Tuition Assistance

Shining Mountain Waldorf School
TUITION ASSISTANCE HANDBOOK
Academic Year 2015-2016

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Philosophy

It is the objective of the Board of Trustees and the College of Teachers to foster diversity within the community served by Shining Mountain Waldorf School (SMWS). The Tuition Assistance (TA) Program is designed to enable qualified students to attend SMWS who might not otherwise be able to do so for financial reasons. Shining Mountain Waldorf School does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national or ethnic origin in the administration of its admission policies or Tuition Assistance Program.

Policy for Awarding Assistance

  • Timely submission of the family’s financial information to FACTS is critical to the Tuition Assistance process. Awards will not be granted without the complete application, W-2’s (or 1099’s), tax returns and a letter (described below).   Because funds are finite, late submission will be considered only if funds remain available.
  • The Tuition Assistance Committee grants assistance on the basis of demonstrated financial need and the availability of funds. The Committee must balance a family’s ability to pay tuition with standards that ensure equitable distribution of awards. Award decisions are based on an independent financial need assessment by FACTS. The Committee will use the recommendation of FACTS to help determine the amount of assistance that will be awarded. The Committee gives strong favorable consideration to volunteerism and to demonstrated commitment to SMWS as well as Waldorf education.
  • All Tuition Assistance awards are made for one year only and will be reviewed annually. Each year and for each child, parents must apply and submit the appropriate application and supporting documents.
  • Admission decisions are made independently of decisions to award Tuition Assistance. All applicants must be accepted by the admissions department prior to review of the Tuition Assistance application.
  • Lifestyle choices that result in increased expenses or decreased income cannot be underwritten by the Tuition Assistance fund (and hence the SMWS donors). Tuition Assistance funds are generated from a percentage of money that the school collects from tuition fees and from funds contributed voluntarily from parents for the operating budget of the school. Approval for Tuition Assistance requires that a Waldorf education be among a family’s highest priorities for discretionary spending.
  • The Tuition Assistance process is held in strict confidence and with deep respect for  privacy. All Tuition Assistance awards are considered confidential agreements. We ask the same of our Tuition Assistance families.   Please do not share or publish your Tuition Assistance, in general or in detail, with your peers.
  • The maximum award is limited to 50% of total tuition unless there are special circumstances.
  • Tuition Assistance is awarded according to the application at the time of the award. Any changes in the enrollment application, at any later time, may necessitate an adjustment in the award.
  • Tuition Assistance applications are only considered in cases where all balances and fees are current.
  • SMWS Facilities and Equipment fees and Materials fees are not eligible for Tuition Assistance.

Procedures

IMPORTANT DATES:

January 16, 2015        Deadline for Phase 1 applications

March 6, 2015             Re-enrollment deadline (Subject to finalization by business office)

April 15, 2015              Deadline for Phase 2 applications

1) Fill out the FACTS Grant and Aid Assessment form; the form is available online at https://online.factsmgt.com/signin/45YS1. Questions about completing the form can be addressed by phone at 866-315-9262 or by email at help@factstuitionaid.com

2) Transmitting to FACTS: Applications are now only accepted on line. Be sure to mail the application fee and all supporting documentation to: FACTS Grant and Aid Assessment, PO Box 82524, Lincoln, NE 68501-2524. You no longer need to leave a hard copy at the school’s office (save a few trees?). Faxing the supporting documentation to FACTS is acceptable.

3) Tax Returns: We realize that the 2014 tax returns are not likely to be complete during the time line of this Tuition Assistance process. Please fax or upload the 2013 tax return to FACTS. Also, please fax or upload your 2014 W-2’s or 1099s. Do not delay your Tuition Assistance application by waiting for a 2014 tax return to be submitted.

4) Letter: A personal letter outlining your situation and any extenuating circumstances is required.  Such a letter must be included with your documents fax or upload to FACTS.  The letter is important in the overall consideration to highlight the unique details that you would want to be expressly understood in the review process, which may not be reflected in the FACTS application.

Examples to include in this letter might be:

  • Do you plan to have your children attend SMWS beyond this coming school year?
  • In a few sentences, briefly summarize your connection to Waldorf education.
  • Do you realize any income that is not reflected on income tax returns?
  • When you review the income or expenses reported on the FACTS application, are there other categories of income or expenses that we should know about?
  • How are you projecting your income and expenses to change compared to the most recent historical year? Any expected changes in income in the year to come, i.e., raises; loss of hours; loss of benefits, commissions or bonuses; etc.?
  • Do you anticipate outside help from friends or family to meet the tuition amount not covered by Tuition Assistance? Please look to these sources BEFORE stating your need.
  • Specifically, how do you plan to cover the balance not covered by Tuition Assistance?
  • Is your financial need temporary? What plan is underway to move away from a situation of financial need?
  • Have you contributed to a retirement plan in the most recent year, and what are your plans to contribute to a retirement plan while receiving Tuition Assistance funds? (See Section 7 below.)
  • For a two-parent family, are both parents working? If not, are they actively seeking gainful employment?   If not, why?
  • Please address volunteerism as explained in Section 5.

5) Volunteerism: We hold the intention that the Tuition Assistance relationship is filled with gratitude; gratitude for the donations that allow the school to serve families of all economic means; gratitude for the sacrifice of so many families to make this unique opportunity possible for their children; and gratitude for the robust community that this program proliferates.   There are 2 types of contributions that are vital to our school.  One is financial contributions and the other is volunteer time. We are open about the request that Tuition Assistance recipients give back in the form of their time. There is no requirement, and no one is counting hours. We will not be considering volunteerism for an employed single parent in the same way that we consider the volunteerism of a two parent family with one or two non-employed parents. We ask that you please articulate areas and approximate hours of volunteerism as part of your letter, and how you anticipate giving back in the year to come.   Where can you be a leader?

6) For two-household families, the following guidelines are essential in the application for Tuition Assistance:

  • Both parents retain the obligation to contribute what they can afford to the education of their children, regardless of any divorce or agreements stating otherwise.  Financial need is determined by a family’s ability to meet educational expenses, not on a willingness to pay.
  • Non-custodial parents must also complete the FACTS Grant and Aid Assessment form by the deadlines above.
  • If either parent has remarried, the financial information of the step-parent must be included on the FACTS Grant and Aid Assessment form.
  • If one parent is not involved in the child’s life, a statement to this effect from a third party that is aware of the situation in a professional capacity (a lawyer, therapist, member of the clergy, etc.) may be substituted for the financial documents from that parent.

7) Retirement Plans: The SMWS TA program endeavors to assist families with the degree of financial need such that current contributions to retirement are not possible. Actually, some draw from these plans to make ends meet. Many (most) families in the community have made significant sacrifices to allow their children to experience a Waldorf education at SMWS. Many of these same families make sacrifices so that they can donate to the school’s Annual Fund which provides the funds for the Tuition Assistance program. Some of these sacrifices may include their own retirement plan contributions.

We realize that this is a difficult discussion given that many companies match the contributions to these funds, and families aspire to keep these contributions in place as long as possible despite financial stress. Please explain in detail your past, current and expected retirement plan contribution status in your letter.

8) Complete Applications: The Tuition Assistance Committee will not be able to proceed with a review of your application until all of the above information is complete. A complete application is your responsibility. FACTS will follow up with you regarding any missing elements. The personal letter and supporting tax forms are mandatory, unless waived by the Tuition Assistance Committee. If you do not yet have the most recent year’s tax returns complete, please submit the previous year’s tax returns at the same time you submit the FACTS application. If these items are not received within 2 weeks of the initial application, we will need to make your application inactive, allocate the tuition assistance funds to other families, and availability of funds to your family will be jeopardized.

9) Change in Circumstances: Tuition Assistance recipients are required to notify the Committee of any material changes in financial status at any time. Failure to report these changes may jeopardize future awards.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Where do the funds come from?

Funds are taken from a percentage of money that the school collects from tuition fees and from funds contributed voluntarily by parents for the operating budget of the school. The TA Committee makes every effort to extend Tuition Assistance across the broadest spectrum of need with the understanding that there is a limit on the funds that can be distributed for assistance and this need is reassessed in each succeeding year.

Who is on the Tuition Assistance Committee?

The Tuition Assistance Committee is made up of administrators who hold the information that each family provides in the strictest confidence.  For more information, please contact the committee at TA@smwaldorf.org

Is there preference given to certain groups of families?

Tuition Assistance awards are made to families of students who are in good academic standing and who demonstrate financial need. In addition, priorities are given in the following order:

  1. Families already in SMWS
  2. Families new to SMWS, with previous Waldorf experience.
  3. Families new to SMWS, without previous Waldorf experience and with a child coming into the lower grades.

Is there a limitation on Kindergarten Tuition Assistance?

This varies by year based on budgetary limitations, enrollment, and other factors. Other Waldorf schools have chosen to not provide Tuition Assistance to Kindergarten families. SMWS takes the approach that Tuition Assistance can be made available to 5 day Kindergarten families, currently with a 30% maximum for ½ day, and 50% of the incremental tuition for the afternoon 5 day program to qualifying families.   There will be an overall maximum percentage of Kindergarten Tuition Assistance (as a percentage of total Tuition Assistance) determined each year.

Are both parents expected to work?

The TA program seeks to assist families with the degree of financial need such that all options are being explored to relieve the financial need while TA assistance is being requested. Those options would include both parents actively seeking employment or other income generating possibilities when all children in the family are beyond Kindergarten.

Have questions regarding Tuition Assistance?

Please contact  TA@smwaldorf.org