Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Debby Carreau with children Jenna and Joshua.

Earlier this summer, while visiting a friend's cottage in Muskoka, Anne-Marie Kee's son and daughter asked why they couldn't buy a cottage, too.

"If you want to give up Ridley, we can start talking about it," she told them.

Although she was just joking about pulling them out of the private school in St. Catherines, Ont., to fund a cottage dream, Ms. Kee wasn't kidding about the financial sacrifice the family makes each year to pay for their education.

Story continues below advertisement

In fact, Ms. Kee, who is the executive director of Canadian Accredited Independent Schools, has heard numerous stories about what parents will do to finance private school. Take on an extra job. Drive an old car. Live in a smaller house. And yes, be perpetual guests in other people's vacation homes.

The truth is, times have changed since the days when private school was seen as a bastion of learning for the county's privileged class. Today the picture is shot with a wider lens with more middle-class families entering the fray. Despite this fact, private school still doesn't come cheap, generally ranging anywhere from $5,000 for tuition at a smaller day school to $55,000 for a top boarding school.

So, how to pay for it?

There are numerous options, but no magic bullets, admits Michael Roy, director of admission, marketing and business development at St. Andrew's College, an all-boy school in Aurora, Ont. Still, it's important that parents are aware of a surprising truth: independent schools want your kids. As long as parents pay what they're capable of, many schools are willing to work with the families.

Affording school is often easier with scholarships, which are merit-based, and bursaries, which are based on need. Many schools offer them. For instance, in the 2011-2012 school year at St. Andrew's, 21 per cent of the school's students were the beneficiaries of either a scholarship or bursary totaling $1.9-million. Even outside organizations and companies offer private school scholarships.

Brenda Hiscock, a financial planner in Toronto who works with families putting their children in private school, says she firmly believes all parents should ask about assistance.

"Parents really should apply even if they think they won't qualify. It's always a good idea to throw in an application and see. Some people are pleasantly surprised by the outcome," she says.

Story continues below advertisement

Even parents who are both pulling in six figures can sometimes make the case they need the money due to special circumstances. They have older children in university, say, or a younger child is ill and needs care.

Don't forget tax credits. Although Canada doesn't have many of them, if a family has children in religious schools that are listed as charitable organizations, tuition can become a tax writeoff. The same goes for children with medical issues. If a doctor writes a letter saying that a private school environment would be better for the child for medical reasons, tuition could lead to a tax slash too.

Debby Carreau, a mother in Calgary with two young children at Webber Academy, says some parents at her school donate their entry bond – the money parents get back when the child leaves the school – in order to get the tax deduction today.

"They say, 'my six-grand today will only be worth three-grand in 14 years, but if I donate it today, I'm going to have a $6,000 deduction,' " she says. "It helps the school, too."

Then there are the creative ways to finance tuition. Ms. Kee pays for school using monthly installments rather than giving lump sum payments before the year starts. Ms. Carreau says some schools even allow parents to put the fees on credit card. It's not for everyone, but the option is there.

Ms. Hiscock says an even better solution would be to save up early before paying up. If parents know they will eventually put their children in private school, they can each load up their tax free savings accounts (TFSAs) with $5,000 a year and have $60,000 by the time the child is six.

Story continues below advertisement

"Saving early is always the best bet," she says.

Ultimately, independent school is expensive, so sometimes it takes the sting away to remember what it provides – big bonuses. Think less running around taking your kids to dance lessons and hockey practice. They're offered at school. Even uniforms, which look like an expense at first, can actually be cheaper and easier than shelling out for pricey street clothes.

But it's the food factor that makes all the difference for Ms. Kee.

"If you want to talk about value? I don't have to pack lunches. They feed them there. That alone is worth the tuition," she says.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies