9 Cheapest & Free Boarding Schools In California

Boarding schools in California are known for offering a rigorous curriculum that can push students beyond what they might experience in a traditional public school. Also, most of them provide small class sizes which increase personalized attention from teachers and improve student-teacher relationships.

However, the downside is their hefty price tag. Their cost can be as high as over $80,000, which can be discouraging to many aspiring families.

The good news is there are affordable and even free boarding schools in California for both outstanding students and families with financial constraints.

There are also a handful of free and affordable boarding schools in Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Georgia, and even Texas.

In this blog post, we’ll uncover some hidden gems on affordable boarding schools, like public boarding schools with tuition-free options, and private schools with enormous financial aid that can waive part or all your kid(s) tuition fee.

Let’s get started.

free boarding schools in California

Free Boarding Schools In California

1. SEED School of Los Angeles County

  • Tuition: Free

This is the first tuition-free boarding school program in LA, California, and it recently opened its doors to 125 ninth graders in August 2022. Since then they have been building on the foundation and pushing to reach the full capacity of 400 students during the 2025-26 school year.

For now, only students residing in Los Angeles County are eligible to attend SEED LA and will be selected through the school’s lottery system. Also, they will start accepting 8th graders from the 2024-2025 academic year.

It’s worth noting that they only offer a five-day-a-week boarding, where students come to school on Sunday night and go home on Friday night. Transportation is provided for students to community hubs in Los Angeles County near where a student lives.

Location: 15600 Mulholland DR. Los Angeles, CA 90077-1519

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2. California School for the Deaf, Fremont (CSDF)

Tuition: Free

This is among the free boarding schools in California for deaf and hard-of-hearing students between the ages of 3 to 21 from 46 counties in Northern California, who meet the eligibility criteria and are referred by their local school district. The state of California won’t only cover the tuition cost but also the residential cost if the student decides to reside on campus. If a child is a day student, the school district provides daily transportation.

CSDF instills confidence in Deaf children by focusing on cognitive strengths while developing a positive social, cultural, and family identity.

With the help of a small class size of 10:1 student-to-teacher ratio, it makes it easier for students to build rapport with their teachers, and also create more personalized learning.

Moreover, 86% of their teachers and cottage staff are also deaf which makes it easier for the teachers to provide natural and fluent communication in the student’s primary language, Sign Language, which will lead to better understanding and expression.

Location: 39350 Gallaudet Drive, Fremont, CA 94538

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3. California School for the Deaf, Riverside (CSDR)

  • Tuition: Free

This is another deaf boarding school in California that provides free education where the cost of the instruction, curriculum, and learning materials are all covered by the State of California and local school districts. Even though the boarding is free, parents will need to pay some associated fees which will cover meals, laundry services, and supervision. 

CSDR serves around 400 students from all over Southern California, and their academic program is aligned with California state standards. Besides the usual curriculum, the school also provides some specialized programs like a cochlear implant program and a program for students with hearing loss and visual impairments.

You can take a brief tour of the school through this video.

Location: 044 Horace Street, Riverside, CA 92506

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4. California School for the Blind (CSB)

  • Tuition: Free

CSB is among the free boarding schools in California that serve blind and visually impaired children and young adults across the state. It is the only state-funded public school for the blind and visually impaired in California.

Even though education and transportation are free, parents/guardians will need to pay part of the associated boarding fees; the district will pay 10% of the cost of educating the student (≈ $17,000 annually).

Even if your kid has a low vision, they are welcome at CSB, it serves students with a variety of visual conditions and acuities.

In addition, CSB’s staff nominates students who have excelled or greatly improved at the end of every school year in different categories including Sports Team, Dorm, International Karate, Art, and Academic.

Location: 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536

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Cheapest Boarding Schools In California

Because there are no affordable boarding schools in California in the concept of providing very low tuition and boarding fees, some schools provide huge financial aid and scholarships that can help waive part or all of these fees. We’ll be focusing on these kind of schools.

5. The Webb Schools

  • Tuition: 
    • boarding students: $76,985
    • day students: $54,750

As we said earlier, boarding schools in California are expensive, and you can see from this. The beauty is that the Webb Schools award $60,000 to an average boarding student and $40,000 to an average day student. In fact, they provide up to $6.4 million in annual need-based aid to 33 percent of their families, ranging from several thousand dollars to the full cost of tuition making them among the cheapest boarding schools in California.

The best part is these awards are based on financial need, so the lower your household income, the more chances you have to receive fully-funded financial aid. It’s worth noting that these awards are grants and not loans, which means you don’t need to repay them.

Besides the fact they provide huge financial aid, their student-to-faculty ratio is as low as 6:1, and 90% of their students are attending the top 10% of colleges and universities in the U.S.

Location: 1175 W. Baseline Road, Claremont, CA 91711

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6. Cate School

  • Tuition:
    • Boarding Students: $75K
    • Day Students: $59K

We could consider Cate School among the affordable boarding schools in CA due to their provision of financial assistance to 25% of their students which is worth more than $4.65M. These are also need-based awards, and are administered based on a family’s ability to finance their child’s education; the fewer chances you have to finance your kid’s education the more chances are you to receive more funds up to full tuition.

International students can also receive financial assistance, but there is limited funding. They have 18 foreign nations representing the student body.

Cate School is not just known for providing financial aid to its students; it also provides top-notch education in a 5:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

Location: 1960 Cate Mesa Road, Carpinteria, California 93013

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7. The Thacher School

  • Tuition:
    • Boarding Students: $74,530
    • Day Students: $60,360

Though expensive, due to their robust and equitable financial aid program, they can enroll highly qualified students regardless of family resources. In fact, their financial aid is more focused on families with low incomes like you.

In their recent financial aid data, 31% of their students received financial aid, which is an average of $57,442. Also, those students receiving significant financial assistance will receive support for books, travel, camping, and riding gear, health insurance, and more. All of these help make the Thacher School among the affordable boarding schools in California.

Besides the provision of numerous financial aid, the school has a reputation for making their students take positive risks, whether in or out of the classroom which helps all students develop character and well-being.

Location: 5025 Thacher Road, Ojai, California, 93023

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8. Dunn School

  • Tuition:
    • Boarding Students (Grades 9-12): $77,200
    • Day Students (Grades 9-12): $38,500
    • Grades 6-8: $32,250

With the help of Dunn School’s need-based tuition assistance program, parents or guardians who earn low income can enroll their kids here. Due to they are Grants, you don’t need to repay anything. In fact, more than 40% of their students receive tuition assistance annually.

Their boarding school is provided to students from grades 9 to 12, whereas their day school is provided to students from grades 6 to 12.

Just like most cheapest boarding schools in California that we have listed, Dunn School provides a very low-class size, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1 and an average class size of 12.

Location: 2555 West Highway 154, Los Olivos, CA 93441

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9. Stevenson

  • Tuition:
    • Grades 9–12 (Resident): $77,900
    • Grades 9–12 (Day): $50,500
    • Kindergarten–Grade 8: $32,800
    • Pre-Kindergarten: $20,500

This is another boarding school in California that provides huge financial assistance that can be used to waive part or all of students’ tuition fees. They are awarding more than $7.6 million in financial aid to their students in the current academic year.

all of their assistance is based on financial need, and 35% of their student body (pk–12) received need-based financial aid for the current academic year.

Stevenson provides education to students from PK to Grades 12.

  • Location:
    • Grades PK–8: 24800 Dolores Street, Carmel, CA 93923
    • Grades 9–12: 3152 Forest Lake Road, Pebble Beach, CA 93953

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Key Takeaway

You can see that we have listed a handful of affordable and free boarding schools in California, starting from SEED School of Los Angeles County which provides entirely free tuition, then we moved to some free schools for both deaf and blind students. We also delved into private schools like Webb Schools, Stevenson, Dunn School, The Thacher School, and Cate School which provide enormous financial assistance that doesn’t need any repayment.

You shouldn’t allow the cost of education in California to prevent you from sending your kid(s) to the right school they deserve.

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