Home Community Blog Affording an Independent School: 5 Ways to Make Investing in Your Child’s Education Possible

The decision to enroll your child in an independent school can be a transformative investment in their future. When exploring independent schools for your child, questions and concerns can arise about financing and affording the investment into their education. The following post will guide you through effective ways to make affording an independent school tuition both possible and manageable. From exploring financial aid options to leveraging other resources, we will dive into 5 ways to prioritize the investment into your child’s education.

Payment Plans and Discounts

Most independent schools offer payment plans to help ease the financial burden of one large, lump sum. Alternatively, some schools may offer discounts for paying the annual tuition upfront. When considering payment plan options, you can sit down with your budget and determine what is possible to contribute to tuition payments each month.

At Waterford, we offer a monthly payment plan option that breaks tuition into eight monthly payments. There is no additional cost for selecting the monthly plan. Families who opt for the one-time payment plan receive a 2% discount. 

Financial Aid

Most independent schools have some form of  financial assistance. During the school exploration stage, inquire with the admissions office about the financial aid application process and make note of important deadlines. Schools are more likely to award financial aid to applicants who meet the application deadline. In the initial stages of speaking with a school’s admissions team, ask what percentage of students in the school receive financial aid. Make sure you understand the requirements and how to ensure you are considered for a financial aid award. 

As a need aware school, Waterford School awards financial aid based on a family’s demonstrated need. Currently, 17% of students at Waterford receive financial assistance. Waterford utilizes a third party platform called Clarity to help determine a family’s expected contribution. The family’s expected contribution is calculated as what is possible based on income, assets, debts, cost of living, expenses, and other financial factors. Financial aid at Waterford is a way for the school and parents to work together and contribute in partnership for their child’s education. An application to Clarity is required annually, given that a family’s financial situation can change from year to year. Financial aid is not a loan and does not have to be repaid.


Well-established independent schools will often have scholarships available. Like financial aid, scholarships do not require any repayment. Scholarships can be awarded for a variety of reasons, varying from financial need-based or merit-based, or a combination of need and merit. It is important to look into scholarship opportunities from the school to which you’re applying, and it is also important to search for scholarships from local organizations and community foundations. Make sure to verify requirements to apply, including writing prompts, verifying documentation, and deadlines.  

As Waterford School continues to grow its endowment, named scholarship opportunities will be updated on Waterford’s website. Named scholarships are made possible by the incredible generosity of donors who believe in the transformational Waterford experience. Outside of named scholarships, the endowment also provides aid to families most in need. Every gift to the endowment ensures the school’s sustainability and ability to provide the Waterford experience to many. 

Investment Accounts

In the United States, families can open tax-advantaged savings accounts as a means to pay for their child’s education. Two options to consider are an Education Savings Account and a 529 plan. Both are funded with post-tax money, and the growth and withdrawals are tax-free, so long as it is used for qualifying expenses. 

As defined by the IRS, a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is a trust or custodial account set up in the United States solely for paying qualified education expenses for the designated beneficiary of the account. These qualified education expenses can include elementary or secondary education expenses, like tuition. There is a limit of $2,000 per year in contributions, and there are also income limits to consider. It is important to discuss with a trusted financial advisor before opening and investing in an account like this. 

A 529 Savings Plan is a state-run account that allows families to set aside money for qualifying educational expenses, including independent school tuition. There are no annual contribution limits for a 529 plan, but contributions may  be subject to the federal “gift tax” if it is over the gift threshold amount determined by the IRS that year. In 2024, that amount is $18,000. As always, consult with a financial advisor, read the fine print, and do some research to see what makes the most sense for your family’s financial situation.

Consider Tax Incentives 

Tuition payments made directly to an educational organization on behalf of a person are not treated as taxable gifts. On the other hand, grandparents and other family members can pay the independent school directly and avoid tax implications. It is always best to speak with a tax professional to best understand these implications. 

Waterford School’s Student Billing Department can work directly with grandparents and family members to make payment arrangements to the intended student’s tuition account. For questions around direct ACH payments, wire transfers, and other payment methods directly to Waterford, please contact the Student Billing Department

**Disclaimer: The information presented above is intended for informational purposes. This blog post does not constitute financial, investment, or legal advice. We strongly recommend that you consult with a qualified financial professional or advisor before making any financial or investment decisions. 

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