September 17, 2020 - "I will not be turning the items in, (my school) has already helped me." This was a recent email we received from a parent who had applied for aid but did not turn in any of the requested documentation necessary for us to verify her application. This is not the fist time we have heard this sort of reply from a parent and yet it raises serious concerns of which your school should be reminded.
Grant and Scholarship Procedures
The main laws affecting the awarding of scholarships are the laws relating to private foundations and non-profit organizations. For example, section 4945(g)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code 1 specifies that all grants (read scholarships or tuition aid) are awarded on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis using a procedure that has been approved in advance by the board of directors of the sponsoring organization and that has been designed to ensure that all such grants meet the IRS requirements for scholarship programs found in paragraphs (1), (2), or (3) of section 4945(g) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Requirements for Scholarships/Tuition Aid
Accordingly, the following are IRS requirements for the awarding of scholarships or financial aid:
Our advice to private schools offering tuition aid is to have written procedures for awarding such aid. This should include that your school will utilize a third-party vendor such as CFS-BeneFAQ who will provide the same application and verification processes to all applicants BEFORE any award is determined by the school. Once verification is complete, the school may proceed to award aid to the applicant family. To provide assistance without following IRS requirements may mean consequences imposed by the IRS such as fines or disqualification of 501(c)3 standing.
Consider circumventing the proper process not worth the potential penalty should you ever be audited regarding tuition aid you have granted.
July 7, 2020 - As you might imagine, we encounter a myriad of reasons that slow down the processing of applications from incorrect forms being submitted, to missing information on an application, to red-flagged excessive expenses be reported. Here is a list of some of the most common reasons an application sits with a "partially" or "unverified" status:
Those are just a few of the examples that can hold up the verification process of an application. If a parent calls you wanting to know why there is a delay, always check "Review requested items" to see what might be missing, and also "Admin notes" where we often indicate what we are still waiting on. As always, feel free to refer a parent to us. Their best course of action is to email us so we can assist them most promptly. We have several email addresses which will all reach our desks, but firstname.lastname@example.org is an easy one to hand out.
June 8, 2020 - Now is a great time for school leadership to have conversations with financial support partners and "others of means" about helping "cover the the COVID gap" of financial shortfalls through lost enrollment, additional tuition aid to help more needy families, drop off in donations, etc., as the result of the shutdowns and shifts in the economy. There are many individuals who have not suffered financial loss like others have and may be inspired to give generously to help your school at this time. One of the most compelling campaigns for financial support has always been scholarship dollars. It may now be time to consider how to embark on this wisely, efficiently, and quickly. Please contact us for help. This is one of our key areas of competence and expertise.
May 12, 2020 - StarkMedia, out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is fast at work on the re-design of the CFS platform which will make the parent and school experience much more intuitive, cleaner, and modern. We are excited about the new roll-out which will be done in phases in early October. There will be no changes in how we determine the anticipated amount each family can contribute to their tuition. Our process will remain thorough and comprehensive and best of all... NO PRICE INCREASE to schools or families! We anticipate the new system being fully functional for all schools by December. With the new system comes a new name, BeneFAQ, (Benevolent Financial Aid Qualification). The new name reflects our goals and purposes to serve Christian ministries desiring to provide financial assistance to families in a prudent manner. We will provide regular updates on progress, screen shots, and more in the months ahead.
May 12, 2020 - If your school ever wants to determine if a financial aid recipient's financial situation has improved, please contact us to discuss this. There is never a charge for re-running a FACT Report, but there are certain requirements we must adhere to if this is desired.
Even two weeks ago when I last wrote, we had no idea of the wide-ranging impact that was coming to Christian schools regarding the Coronavirus, nor the dramatic roller-coaster ride of the Stock Market. Many Christian school leaders have not had to deal with anything of similar nature in their careers or in the life of their schools.
So, how should you view re-enrollment, new admissions, financial aid, and school budget adjustments if the long-term impact of COVID-19 is still an unknown? Allow me to offer a few suggestions that I hope will give you some guidance.
OVER-ARCHING GENERAL PRINCIPLE - Obviously, don't set your mind to worry! As Christians, we know that God never wants us to join in hysteria. The Author of Peace is OUR GOD. The Christian school is under the watchful care and provision of God, not man. Act wisely and with caution, but do not panic!
REGARDING RE-ENROLLMENT - Proceed as normal. Keep re-enrollment materials on the minds of your current families, but consider extending any deadlines for discounts that you may have in place. Help parents see the value of what you offer and that your Christian school is what is needed now more than ever.
REGARDING NEW ADMISSIONS - While this may be a bit trickier than handling re-enrollment it is still wise to keep marketing to prospective families. If at all possible, have a dedicated phone number that is answered as calls come in and IS NOT automatically being sent to voice mail. Do not give the impression you are "closed down until further notice."
Consider offering one-on-one tours of the facility (if permitted) or Virtual Admission Tours through recorded or live video that includes various staff interviews or interactions.
If you have any pre-recorded videos such as "a day in the life at our school" or other school event videos, get these edited and immediately placed into a video montage on your website for interested families to view. You can even conduct live video tours by appointment through an assortment of video conferencing providers. Market these special opportunities to show your pro-active position on making new school enrollment for the upcoming year a priority. Always make sure to capture names and contact information of those who attend a Virtual Admissions Tour.
REGARDING FINANCIAL AID APPLICATIONS - Just because the school building has closed, school operations have not. Keep as much of your school business operations as normal looking as possible, including the accepting of tuition aid applications. Email current families reminders of deadlines and encourage new families to apply immediately. SchoolRIGHT and CFS operations are not impacted by COVID-19 and we will continue to process tuition aid applications for our school clients as they are submitted.
REGARDING SCHOOL BUDGET ADJUSTMENTS - As mentioned above, do not give into the temptation to be tossed into worry about the upcoming school year enrollment numbers. While it is wise to prepare various budget scenarios should there be further complications as the result of the current situation, remember the counsel of Scripture, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
God is ALWAYS faithful. Have faith in what He will do through this, and trust in Him alone!
I hope this has been helpful. We would love to know if/how your school is proceeding with admissions during this time.
It is long overdue and we couldn't be more excited than to tell you about our MUCH improved tuition aid verification program which will launch in the Fall of 2020. Current CFS schools and parents will find the new version of our already robust program easier to navigate and use making the tuition aid verification process at your school more professional than ever before.
The new look design will include features such as:
MADE WITH YOUR SCHOOL IN MIND, the new design will include NO PRICE INCREASES for schools or parents -- keeping our service the most affordable and comprehensive option available! SchoolRIGHT is a name you can trust, providing you with service that is personal and knowledgeable.
We will keep you posted each month about the new program so that you can be confident that the upcoming modifications will bring added value to your tuition aid application process. Thank you for entrusting us with this important function.
Anytime we receive questions, they are very typically something all schools would want to know. Here are a few have been asked in recent weeks:
QUESTION: Do you know what a school's tuition rate is when figuring out what a family can pay toward their tuition, or do you use a formula for that?
ANSWER: We do not interact with a school's tuition amount. Our system is designed to assess the financial situation of the parents, and the remaining income they should have available at the end of each month is then sent through a formula that determines a percentage of remaining income that should be reasonably available for tuition payments. This is typically around 40-60% of their remaining income.
QUESTION: Is the FACT Report indicating the amount a family can pay for one child or all their enrolled children?
ANSWER: The FACT Report indicates the amount the family can reasonably be asked to pay toward a monthly tuition bill for ALL their children enrolled in ALL private K-12 schools. If they have one child in your school and one child in another private school, the FACT Report would be the amount they could pay for both children combined, not just to your school.
QUESTION: In the information on the FACT Report, I see that expenses are broken down into 12 categories. Is there any thought taken into account for expenses that do not fit into one of those categories? For example, expenses that come with purchasing a home and the needed repairs, fixes that are needed when purchasing a home, etc, or are those expenses calculated into the mortgage/rent category? Additionally what about gas expenses for vehicles or auto repairs?
ANSWER: Since our aim is to “even the playing field” for all applicants, it is nearly impossible, and potentially ill-advised, to include options for expenses that are not necessarily typical for all our applicants. For this reason, we have the current listed expenses narrowed down to what we deem necessary and common to almost all applicants. Since we only consider a portion of income to be available to pay for tuition, some of these other expenses that families may incur should be covered by the rest of their income.