Despite current economic insecurities, summer camp should not be considered an unaffordable luxury. Sending your child to camp can be more financially manageable than you may believe.
Many day camps in particular offer graduated fee reductions and different payment plans. The life-enriching benefits of camp are made available for kids from all backgrounds.
Discover how each camp approaches costs, because differences do exist. There is a surprisingly wide array of financial aid, including full scholarships.
Two Web sites you should know about are www.CampParents.org, sponsored by the American Camp Association (ACA), and www.TipsonTripsandCamps.com. They provide information on a variety of camps and their costs. The latter Web site deals with camps and trips costing in the $700 – $1,000 a week range.
Ask These Questions to Ensure Affordability
What is the specific payment plan policy?
Most camps allow for a nominal deposit, often $50, to hold a place. The remainder of the balance can often be paid in installments. The final payment usually not due until just before camp starts. But be creative. Often grandparents would love to help afford camp for a grandchild – they can think of it as a birthday gift.
Are discounts or refunds available?
Many camps will allow a reduction in costs for a second child to attend. Clarify whether the sibling has to attend at the same time as his brother or sister; usually it makes no difference.
Camps vary on refund policies. Some make decisions on a case-by-case basis while others maintain a uniform policy.
If your circumstances are unusual then by all means ask if any exceptions can be made. Camp administrators try to be as flexible as possible in order to ensure that children who want to attend are not precluded because of financial limitations.
Is community service credit offered?
Some camps have an option for a child to work for a few hours in the community for a reduction in tuition. For instance, a child may get a $25 reduction for five hours of participation in a “Community Exchange” program.
Most children enjoy working in a soup kitchen, making cookies for nursing home residents, socializing dogs and cats at an animal shelter, or participating in the spring Great American Clean-Up. This fosters respect for volunteerism, while allowing children to feel engaged in the community.
Are there scholarships or other varieties of financial aid?
Inquire as to whether partial or full scholarships are offered. Children who otherwise would not have a chance for a summer break at camp can go.
Is there any tax credit given for summer day camps?
Yes, and by all means take advantage of this if it applies to you. If both parents are employed they are entitled to a break under the federal Child and Dependent Care Expense. According to Catherine Berberich, a certified public accountant (BerberichCPA.com), “Costs for summer day camp count toward the expenses for child and dependent care. However, be aware that costs for overnight camp do not qualify for this credit.” Berberich adds that if you need more answers, ask for publication 503, issued by the IRS, or go to www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p503.pdf.
You’re On Your Way
Camps really do want to make camping available to all. They are as flexible as their budgets will allow, so that all interested children can be exposed to camp life.
Now is the time to get started selecting a camp and get registered. Lists can fill up quickly, and financial aid reserves often become depleted.
Involving your son or daughter will make the process fun. Your child will see that a wonderful summer experience lies before them.
Thomas A. Gelwicks is a local attorney and father of two.
making camp reality
- Be aware of early enrollment discounts. Plan ahead.
- Ask the camp about a discount for multiple children from one family.
- Inquire about shorter sessions to accommodate a tight budget.
- Make summer a part of your educational plan. Choose a shorter specialty program that will enhance the student’s profile for college or help develop a new interest or skill.
- Private camps are not subsidized, so the camper is paying for all of the costs to run a camp: insurance, staff, equipment, and capital improvements. You can expect to pay between $700 – $1200 a week for a private camp.
- If you have a very small budget and need to spend less than $600 per week: Contact camps run by your local county government or agencies like the Jew ish Federation, the JCC, the Salvation Army, Campfire Boys and Girls or the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. These camps offer a summer experience at a reduced cost because the sponsoring agency subsidizes the camp.
- Look into financial aid, which is available at most camps. If you apply early it is possible to get a 20-50% discount based on need.
- Camp is a wonderfully enriching gift you can give your child. No matter what your budget, there is a camp to meet your family’s financial and educational needs. Happy camping!