The extra tuition costs and fees involved in sending children to a Christian elementary, high school, or college are a serious consideration for most families. In fact, more than being a serious consideration, the ‘Christian school’ decision is often one that causes a lot of conflict in families. Some families may have made the arrangements to save money for the cost of school, while others will be forced to consider student loans.
Since we all have varying debt tolerance, it is important to make this decision carefully and prayerfully.
How To Decide If You Can Afford A Christian School
I think the decision to send children to a Christian school is much like the decision to be a stay at home wife. It’s not just something you decide if you can afford, but you decide to sacrifice so that you can afford it – if it’s important to you.
Listen To Each Other’s Story
Here’s the deal. The husband and wife probably have very different experiences with Christian schools.
Perhaps the wife was raised attending a Christian elementary school, but the husband was part of the public school system.
Here’s how the conversation typically goes:
Wife – “I just really want Nebuchadnezzar to go to the best school possible. It is important to me that he is in a classroom with other Christians, is learning Christian values, and has a Christian teacher.”
Husband – “You’re just trying to shelter Nebuchadnezzar. Look, I went to a public school and I turned out alright, didn’t I?”
Tip to the wife – always answer yes to that question.
Husband – “It is a waste of money paying for a Christian education when he can get a good education in the public system.”
Questions the Couple Should Ask When Considering a Christian Private School
- Why do you feel so strongly Nebuchadnezzar should go to a Christian school / public school? If you don’t get good feedback, then ask it this way: On a scale of 1 – 10, how strongly do you feel that he should go to Christian / public school.
- What is your greatest fear if he does not go to a Christian school? What is your greatest fear if he does not go to a public school?
- Can we afford a Christian private school? Is there any free space in your budget categories allocations?
Ask: Can We Afford a Christian School?
You must listen to each other’s story because you will now know the level of commitment / opposition each of you will give to the decision. It will be nearly impossible to answer if you can afford it until you both decide that you want to afford it. Work to get your marriage on the same financial page so that you both support your financial decisions. Here are some tips for improving your marriage and money relationship.
Private Christian School Guidelines To Consider
- Tuition payments to a private Christian school are not a substitute for a free-will gift. Giving should happen without alternative benefits and motivations. Proceed with caution if you think the way you can afford a Christian school is by using your giving money to pay tuition.
- Borrowing money to pay for (especially a pre-college) Christian education is a poor financial decision. If you are thinking about borrowing money to pay for Nebuchadnezzar’s elementary education, you will probably do it for high school and college too. Before you know it, you will be drowning in debt. Proceed with caution if you think the way you can afford a Christian school is by borrowing money.
- Large gifts from family members can complicate your relationship with them. If grandparents want to help pay for a Christian education, I suggest you proceed with caution. If you have any doubt that the grandparents might use this as leverage in the future, then I would find a different way to fund a Christian education.
- Is the tuition cost sustainable long term? Often times people will do something drastic (part time job or sell things on ebay) to pay for a year of Christian education. If the payments are not sustainable for the long term, you will need to evaluate other alternatives.
- Are the tuition payments reasonable according to your salary? You get to be the judge on “reasonable”. Honestly, it comes down to the question – how much are you willing to sacrifice in order for your child to attend a Christian school? Don’t forget about other siblings too, as you may be setting a dangerous precedent.
If you cannot afford it based on these guidelines – fear not. You still have on more step to consider.
Ask: What Can I Do To Make Private Christian Schooling More Affordable?
- Contact the school and explain your situation. Many Christian schools have benefactors or scholarships depending on your situation. Call the school and openly and honestly explain your situation. Don’t be demanding or aggressive. Simply explain your situation and ask if there is anything they can do to help.
- Consider working for the school. I grew up in a town with a Christian high school. (I attended the school, as did my two older brothers. Dad was the school president, so there wasn’t much discussion in the matter :)). I have a cousin who moved to work for the school specifically so his kids could attend the Christian high school. By moving, he saved boarding expenses and also received a significant tuition deduction. I know many people who have taken jobs at a Christian school just for the tuition discount. Depending on your church affiliation, many schools offer “sister school discounts”. As such, since my dad worked for school A, I received a tuition discount to school B.
- Look into other occupations that might offer discounts. Some Christian schools offer discounts to missionaries or ministers (a nice perk for the minister’s salary package). While I’m not suggesting joining one of those ‘professions’ for the discount, it would be valuable information to know if you are already working in a ministry-related field. Some schools are known to be quite flexible on their definition of “minister”.