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Affording Private School in Philadelphia

Affording Private School in Philadelphia

Philadelphia offers over a hundred private schools for children in grades Pre-K – 12. There are several different types of private schools, from Catholic schools run by the Archdiocese, private religious schools (including religions other than Catholicism), to private secular schools. Private schools vary in size and location. They often offer a wide range of teaching styles, electives, and opportunities for parent involvement. Begin searching for private schools.

Private schools also differ in cost. While most Catholic high schools are approximately $7,000-$8,000 per year, there are also private schools with costs up to $40,000. This “sticker price” can be overwhelming, but keep in mind that many schools have financial aid available and there are organizations in Philadelphia that offer scholarships for school-aged students.

School-Based Financial Aid

Most schools offer their own financial aid and tuition assistance.

There are two primary types of financial aid: need-based financial aid and merit-based scholarships

  • Need-based financial aid is reserved for students who come from lower income households. Catholic high schools in Philadelphia, for instance, have multiple need-based financial aid programs. Read more about these opportunities here.
  • Independent private schools often have their own need-based financial aid programs as well. This varies depending on the schools– and it’s not directly related to the school’s price tag. A school that costs $40,000 may offer full tuition to a number of students or have a special fund specifically for low-income families, while one that has a $20,000 tuition cost may be unable to offer any financial aid.
  • In most cases, determining whether a school is affordable for your family will require speaking with the school directly.
  • Merit-based scholarships are based on previous academic achievement or civic involvement. A student must apply or be nominated to be considered for these awards. For many Catholic schools, these requirements include a high GPA or a certain score on a standardized test (typically the Cognitive Skills Index or Terra Novas). If your child has not taken these tests, reach out to the school directly. Often, there is some flexibility and/or an opportunity to take a placement test in lieu of this score.
  • Learn more about Catholic high school scholarships or contact the school directly to request more information.
  • Independent private schools set their own criteria for scholarships. They may require essays, transcripts, or hold a selective interview process. Ask the school about timelines for submitting these scholarships as they are often due in the year before your student begins school.

Please note that schools have a limited supply of financial aid that they give out each year– so it’s extremely important to apply for financial aid as early as possible. In fact, it’s usually a good idea to submit your financial aid application at the same time as the school’s admission application.


There are several local organizations that provide financial support for children from low-income families.

Children’s Scholarship Fund

  • The Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia (CSFP) offers four-year scholarships for students in grades K-8 who wish to enroll in a private school. As the largest provider of K-8th grade scholarships in Pennsylvania, CSFP partners with over 185 diverse participating schools (many of whom are not associated with any religion) in the Philadelphia area, offering your family an opportunity to select a school that best fits your child(ren)’s needs.
  • These scholarships make tuition more manageable; they are partial and dependent on your family’s income. The maximum scholarship is $2,500.
  • The application is available online at Children’s Scholarship Fund.
  • Every parent who completes and submits the application by the deadline will be entered into CSFP’s random lottery.

BLOCS, or Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools

  •   BLOCS is an organization that provides partial scholarships to Philadelphia students interested in attending Catholic schools.
  •   To apply, a family must fulfill income requirements. A family with one dependent must have an annual income of less than $90,000. For each additional dependent, you can make an additional $15,000 per child. 
  •   For more information, visit here.


CEO America Lehigh Valley

Qualifications: student must be currently enrolled in a public school and looking to enroll in a private school; total parent income does not exceed $60,000 annually; student currently resides in Pennsylvania; student is enrolled in grades 2-11; parent must submit documentation of all income sources.

Ellis Trust for Girls

Qualifications: student lives in Philadelphia; student lives in a household where one or both parent is absent, or mentally or physically disabled; student is eligible for reduced-price lunch; have grades “C” or better in major subjects; student can prove dependency status; students’ family does not own property other than their primary home.

The Howley Foundation

Qualifications: Scholarships can be redeemed at Bonner Prendergast Catholic High School, Cristo Rey High School, Merion Mercy Academy, Roman Catholic High School, Saint John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School, St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, and West Catholic Preparatory High School. Students apply for the scholarship through the school. Candidates must demonstrate significant financial need as defined by the financial aid evaluation process currently used by the school; have scores on admissions test/standardized tests to indicate a high probability of success; demonstrate a level of academic achievement; exhibit a high probability of ongoing participation and meaningful contribution in at least one extracurricular activity; demonstrate strong evidence of the family support and the cultural attributes necessary to succeed.

To apply, speak with your school directly.

John T. Mitchell Memorial Trust Scholarship

Amount: One (or more) one year scholarships up to $2,000

Qualifications: African American Catholic; at least a cumulative B (or the numerical equivalent) average; financial need as determined by a SmartAid application; between 40 and 80 hours of community service per academic year; attend or desire to attend a Roman Catholic High School.

Maguire Scholars Program

Amount: $3,000 per year

Qualifications: financial need; family has applied for SmartAid; academic ability; personal growth and development; commitment to community service and extracurricular activity; candidate is attending or going to attend one of the 17 Archdiocese high schools of Philadelphia.

Officer Daniel Boyle Scholarship Fund

Qualifications: students attending or planning to attend Archbishop Ryan High School, Monsignor Bonner, Cardinal O’Hara, Cardinal Brennan, and Roman Catholic High School

St. Thomas More Alumni Association

Qualifications: To be considered, nominees must be related to or recommended by an STM Alumnus; plan on attending a catholic high school for the 2020-21 academic year; be active in school, sports, or church activities; have a good academic record; be involved in community serve.

Young Scholars Program

Qualifications: entering 8th grade in the fall of 2021; earned all or mostly A’s since the 6th grade; demonstrated financial need.


Other local scholarships exist as well.


More information

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