Rising healthcare costs and salaries for teachers and higher standards for technology mean increasingly higher tuition for private school students.

“Tuition is just one of those things that has just way outpaced inflation,” says Dan Andriacco, communications director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. “High schools have gotten to be such a big enterprise.”

That is especially true in the area of technology, where it has become more common to expect laptops for students, smartboards instead of chalkboards, and science labs fully equipped with the latest tools.

Add in the factor of an unforgiving economic climate, and many families may feel that private schools aren’t an option for their children. But don’t count them out too quickly.

Andriacco confirms that many parents may not understand that there is often some kind of financial help available if it’s needed.

Most private schools have founded development offices in recent years to increase efforts of reaching out to alumni to gather financial aid for students, says Brother Ron Luksic, assistant principal of Moeller High School.

“Like anything, people should take a look and try first rather than just ruling out going to a private or Catholic high school because of tuition,” Luksic says. “I think people know there is financial aid available for college, but they don’t think of it as much with high schools. I’d encourage people to look into the possibility.”

Need and Merit

For the most part, private high schools are interested in having an economically diverse student population, as well as attracting bright students, and they have several types of merit- and need-based scholarships available. Most of them are in the form of grants, not loans that need to be repaid, and often, schools will post available scholarships on their web sites under an “Admissions” tab.

Some of the scholarships available are substantial. Elder High School, whose annual tuition for incoming freshmen is $8,800 (and includes a personal computer), gives scholarships worth up to half of the total cost of tuition, Andriacco says. According to Elder’s web site, about 58 percent of students qualify for financial aid.

At Cincinnati Country Day School, a non-religious primary and secondary private school in Indian Hill, requests for tuition assistance are evaluated based on academic and personal qualifications, independently of the admission process. “The need for tuition assistance should never discourage a family from applying to CCDS,” its web site reads.

Many schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, as well as the Diocese of Covington, work through a third-party company, Private School Aid Service, to analyze potential students’ application data objectively. Families pay about $25 per student to have their financial data sent to all the private high schools they are interested in attending, and the company informs the family on how much aid is available for their child at each of those schools.

Most schools have their own admissions schedules, and they all have different amounts of aid available, as well as different methods of distributing it. Finding out details on financial aid is often as easy as approaching the schools of interest before the admissions process begins.

Students usually begin attending open houses for the high schools they’re interested in around October or November of their eighth grade year, Luksic says. There’s an entrance test for Catholic schools in November, and the financial aid process usually begins after that point; many of the merit-based scholarships may be based on entrance test scores. Families must reapply for need-based aid each year.

It pays to give

If you are interested in having your child attend a Catholic grade school, you may be able to receive financial assistance on your tuition bills if you are a regular parishioner at that school’s church.

“The way our schools work generally is that there’s a theoretical tuition, and if you’re a worshipping member there’s a different tuition,” Andriacco says. “If you show by your envelopes that you go every Sunday or at least most of the time, you get the in-parish tuition rate. You don’t have to necessarily give a lot of money.”

Andriacco also mentions that being a member of the parish means that the parish will often try to work with you if you have problems paying.

In Kentucky, families often benefit from the Diocese of Covington’s Secondary School Fund, which distributes funds from parishes to high schools for tuition assistance each year.

Don’t Discount Vouchers

Another option in Ohio that Andriacco says has appealed to many elementary school applicants is the Ohio EdChoice Scholarship, commonly referred to as a voucher program.

The statewide program provides up to 14,000 eligible students with scholarships to attend the participating private school of their choice, according to the Ohio Department of Education’s web site.

To be eligible, students must be enrolled in a public school that has been identified as in Academic Watch or Academic Emergency, the lowest categories on the state’s school rating system, for two of the past three school years. Then, they must be accepted for enrollment at a participating private school (a list is available at http://edchoice.ohio.gov) for the next school year. Only then can they apply for an EdChoice Scholarship.

“A big misconception is that vouchers are only for poor people,” Andriacco says. “You can be a millionaire and be near a nonperforming school.”

Applications for the Ohio EdChoice Scholarship can be submitted from Feb. 1 to April 16.