderful impact.”
Saving up for your child’s education is always important, whether you are enrolling them in middle school, high school, or college.
There are options available, such as an Ohio’s 529 saving plan, which is an investment account that offers tax benefits when used to pay for education expenses for a specific beneficiary. A plan can be used to pay for kindergarten all the way through college.
“Another option that helps families save up for school is setting aside a lump sum of money,” Haffke says. “Anytime there is perhaps a lump sum that they receive, whether it’s a tax refund or a bonus from work, it’s helpful for families to set aside that lump sum and not count on it to pay for their daily expenses. Use that lump sum to start building up equity or building up savings for a potential school.”
Take Note of What Tuition Doesn’t Cover
Along with tuition prices, other outside fees such as sports, activities and technology, that may impact a family’s decision as to whether or not they can afford to enroll their child in a potential school. Be sure to research and determine what outside fees are necessary and what the school provides for their students.
“Find out if the school provides all school supplies, if lunch is included, if a uniform is required, if technology and devices are provided, if transportation is provided, etc,” Haffke says. “Really dive into the details of what exactly is included in tuition and what is not included in tuition. In the research phase, knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can plan for and the more that won’t be a surprise.”
By shadowing at a school, potential students can learn more information from currently-enrolled students about what outside expenses are not covered within tuition.
“One of the benefits of shadowing at a school is it gives a connection between the student and the school that’s informal,” says Aundria Hawkins, vice president of recruitment & admissions at Saint Martin de Porres High School. “A really good question parents should be asking is what is their financial investment in materials and supplies that their student is going to need on a day-to-day basis? If that student has a connection to a student that attends that school, that student can tell them in ninth grade, we needed this, in 10th grade we needed this, etc. So that shadow day is going to be really important.”
Scholarships and Tuition Assistance
While it is important to do independent research by looking at tuition prices on the school’s website, do not get discouraged or eliminate a school based on what is displayed online. Talk to the admissions team and see what tuition assistance is available and what payment options are viable.
“But just like any high school or college around, the tuition is just one piece,” says Patti Walcutt, incoming CFO for St. Ignatius High School. “Sometimes usually there are merit scholarships. If you live in the city of Cleveland, there’s a voucher program that you can use to attend a private school. There’s also a program called EdChoice that families can utilize.”
Be sure to research different programs that can help pay for your child’s education. The Cleveland Scholarship Program and The EdChoice Program provides students from designated public schools the opportunity to attend participating private school. Research what options are available for your family.
“I would encourage families to start early,” says Richard Klingshirn, CFO for St. Ignatius High School. “So if families are looking at a private high school for ninth grade, start to research when your child is in sixth or seventh grade. Start discussions about the financial aid process with potential schools.”
Deciding which school is the best fit for your child is challenging and can be stressful. Be sure to consider all factors of the school before deciding, and not simply because it meets your financial means.
“Start with your child and their specific needs because just going to a school for namesake doesn’t always meet the needs of the individual student,” Hawkins says. “So it starts with thinking through what your child is interested in and what their personality type is. If your student is coming from a very small middle school, and is an introverted student, they may want to look for a smaller high school. Some schools may not have the resources and all of the support services that a child may need. If a child has an Individual Education Plan, or if they have a special learning need, that should be considered.”
Private, Public or Charter School?
Before enrolling your child in an institution, it is important to understand the difference among private schools, public schools, and independent schools and the costs associated with each so families can make the appropriate choice for their child.
“With public schools, you are able to register and enroll into whatever the local public school district is without paying a tuition, but know that you are paying with your property taxes,” Haffke says. “In Cleveland, we have our public schools, parochial schools and independent schools. We do have some faith-based schools that are independent but are not what we would call parochial because the parochial schools have a diocese connection.”
Charter schools are schools that receive government funding but operate independently of the state school system. A private school does not receive public funding from its state government whereas an independent school is overseen by a board of governors or trustees. A parochial school is run by a church, is private, but not independent. Just as funding varies among schools, so does cost.
“We encourage our families to support their students in that GPA requirement because getting an academic scholarship not only helps pay for tuition, but it also helps pay for uniforms, for more college experiences, and for their college expenses once they’re accepted to college,” Hawkins says.
Having a checklist of questions prepared before meeting with an admissions team can be very helpful. Asking friends, family, coaches, pediatricians and other community members for recommendations on where to enroll their child can also help parents decide what is the best fit for their child.
Haffke highlights that ultimately the enrollment team at any school is there to help families make the best decision for their child.
“There are so many wonderful school options here in Cleveland,” Haffke says. “We’re investing in your child and the family is investing in us. We are really just here to help and make sure your child receives the best education possible.”