Could private school be affordable for my family?

So many of the families we talk with during the admissions process are wondering if private school tuition could ever be affordable for them. 

They recognize the value of the small school and classroom, the opportunity for extraordinary educational experiences, and the potential to finally find a school that fits their kid. They also have to live in reality, where the tuition costs are substantial, and they wonder if they could be affordable.

About half of our families receive financial aid of some sort

When we describe our tuition aid program to families, they usually express some combination of shock and disbelief. Their assumption was that “the price was the price,” and that an independent school education was out of reach for their child, no matter how great a fit the school might be. The truth is, most independent private schools have a significant financial aid program.

The Howard Gardner School actively seeks to have a diversity of socio-economic backgrounds in our community. To achieve that, our community and board supports the process, and we are able to help all kinds of different families afford their child’s tuition. HGS isn’t unique in this. In fact, most of the private independent schools in the region work specifically to help families from a variety of financial circumstances find a way to afford the educational setting that best fits their kids.

“Well, I don’t think we’d qualify.”

“We make too much for aid, but not enough to afford tuition.”

These are two common misconceptions we hear from families. In fact, at The Howard Gardner School we provide as many 25% aid awards as we do 50% and 75% aid awards. In other words, our financial aid program is specifically designed to help a family regardless of financial circumstance. HGS, like most schools, also provides a small number of full scholarships (99% aid awards), but our financial aid program is set up to help provide a broad diversity of access.

Monthly payments, lump sum discounts, 529 plans

Another way to “take the edge off,” for families seeking the best fit for their student, is to help provide monthly payment planning without the burden of finance costs. In fact, at The Howard Gardner School, we provide a discount to families who choose to pay in a lump sum. By spreading the costs of a private school education over the full school year, families can budget and plan in a way that might not otherwise be possible. Additionally, using money from a 529 plan is now permitted to pay tuition at private schools in Virginia. Many schools in this region have a variety of options when it comes to planning for or spreading out payments, and their admissions staff can help you understand those.  

The key is to reach out

The staff at independent schools want to help — whether that means helping with aid applications to organizations like ISM FAST or NAIS SSS (both financial aid recommenders), sharing the ways that each school helps their families budget, plan, and ultimately afford tuition, or just offering their expertise and experience with this process. Financial aid is an important way for places like The Howard Gardner School to build a strong, healthy community of families from a variety of backgrounds and financial situations.

The Howard Gardner School is an intentionally small, hands-on, experiential, university prep school serving students in grades 6-12. It is our mission to help bright, creative, non-traditional students use their unique strengths to thrive academically, intellectually, and emotionally. 

Please check out our website at, and call or email to learn more about how the school that is great for your child can be affordable for your family.  

The Howard Gardner School
Serving bright, creative, non-traditional learners in grades 6-12
Alexandria, VA & Sterling, VA

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