C anadian private schools are known for the exceptional edu- cation they provide, but also for the steep price tag often associated with enrolment. Yet parents may not realize that most Canadian private schools offer financial assistance to help families overcome tuition-based barriers. “Financial aid ensures that students from diverse economic backgrounds have access to quality education,” says Lee Venditti, supervising principal at J. Addison School in Markham. “This helps create a more inclusive and varied student body, fostering a rich learning environment.” And, depending on the private school, financial aid could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. “Assistance can range from a small percentage of tuition to 100 per cent of tuition, based on the family’s assessed needs,” says Elena Holeton, director of admissions at Toronto’s St. Clement’s School.
Generally, a private school’s financial-aid offerings will fall into three categories:
1. Scholarships & Awards
Whether need-based or merit-based, this type of financial aid ensures private schools attract and retain top-quality students who may not otherwise be able to afford attending. “We look for a student who’s well-rounded academically and demonstrates strong leadership qualities,” says Venditti. Dave Darby, assistant head of enrolment management at Lakefield College School north of Peterborough, says his school is committed to attracting the best students regardless of their socio-economic status. “We’ve been proactive in establishing a range of Entrance Awards of Distinction,” he says, “and launching a Katchewanooka Scholarship Program, which is designed to support promising applicants that require up to, and beyond, full-tuition funding.”
2. Endowments & Legacy Funds
Often founded by a private school’s alumni, these substantial funds consist of charitable donations made over time, which are invested to generate income for the school in perpetuity. The funds are then distributed under very strict guidelines. Designated legacy funds, for example, are usually intended to support only the children of previous graduates. “Our school distributes more than $2 million per year in financial assistance to qualifying families,” says David Fischer, director of admissions at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto.
3. Discounts & Payment Plans
Some private schools offer reduced tuition under certain circumstances, while others provide payment plans to divide fees into more manageable instalments. “We offer a 10 per cent tuition discount for siblings, and a payment plan to help spread the cost of school fees across the year,” says Michelle Gow, director of admissions at Hudson College in Toronto. Michelle Pucknell, principal at Blyth Academy Whitby, says Blyth’s sibling discounts and payment plans help level the educational playing field. “We introduced financial aid in order to be more accessible and equitable,” she says. “We want to ensure that the families that need assistance with tuition payments can confidently send their child to our school.”
Ultimately, parents worried about the potential cost of a private school education should contact their schools of choice to see what types of financial aid may be available. Darby believes the effort is worth it for all involved. “Tuition-assistance programs can be life-changing for students,” he says. “And financial-aid initiatives benefit the entire school community.”