SMWS Community Honoring Affordable Tuition Process (CHAT)

While we ask every SMWS family to make an investment in their child’s tuition, our robust CHAT (Community Honoring Affordable Tuition) program provides support for families. Because many factors guide tuition adjustment decisions, we encourage families not to make assumptions about whether they are eligible but to have a confidential conversation with our Admissions Director or our Business Director. In addition, all families can start the CHAT process by applying through the FACTS Portal.

“Shining Mountain is committed to the belief that every child is equally deserving of an inspiring and inclusive education. In order to honor the diversity in our community, we have developed a tuition model designed to nurture the goal of creating both access and affordability in a sustainable way for our school.” - Alanna Marks, Admissions Director

Important Dates for the 2024-2025 School Year


March 10, 2024: Re-enrollment for all returning families DUE. Discounts expire.                               


February 15, 2024: New family Community Honoring Affordable Tuition Process (CHAT) applications DUE

April 1, 2024: New family acceptance notification and Community Honoring Affordable Tuition Process (CHAT) adjustments issued

April 15, 2024: New family enrollment DUE

The Process for Applying

  1. Families new to SMWS must first submit an Admissions application for their student(s). Be sure to indicate your plans to apply for the Community Honoring Affordable Tuition (CHAT) on your application.

Common Questions

  1. If all students in a family are in Grade 1 or older, Shining Mountain Waldorf School assumes that each parent has the capacity to be an earner and contribute to costs of tuition.  If there are circumstances that do not allow both parents to work, you may request an exception in writing.
  2. Families with separate households must have each parent complete an application for CHAT. SMWS requires complete financial information (an application via FACTS) from both the custodial and non-custodial parents, including the Parent’s Financial Statement form and tax forms. This information is collected in an attempt to determine the ability, not the willingness, of each parent to financially support their child’s education. If there is only one legal guardian (and there is no financial support from another parent/guardian), that parent must state so in writing as a part of the application and include legal documentation from a judge, attorney, certified clergy member, or licensed therapist, stating the sole financial responsibility rests with one parent/guardian. Parents must restate/resubmit this in writing on an annual basis. 
  3. Any extenuating financial circumstances that are not captured in the application should be detailed in the CHAT Letter of Need and uploaded to the FACTS system along with the rest of the  application information. 
  4. Final award decisions are made by the CHAT Committee based on the recommendations from FACTS. All information is held in the utmost confidence.
  5. All CHAT awards are need-based awards. Please inquire separately about scholarships.
  6. CHAT awards are gifts, not loans; they range greatly in amount but are never full tuition awards. 
  7. Students must be in Kindergarten – 12th grade to be eligible for CHAT. There is no CHAT for Preschool.
  1. Families are asked to reapply for CHAT each year. Please follow the same process with FACTS as outlined in the above section, noting that the process for returning families begins in the fall from November through February. Fall Application dates will be communicated to returning families each year.

Tuition Assistance is only awarded to families once a student has gone through the Admissions process and been accepted. Once the TA Committee has reviewed your application and made their decision, the TA Committee will notify applicants of their award amount and a Tuition Assistance Agreement will be sent for your signature to accept the terms of the award. For midyear applications: A minimum of 2-weeks processing time will occur between the time of all documentation and application parts submitted, to receiving an award response. Midyear TA awards are based on aid-availability.

Financial need and awards are recalculated every year, using current information. Families are required to re-apply for CHAT annually. If there is little change in a family’s circumstances, one can expect that grants will be renewed at a similar level, while knowing that tuition increases may be shared between the family and SMWS. Should your need increase or decrease significantly, SMWS will reevaluate your financial award.

We expect that families who begin by paying full tuition to the school will continue to do so unless unforeseen circumstances make that impossible. If your financial situation has changed since your child/children started at SMWS, you should consider applying for CHAT. SMWS makes every effort to be helpful when circumstances are beyond a family’s control (i.e., loss of job, death in the family, or unexpected illness). The school is usually not able to support parents who choose to make a change in their employment status that reduces their income (i.e., a working parent who returns to school, or a parent who chooses to quit their job to start a business).

We encourage every family in need of financial assistance to apply. A number of factors are used to determine financial need, so it is impossible to specify income levels or other criteria that would guarantee a student receives financial aid. Income, assets, taxes, family size, unusual expenses, parents’ ages, and number of family members in tuition-paying schools are just some of the factors used in the equation to determine financial need. There are many factors that affect award decisions, but SMWS is committed to meeting the needs of a broad spectrum of families.

Applications are considered complete when the following is received in FACTS: 

    • A completed Community Honoring Affordable Tuition Process (CHAT) application. Questions about completing the form can be addressed by phone at 866-315-9262 or by email at
    • A copy of your completed tax return for the most recent tax year. If you have not received W2 forms, you may use the last pay stub from the most recent year-end to estimate income. 
    • Letter of Need (optional) – A personal letter outlining your situation and any extenuating circumstances is optional, but helpful if you have special circumstances. Such a letter can be included with your documents and uploaded 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.

To learn more about CHAT at SMWS, we invite you to contact:

Sarah Engle, Business Director, at

Alanna Marks, Admissions Director, at

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