How to navigate financial assistance at Toronto’s top private schools

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For many parents applying to independent schools, affordability is an important consideration. To improve affordability, millions of dollars in financial assistance are awarded annually by Canadian independent schools to citizens and international boarders alike.

Schools offer financial assistance to families of every income level to ensure their top-quality education is accessible to students from diverse financial backgrounds. “There’s a myth that only low-income families can get financial assistance—almost everyone can qualify for different amounts,” says Hilary Adamson, executive director of student recruitment at the Bishop Strachan School.

Assistance ranges from a few thousand dollars to full tuition coverage, with schools like Upper Canada College and Appleby College providing an average of approximately $21,000 a year to each student receiving finan- cial help. Upper Canada College offers the most assistance to its students, with more than $5 million available per year.

“We encourage all families to consider applying,” says Michael O’Connor, Appleby College’s chief marketing and enrolment officer. Roughly one in five Appleby students receive some form of financial assistance. “It’s really worth going through the process, because for some families, even just $2,000 in annual assistance can make all the difference,” Adamson says.

The application for financial assistance is separate from applying for admission, but both must be submitted concurrently—typically at the end of the calendar year for consideration for the following fall. And par- ents with enrolled children must reapply for financial assistance every new school year.

Students can find out how much financial assistance they’re eligible for by filling out an online application through a trusted third-party administrator such as Apple Financial Services, the service used by most major independent schools in the GTA, including Havergal College and

Branksome Hall. Families must provide financial details including tax returns, proof of income and annual expenditures. This information is secure and confidential throughout the application process.

Apple Financial then determines a recommended amount of assistance through a needs-based assessment that factors in variables such as household income and expenses, assets and liabilities, and whether siblings are enrolled in universities or independent schools.

Although financial assistance and enrolment decisions are made around the same time, both applications are treated separately by most schools. “Applying to Bishop Strachan is needs-blind,” says Adamson. “We analyze the application for admission without looking at a family’s financial situation.”

Based on Apple Financial’s recommendation, schools award a set amount of approved financial assistance along with a separate offer of admission. Offer dates can vary, but many GTA independent schools share a common offer date, which is generally in late February. The offer date for next fall is February 26, 2021. Parents are given five days after the offer date to make a decision.

This year, several schools have increased the amount of assistance available to applicants who have experienced increased hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “If a family runs into financial difficulties, we will do everything we possibly can to provide support,” says O’Connor. New applicants, as well as families already receiving financial assistance, can fill out an optional supplementary Covid-19 form through Apple Financial.

These initiatives are part of a long-standing effort by independent schools to enhance and maintain inclusivity. “Different perspectives and backgrounds foster a diverse community, which helps enrich our learning environment,” says Adamson. “Once we enrol a student, we want to keep their family as part of our community, so we do our best to support them no matter their financial situation.”

Browse the 2020 Private and Independent Schools Directory now