The surprising affordability of private school

Think you can’t afford private school?

You’d be surprised. Financial aid puts tuition in reach for middle class families.

It feels like almost every Baltimore family considers private education for their children at some point. But for too many, that process stops with a visit to the Tuition page of whichever school’s website they’re looking at. The cost, especially with college looming afterward, can seem far too high.

Don’t let that website be the end of the conversation! A financial aid award is a very real possibility at many area schools, even for upper middle class families. At St. Paul’s, more than 40% of students receive financial assistance – made in the form of grants, not loans, that does not need to be paid back. Half of grants go to families whose annual income exceeds $130,000.

Why do schools award financial aid? Primarily because they believe a community works best when it includes the widest possible range of talents and attributes, including socio-economic, cultural, and racial diversity. St. Paul’s was founded almost 170 years ago with the mission of providing deserving children with an outstanding education that would otherwise not be available to them. You could be helping us fulfill our mission by applying for and receiving financial aid.

Here are other issues that people considering applying for financial aid often ask:

Confidentiality – Our school stakes its reputation on maintaining your confidentiality. Data is gathered and considered by a small group of carefully chosen administrators and staff so that we can look at the overall picture of the school, at the specifics of your application, and at the best use of the over $3.5 million in aid we will award each year. Your Admissions contact person will most likely never know what is on your financial aid application.

Deadlines – You want to apply for admission and financial aid at the same time. Most independent school application deadlines are in December prior to the fall your child would start school. The financial aid application window is much smaller, beginning on November 1 and ending on December 15 prior to the fall before school starts. Some schools have workshops to help first-time aid applicants, but many parents will reach out to the staff in the Financial Aid Office for a consultation, preferring the privacy of a one-on-one conversation. Meeting these deadlines increases the possibility of success.

College – With children in pre-school, your plan right now may include the local elementary school. Early grades in public school may provide some financial breathing room, but my advice is to visit your neighborhood school soon. Ask about the student-teacher ratio in Kindergarten and beyond. Is recess a part of each school day? Is character development included in the curriculum? Is foreign language taught to the youngest students? Is this what you picture as part of your child’s journey to college? And will it be the best preparation for admission to that right-fit college?

For some families, a financial aid award is what allows them to make the transition from public to independent school a year or two before they had planned to, and budgeted for. For others, an award could bridge that gap in their household budget. But for most, that help with tuition makes the otherwise impossible possible. We encourage you to talk with the private schools you’re interested in to learn more. The availability of financial assistance might surprise you.

Click here to learn more. 

Jill Wagoner

Jill Wagoner

Mrs. Wagoner is the Director of Strategic Communications for St. Paul's. She came to the School in 2015 and previously spent three years as Director of Communications and Marketing at an independent school in North Carolina. She also has experience working for a full-service marketing firm and a daily newspaper. She can be reached at

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