How to Afford Private School in New York City?

Private school is notoriously expensive, and fees for some of New York City’s most elite private institutions crossed the $50,000 threshold recently, causing many families to conclude that this option is simply beyond their grasp. Not only has tuition been rising far faster than inflation, it now rivals the cost of many colleges. Families who fail to secure a spot in one of the city’s elite public schools or are neither titans of Wall Street nor independently wealthy may despair of getting a first-rate education for their children.

But before you pack up your belongings and head for the suburbs, it is worth investigating all the options to make an independent school education more affordable. There are many ways you can save to secure your place. Here are some pointers to get you started on your education journey.

Financial aid

Many NYC private schools offer financial aid. While you may assume that you earn too much to qualify for aid, or alternatively that you couldn’t afford the cost of private school even with financial assistance, don’t be so sure. Schools can be very motivated to attract qualified students who help them to meet their diversity goals or have special talents in music, athletics, or other areas. So, go ahead and apply and see what they offer. You will need to provide proof of earnings to show you qualify for financial support. Around 20% of the students enrolled in NYC private schools receive some form of financial aid according to the National Association of Independent Schools, with median aid of $31,000 per year. Don’t be afraid to push for a more generous package if the initial offer can’t fit within the family budget. Some schools award nearly full sponsorships to families who earn less than $75,000 per year.

Low-cost private schools

Yes, lower cost private school options do exist even in New York City! A few new schools have launched in recent years with a focus on exceptional academic programs that are affordable to a broader segment of New York’s population. While their buildings may not be draped with ivy and sports facilities may not be Olympic caliber, these schools cater to families who are uncompromising when it comes to education. MUSE Academy is one of those schools where tuition is approximately 50% less than its counterparts for some of the long-established Brooklyn private schools. If your family is comfortable with a religious education, parochial schools can also be relative bargains, although may have less diversity than non-denominational schools.

Employee discounts

Are you a teacher? As an employee at most private schools you are eligible for tuition discounts. The discounts vary among each school, so ask your finance department for what you qualify for. This could be 20%, 50% and sometimes free depending on your seniority.

Payment plans

Many, if not all schools offer some type of payment plan. They realize that parents can’t afford to pay these high fees upfront. Each school will require a deposit to secure your place, then the remainder can be paid in installments, which helps alleviate the stress on the monthly budget.

City Reimbursement

If your child has a learning disability and would benefit from being in a specialized program you may qualify for reimbursement from the NYC Department of Education to attend a specialized private school that offers an integrated approach including small class sizes, specially trained teaching staff, and appropriate therapy. Qualifying children can include those with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and other disabilities that make it difficult to thrive within a public-school environment. Navigating the system is complex and usually requires retaining a specialized law firm and having an evaluation by an educational psychologist, but for children with learning disabilities who are of high to moderate intelligence, it can make the difference between academic success and failure. Reimbursement rates can range from 80% to 100%.


Some schools, including MUSE Academy, also offer merit-based scholarships based on academic prowess or other talents. It’s important to understand the process of applying early on as it can take time to confirm if you qualify or not. Speak to the school’s admissions department to submit all the necessary paperwork. Scholarships can range from free to 50% off  depending on the institution. Many schools only offer a couple of scholarships per academic year.

Sibling Discounts

Priority is often given to families with siblings. Whether you have one child attending the school or you have a family member who has attended in the past, discounts can be made available. It isn’t offered at all schools, so check with the schools that you’re applying to.

While the sticker shock of New York City private school tuition may make it seem like the independent school experience is only for elites, it doesn’t have to be that way. Increasingly, some independent schools are looking for innovative ways to create true diversity in the range of families they serve. To learn more about MUSE Academy’s tuition and scholarship attend an information session and then schedule a family visit to get started with learning if it meets your family’s educational goals.