Affordable Boarding Schools: Four Under 25K

Post updated: 9/3/14

How can a $25,000, or less, annual tuition for a high school education be construed as a bargain?

Easily, in light of the fact that traditional boarding school tuition now costs about $50,000 annually. Easily, in light of the lasting effects that a quality boarding school education can have on a student.

A student’s growth and development combined with the permanent, lasting, positive effects, of an education from any one of these boarding schools possibly makes 25k a bargain.

Affordability is an issue.

Here at AdmissionsQuest, questions regarding affordability, and financing a boarding school education, come in at a rate higher than all others save- school inquiries. Some colleges have been addressing ‘affordability’ for roughly 30 years.

We’re now several years into the boarding school affordability conversation.

Higher priced schools work to defray their tuition sticker price through financial aid- mostly in the forms of tuition remission grants and or loans.

However, with each school administering its own aid and relying on its own internal monies to finance its financial aid pool, the limits are obvious. Tuition income, endowment income, minus operating expenses, leaves only so much money for financial aid grants and awards. Schools do the best they can.

For many families, expensive schools remain expensive, even with a financial aid award.

Four Boarding Schools Committed To Affordability

I share this look at Subiaco, St. Bernard Prep, French Camp Academy, and Maur Hill-Mount Academy because I’ve learned over the years that, through their philosophical and practical commitments, these schools provide a traditional boarding education at a lower cost than most all of their peers.

This group features three co-educational schools and one boys school.

I came to know each school independently, but, as I visited campuses and spoke with their faculty and students, I found a host of common philosophies and operational approaches that these schools share in their work with students and families.

How do they do it?

  1. Clear mission. These schools are very comfortable with who they are and who they are not.
  2. The first, most obvious, perspective to acknowledge- all four schools operate from a service-based religious commitment.
  3. They focus on serving regional families and students. All four schools are located outside of traditional boarding school concentrations (New England, Mid-Atlantic, Western Schools).  All four schools love their international students and students from all over the United States. Their primary constituents are, however, regional.
  4. You will find relationships at the core of these schools. If you’re seeking fancy facilities and physical plants that rival, or dwarf, the facilities of some small colleges. You’ll need to look elsewhere.
  5. None are located in regions of concentrated affluence.
  6. Faculty at these schools live and embody a ‘life of service’ world view. Teaching is a labor of love and faculty members at these schools sacrifice personal gain in their commitment to teaching their students.
  7. Students, their learning, and lessons come first. The focus stays on school and personal growth of each student.

A Boys School

Subiaco Academy (Subiaco, AR)

Subiaco Academy is an all-boys (grades 7-12) college preparatory residential and day school founded in 1887. The school is an educational apostolate of the Benedictine monks at Subiaco Abbey located against the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains in the Arkansas River Valley.

“The Academy strives to instill in its students the spirit of St. Benedict expressed in his Rule: a respect for the value of work, development of personal talents to serve others, a sense of peace and fraternity, self-discipline, trust, and an appreciation of the Christ-centered nature of monastic communities. Subiaco provides an engaging and supportive environment that is academically well-rounded, structured, and challenging.”

Subiaco Academy

Subiaco Academy, Subiaco, AR

Three Co-educational Schools

St. Bernard Preparatory School (Cullman, AL)

St. Bernard Prep is a co-ed Catholic boarding and day school for grades 7-12 operated by the Benedictine monks of St. Bernard Abbey.

I’m most fond of St. Bernard’s Prep’s stated Goals that move beyond a classroom setting. Here’s a paraphrased sampling:

The  instillation of “a solid background in Christian teaching and practice and in the rights and responsibilities of being members of Christ’s Body the Church, of American society, and of the global community. To exemplify the Benedictine tradition of daily prayer and work. To provide experiences by which students may explore, understand, appreciate, and develop tolerance for racial, cultural, and socioeconomic differences. To help students establish patterns of lifelong spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. To present in a positive and healthy way, life-coping skills which address realistic questions, challenges, and problems that young people must encounter in our rapidly changing society. To encourage students to investigate career possibilities that a higher education may offer them. To expose students to aesthetic qualities through music, art, literature and other contemplative and creative media.”

St. Bernard Preparatory School , Cullman, AL

St. Bernard Preparatory School , Cullman, AL

French Camp Academy (French Camp, MS)

French Camp Academy is a private, coeducational Christian, college-prep boarding and day school enrolling boarding students in grades 1 – 12.

Established in 1885, and located in Mississippi along the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Academy is accredited through the Mississippi Department of Education for first through twelfth grade students (children and teenagers), with a history of building foundations for success.

The school provides a safe, healthy, community for young people from all over the country. No matter the situation that brings students to FCA, the school works to build a foundation of Biblical love and teachings.  FCA helps families and young people from all over the country who need a supportive atmosphere with plenty of mentors to help overcome personal or family setbacks or simply need the benefits of a boarding school education.

French Camp works to educate academically, develop good character qualities and work ethic, develop skills and talents, open doors of opportunity, mentor and counsel for social and emotional maturity, and lay a Biblical foundation on which to build a successful life.  Anchored in a Christ-centered education, French Camp  provides a family-based model that gives the right amount of encouragement and accountability.

French Camp Academy

French Camp Academy, French Camp, MS

Maur Hill-Mount Academy (Atchison, KS)

Maur Hill-Mount Academy is a co-educational, Catholic, Benedictine, college preparatory high school created from the merger of two long established single-sex schools. Maur Hill Prep was established in 1919 by the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey to educate young men, and Mount St. Scholastic Academy was established in 1863 by the Benedictine Sisters to educate young women. The schools merged in 2003 to unify their strengths and provide the greatest benefit to the students.

A Catholic school with deep roots instilled from the sisters at Mount St. Scholastica and the priests and brothers of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Maur Hill-Mount is dedicated to each student’s success.  The School welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.  Maur Hill-Mount cultivates a safe, structured, and supportive environment with an enrollment of under 200 students. Everyone knows your name and you are a part of the community.  Academics include honors and college credit courses that lead 98% of graduates directly to college.  Students form life-long healthy through practices such as evening study hall and adult guidance in all parts of school life.

As a spiritual community, Maur Hill-Mount offers religion courses, weekly Mass, and a campus is Chaplain available for support and guidance.  The student body completes over 3,500 hours of community service each school year.

Maur Hill-Mount Academy, Atchison, KS

Maur Hill-Mount Academy, Atchison, KS


Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

More by Brian Fisher

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