Is Private School Covered by the Hope Scholarship?

Can Hope Scholarships Help Pay Private School Tuition Fees?: Marginal v. Total Thinking Explainer

Another concern with the proposed Hope Scholarship is the matter of whether or not the scholarship amounts would truly make a difference to families with the lowest incomes. This is particularly a concern for those who may want to use the funds to pay for a private school education in their area.

Depending on what educational path a family would choose upon entering the program, there is genuine concern that the Hope Scholarship amount would not be sufficient, especially for those who opt to use it to pay for private school tuition fees. Some research that we’ve published in 2019 that surveys the state of private schools in West Virginia indicates that average tuition is around $4,100. In this case, the Hope Scholarship amount of $4,624 would be sufficient to cover private school tuition.

Looking at another source of information on private schools, the schools they have data for indicate an average tuition price of $6,068. Based upon this set of data, it is a much fairer question to ask if everyone who wishes to use the Hope Scholarship to pay for private school tuition fees will benefit.


Marginal Thinking Shows How Hope Scholarships Can Help

Let’s consider an example based on this hypothetical scenario of averages: a lower-income family chooses to enroll their child in the Hope Scholarship program with the intention of using those education dollars for private school tuition because their current schooling situation isn’t a good fit. Easing the math up a bit, let’s round the Hope Scholarship amount to $4,600 and the average tuition to $6,000. For simplicity’s sake, let’s also assume that the private school in question offers no scholarships, grants, or other financial aid to students but does offer a payment plan.


Prior to the possibility of the Hope Scholarship program, the family would have had to come up with $6,000 in order to pay the tuition to send their child to private school. That $6,000 price tag is likely an insurmountable hurdle to getting their child a more well-fitted education. Even with a payment plan, $500-600 a month is still prohibitive.


Now, with the Hope Scholarship in play, this family is looking at a significantly lower burden to getting their child in a school that best fits his needs. Rather than $6,000 the family now is only responsible for covering $1,400 in tuition. As a lump sum, that might still be steep, but far less so than $6,000.


With the payment plan, that number translates to about $120-$140 a month depending on whether it’s a 10 or 12 month payment plan. That number may still be challenging, but it’s a much more reachable number. To put this in more concrete terms, the minimum wage in West Virginia is $8.75. Two additional 8-hour shifts at minimum wage gets a person $140 in earnings before taxes.


Hope Scholarships Can Help Pay Private School Costs

This $4,600 that a family could use toward their child’s education makes a substantial difference! For those who feel a private school education would be best for their child, it’s now within reach! This breakdown of the math should give you some pause next time someone says the Hope Scholarship doesn’t cover private school costs.


Students shouldn’t have to just survive their education experience. Every parent I know would be willing to work a couple extra shifts if that meant their child could thrive.



Jessi Troyan is the Policy and Development Director at the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy. She has her Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University.