by the schools and budgets are limited. Approximately 17% of NAIS students receive need-based financial aid.
Once you’ve made your inquiries, the schools you are interested in will provide application information and deadlines. It’s extremely important that you adhere to these deadlines. “Most of these schools have very limited aid, usually based on need, and the first-come, first-served mentality is very strong,” Mitchell warns. A single day’s delay can cost a family a lot of money. His organization’s Website (www.nais-schools.org) can help you understand the process, what forms are required and how schools use the information you provide.
Many schools will require financial aid applicants to complete a need assessment form from the School and Student Service for Financial Aid. The form asks for details such as the total number of children in the family, the number of children in private school, assets and projected income, and the amount of equity in the home.
The application’s purpose is to create a profile of your family so that each school can get an idea of what you can afford to pay out of your resources. Once the application has been completed, it’s sent to the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, which will use the information to calculate what might be a reasonable family contribution. According to the NAIS’ Mitchell, both schools and families are happy with this system because the same method of analysis is applied to everyone, so families feel they’ve been treated fairly and equitably. That said, not every school can offer all of the financial aid the family needs. For example, if a family needs $2,000 in aid, the school may only be able to provide $1,000. It will usually be awarded in the form of a grant that doesn’t have to be paid back. “Not many schools give loans,” says Mitchell, “because they don’t wan
t to burden parents with debt, especially if they’re preparing the students for college.”
Some families may be able to foot the tuition bill, but are unable to come up with the entire amount in a lump sum. The NAIS Website provides a list of companies offering payment plans that enable families to pay tuition in monthly installments. If a school has a payment plan, it’s typically easy to participate, says Mitchell. In addition, there is no credit check and no interest is charged. Check with your school to find out if it works with a specific provider. Most plans charge an annual application fee, but other options, such as payment by credit card or checking account debits, vary.
Linda Hawkins, director of recruitment at Howard University, uses a combination of financial aid and a payment plan to send her two sons to the tony Sidwell Friends School that Chelsea Clinton graduated from two years ago. Lower-school tuition is almost $14,000, which doesn’t include fees she and
her husband pay for after-school care.
Each year, when the boys re-enroll at Sidwell, the Hawkinses must make a down payment of $500 per child. The money is used