Boarding School Costs

The decision to send a child to a boarding school can be both an emotional and financial commitment. Boarding schools, with their unique environments, offer students a blend of academic rigor, personal development, and life skills training. But, one of the primary concerns parents often have is, “How much does it cost?” Let’s delve into the expenses associated with attending a boarding school.

1. Tuition Fees

Tuition fees are the most significant chunk of the cost. These fees cover the primary education and academic services a student receives. In the U.S., boarding school tuition can range widely:

  • Less Expensive Schools: Approximately $20,000 – $40,000 per year.
  • Top-tier Boarding Schools: These can range from $50,000 to over $70,000 annually.

Factors affecting tuition:

  • Reputation and History: Established schools with a long-standing reputation often charge higher fees.
  • Location: Schools in cities or regions with a high cost of living might have steeper tuition costs.
  • Facilities and Offerings: Schools with advanced labs, art studios, sports facilities, and other specialized amenities may charge more.

2. Room and Board

This cost covers housing and meals. Some schools might offer multiple meal plan options or different types of accommodations, which can affect the price.

3. Books and Supplies

While some schools might include these costs in the tuition, others might bill them separately. On average, parents can expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $2,000 annually on textbooks, uniforms, and other academic supplies.

4. Technology Fees

Many modern boarding schools incorporate technology into their curriculum, which might mean additional costs for software, hardware, or specific online platforms.

5. Extracurricular Activities

Activities like sports, music, arts, or clubs might come with additional fees. For instance, a student joining the equestrian team might have added costs related to horse care, equipment, and tournaments.

6. Travel and Transportation

Especially for families living far from the school, there’ll be costs associated with traveling to and from the institution during breaks, holidays, or family weekends.

7. Application and Testing Fees

Before even attending, there might be costs associated with applying to the school. This can include application fees, standardized testing fees (such as the SSAT or ISEE), and potential travel for interviews or school tours.

8. Miscellaneous Fees

There could be other fees, often overlooked, such as laundry, health insurance (for international students), weekend activities, or personal spending money.

9. Financial Aid and Scholarships

It’s crucial to note that many boarding schools offer financial aid packages or scholarships. Depending on a family’s financial situation or the student’s merits, the “sticker price” might be significantly reduced. Schools often have dedicated financial aid offices to help families navigate the costs.

10. International Students

For students from outside the country where the school is located, there might be added costs like visa fees, international health insurance, and higher travel costs.

Why Are Boarding Schools So Expensive?

Boarding schools, with their promise of premier educational experiences and holistic student development, often come with a hefty price tag. For many families, the costs associated with enrolling a child in such an institution can be prohibitive. But what factors contribute to the high cost of boarding school education? Let’s delve deep into understanding the expenses associated with boarding schools.

1. Comprehensive Tuition Fees

Unlike day schools, boarding school fees cover a wide range of costs:

  • Lodging: Students are provided with accommodations throughout the academic year.
  • Meals: Multiple meals a day, including special dietary needs, snacks, and often weekend meals, are included.
  • Utilities: Heating, water, electricity, and other utilities are constant expenses in residential settings.

2. Premier Educational Offerings

Boarding schools often boast of advanced curricula, specialized courses, experienced faculty, and smaller class sizes which facilitate personalized attention. Such high-quality education demands:

  • Skilled Educators: To attract and retain top educators, boarding schools often offer competitive salaries and benefits.
  • Advanced Resources: This includes state-of-the-art labs, libraries stocked with extensive resources, specialized classrooms, and cutting-edge technology.

3. Extracurricular Activities

Comprehensive development is a hallmark of boarding schools. Students have access to:

  • Sports Facilities: Maintaining sports fields, courts, gyms, and providing coaching staff is expensive.
  • Arts: From theatre productions and music rooms to art studios, the infrastructure and staffing costs add up.
  • Clubs and Societies: These often require materials, equipment, and sometimes even travel.

4. Maintenance and Infrastructure

The vast campuses of boarding schools need constant upkeep:

  • Grounds and Buildings: Regular maintenance, safety measures, and renovation projects are ongoing expenses.
  • Utilities and Services: This encompasses everything from internet and phone services to waste management and snow removal in colder climates.

5. Comprehensive Health and Wellness Programs

Most boarding schools have health centers and counseling services:

  • Medical Staff: On-campus nurses or doctors are available for students.
  • Mental Health: Counseling and therapy services require specialized professionals.

6. Specialized Programs

Many boarding schools offer unique programs:

  • Study Abroad: Exchange programs or overseas trips can be part of the curriculum.
  • Summer Programs: These can include camps, courses, or remedial classes.
  • Therapeutic Schools: These can include equine therapy, adventure therapy, art therapy, animal-based therapy, and more.

7. Scholarships and Financial Aid

While not a direct cost, schools often allocate funds to help make their programs accessible to talented students from diverse economic backgrounds. This reallocation can indirectly influence the overall fee structure.

8. Safety and Security

Ensuring the safety of students round-the-clock is paramount:

  • Security Personnel: A continuous security presence and surveillance systems are necessary.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Boarding schools need to be equipped for various emergencies, requiring regular drills, equipment, and training.

9. Administrative Costs

Running a boarding school involves various administrative roles, from admissions and marketing to finance and human resources, which contribute to operational costs. Many schools must pay a significant amount for liability insurance.


The cost of boarding school education is undeniably high. However, when one considers the breadth and quality of services offered – from education and accommodation to personal development and healthcare – it becomes evident that these institutions are offering more than just schooling. They provide an all-encompassing environment designed to nurture, challenge, and prepare students for future success. Still, it’s essential for families to assess the value and potential return on this significant investment critically. Parents considering this option should thoroughly research schools, understand all associated costs, and explore financial aid or scholarship opportunities.