During this time of year, families are thinking about schooling choices for next year. They might be wrestling with some difficult questions about whether or not to apply for financial aid. This post is about some questions that you should ask when thinking through the question: "Should we apply for financial aid or not?"
1. Homework and Hard Question
It might seem backwards, but do your homework first. Ask yourself some hard questions. Consider a few things: the value of the education that your children are receiving and what sacrifices you would be willing to make. Value should always be the firist consideration when thinking abut a purchasing decision. If you believe that the education that your child is receiving is crucial, think through your own budget and think about things you might be willing to eliminate or forego to align your families resources with your goal of giving your children the education they need.
2. Values of the School Financial Aid
Send an email or better yet ask for a face-to-face meeting with a school administrator (maybe the Admissions Coordinator or the Headmaster) to get some advice. Ask about what is driving the financial aid program at the school and talk with them about how you are making your decisions. Learn about Tuition Assistance program at your school. Find out what it values and how it can be helpful in your situation. At Veritas Academy the highest value that we have in our financial aid system is the priority that we put on the number of students that a family has at Veritas. We do this because in Lancaster County family size is larger on average than it is in most parts of the country. Many families, even those with solid incomes, need help if they are trying to make private education work for 3 or 4 or even 5 children. We also value income. We want to make our school accessible for families--particularly for younger families--whose incomes make the challenge of jumping into pre-school or Kindergarten seem huge. Also, we value special circumstances like loss of a job or an unexpected and unavoidable expense. Our financial aid application has a section that allows families to communicate these special circumstances to us. So, our system's top values are number of children, family income, and special circumstance. Other schools might have other values, so contacting someone who knows the system well enough to give you some insight is critical.
3. The Heart of the Matter
Finally, know that most schools would much rather have you ASK than NOT ASK and not send your children or leave if you really want to be at the school. Schools, of course, have the right to say "no", but when you are considering asking for help, you should know that most school administrators and financial aid committees want to help you find a way to make it work. They want to serve your family and help you figure out a way to make your desire a reality. So, when it doubt, it is better to ASK.