We recently received an email asking if we could complete verification on an applicant with only tax the requested forms and not requested documents. This may have been due to the lateness of the application and trying to expedite admission. They may have been other reasons, too. Here is our response to this type of question when it comes up:
While we can do this, it 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.
While you certainly may look at a family FACT Report at any time, it is important to remember that until you see the words, Status Complete-Verified in red at the top of the report, it is not completed on our end. An incomplete or partially verified form is NOT finished and the results might vary significantly from what you would see on a “Complete-Verified” report. Unfortunately, some schools have inadvertently made tuition aid determinations on incomplete or partially verified reports. This could lead to complications for you down the road or frustration because the numbers do not seem to make sense.
REMEMBER that the same data must be collected and evaluated on each applicant. The same formula must be used for each application’s calculation. The same guidelines and opportunities for exception must be available to all applicants. And finally, the same criteria for award must apply to all.