In January, parents may ask if they should submit their 2018 taxes since they have not yet completed their 2019 taxes? Additionally, they may wonder if they need to resubmit their 2018 again (assuming they have not completed taxes for 2019) when applying for aid for the upcoming school year. In both of these instances the answer is "yes." We do not keep copies of tax returns from year to year, and are unable to append a tax return from one application year to another. Once again, this is a part of the process to treat every applicant in the exact same manner. If a parent applies for aid for 2020-21 and submits their 2018 taxes, you may request that as soon as they complete their 2019 taxes they send those to us, as well. Please let me know if you have any questions about this process, or if there is any confusion.
It is not unusual for us to receive one of those salmon colored slips in our post office box with the dreaded words, "Postage Due." When parents mail us documents they must make sure that the affixed postage is sufficient to cover the cost of the mailing. While this might seem obvious, what likely is happening is an assumption on their part that a "Forever Stamp" will cover the cost. This is one very typical reason that processing can be delayed. In most instances, the due amount is minimal and we will pay for it. However, items are returned if the due amount exceeds $1.00. As always, the quickest method of sending documents to us is by email or fax.
This actually happens more often than you might think it would. A parent wonders why their application has not been processed or if the school has made a decision yet on their financial aid award. When you check the status of their application if shows, "awaiting verification." This typically happens because we are still awaiting one of more requested documents.
DELAYS CAUSED BY MAILING DOCUMENTS
OTHER POTENTIAL REASONS FOR DELAY
If you have parents asking questions, you can possibly help them. Access your admin portal and then select "View Fact Reports > View Reports > (select proper year All Reports) > find the applicant name, then "View Requested Items" from the drop down options. A list will pop up indicating the requested items. If an item is unchecked, we have either not received it or have yet to add it to their file. Reminder: If an icon next to the family name is green, their application has been processed, and verified.
If you or the parent have concerns regarding the timeliness of the processing, never hesitate to contact us so we figure out what might be holding up the process.
How often have you had a family approach you and ask, "do you think I will qualify for aid?" What has been your response? We recommend that you tell the family that they should apply for aid and let the CFS process help make that determination. However, if you feel that you must provide a basic response, here is one simple rule of thumb that you may find helpful:
If your school is like most schools, you give away a lot of money in financial aid - mostly to families with multiple children enrolled, families who are employed at the school, or to pastor's families. All families wanting to apply for aid should be reminded that tuition aid will be awarded only to those who have demonstrated an actual need.
As a reminder: Once CFS vets a family's finances, the school has the sole discretion on who receives aid and the amount they will receive. Awards should never be granted by one person but a committee of 3 or more. School's should always have a written and published financial aid policy for families to read. If you would like a sample policy statement, please contact us.
Did you know that the FACT Report number is our analysis of a family's capability of paying for ALL tuition bills and NOT per child across all private schools (grades PK-12) where they have children enrolled. "FACT" stands for "Family Anticipated Contribution Total." So, whether a family has five children enrolled or just one, the amount on the FACT Report remains the same and is what the family should be able to reasonably afford to pay each month toward all their tuition bills of all their enrolled children at PK-12 private schools. It is up to the school to make final award determinations and the school still retains the right to offer, modify, or decline financial aid.
We recently received an email asking if we could complete verification on an applicant with only tax forms but not all requested documents. This may have been due to the lateness of the application and trying to expedite admission. There may have been other reasons, too. Here is our response to this type of question when it comes up:
This is not advisable because of IRS regulations that specify that all tuition aid applicants are evaluated in like manner. If a school is ever audited and it became known there were variances on evaluation procedures, there could be penalties if it was deemed those variances were not appropriate and provided differences in advantage to one applicant over another. That being said, there can be exceptions but those are best granted when agreed upon by a tuition aid committee, and not left to the discretion of one person. One of our goals is to help schools remain compliant with tuition aid application processes. We understand that time may be of the essence because of school start dates, but our advice remains the same for all school to make sure they follow the exact same process for each applicant to avoid any sense of favoritism.
Please see this article for further clarification: Is Your Tuition Assistance Program Legal?
As you might imagine, we encounter a variety of interesting situations when processing thousands of applications each year. Our staff recently voted that the most unique scenario this previous quarter was a single-page paper application received in the mail... for the 2008-2009 school year! The application was so old, we didn't recognize it at first! The applicant was actually applying for the upcoming school year and was given an old application by the school to fill out. As you can imagine, a lot has changed since 2008 with the information we request of parents.
While this is rare, we received a high number of applications in 2019 for the previous three school years because those were the applications the schools had on hand and provided to the parents. Unless they are for the 2019-2020 school year, we kindly ask that you throw out all paper applications you currently have sitting around. Encourage your parents to apply online. Though some parents are intimidated, the process is simple. It is much more time efficient, and it will also save them a few extra dollars!
If need be, the newest CFS Application forms can be easily downloaded using the "Download Forms" tab from the School Admin Portal.
The FACT report tells you a number -- but consider asking parents to stretch a bit more if you feel it is appropriate. Make it your goal to wean families off of the need for tuition aid each year and monitor previous year FACT reports to understand if a family is truly making strides to pay more and more of the tuition bill. We want to see families grow in biblical accountability to their finances, make decisions financially that demonstrate to their children and others that Christian schooling is a sacrifice and a privilege, not a right, and for children to be able to remain in Christian schools through graduation.
One of the most common mistakes we see from parents is that they do not send us the exact documents we have requested in order to complete their verification. Sometimes they interpret “Pay Stubs” to mean W-2’s or they will only send us their Federal Tax Return and neglect to send the state return. All of this can slow down the processing of their application.