Why is Independent School so expensive in Canada? – Actually, it might be viewed as a bargain.

I am in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and LCS had a table at the TABS boarding school fair last night. A mother who had recently visited another school fair that did not specialize in boarding schools like TABS does, told me of meeting ‘private’ boarding schools that were only $30,000 compared to our approximate $55,000 tuition and boarding fee. Why were we so expensive?

After beginning to extol the virtues of ‘independent’ schools in Canada and the difference between “for profit/private” and “not for profit/independent” schools the woman began to answer the question herself by telling me of her son’s impressions. He wasn’t impressed with the $30,000 ‘private’ schools he met.

She said he was a top student in his International School, from his maturity and astute deductions, I would agree with her. He found that the ‘private’ schools did not have any entry requirements, nor did they need to establish English fluency, they could take anyone. They also had very few if any Canadian students and little in the way of extra curricular offerings. At $55,000 with 315 acres, world-class facilities, countless co-curricular opportunities, over sixty percent of boarders not to mention our 113 day students being Canadian and 100% university placement, we were beginning to look like a bargain.

I often hear horror stories of international families who have sent their children to schools sight unseen and have been very surprised and disappointed by what they have found upon arrival. They either trusted ‘private’ school means quality, or it was too complicated with visa requirements, travel costs or time to go see them before sending their tuition dollars.

For international families considering boarding schools, it pays to do your homework and ask a few simple but important questions:

  • Is the school accredited by a reputable organization such as the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS)?
  • Is the school a member of The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS)?
  • Is the school a member of The National Association of Independent Schools?
  • What is the Canadian/International breakdown of the student population?
  • What percentage of students gain university admission and where are they being accepted?
  • What supports are available for students?
  • What is life like outside of classes? (i.e. what learning opportunities are there during the other 16 hours of the day they are at school?)
  • What do students do on the weekends? Is programming available? What percentage of students stay on campus for the weekends?

If a family can afford $30,000 for a private boarding school and their child is a very good student, they should consider applying for financial assistance. LCS and some other CAIS schools offer need-based financial assistance for international students to represent their country on campus. In this case, and maybe even at full cost, dollar for dollar spent, an ‘independent’ school v. a ‘private’ school would be a real bargain.