7 Recommendations for the Christian School Tuition Assistance Program
There are many Christian parents who have chosen to prioritize their children over their careers. Most of them end up accommodating for this decision by having to live with a lower income than they could earn if their priorities were more worldly. Quite frankly, these are the families I would want in my Christian school.
After surveying tens of thousands of parents and working with hundreds of schools in nearly every state of the U.S., we would make a few recommendations to help your Christian school tuition assistance program, and perhaps help you use your tuition assistance funds more efficiently. 1) Do not give over 50% to anyone, including employees. If the services you offer have value, they’re worth paying for. We have found that when tuition exceeds 7-10% of a family’s net income it becomes more difficult to pay. If your tuition is average for the Christian school in the U.S., about $10,000, then it is out of reach for nearly half of your community’s families because more than half of them make under $100,000 per year. Regarding employees - unless your salaries are so low that you have to subsidize salaries with free tuition for your employees - we would suggest that the maximum you give to employees is also 50%. 2) Scale back on multiple-child discounts. Christian schools often provide hefty multiple-child discounts. There seems to be some psychological advantage to giving discounts. That’s why we shop at Sam’s or COSTCO. We believe that if we buy in bulk, we should get it cheaper. However, allowing a third or fourth child to attend for free only hurts the school financially and makes you seem like a discount warehouse. A 5-8% maximum would be a more reasonable discount. Then the families who truly find it hard to afford a Christian education for their children can apply for tuition assistance and receive it – based on their actual financial situation. We subscribe that this is a much more cost-effective way to deal with tuition discounts. 3) Budget tuition assistance based on a percentage of tuition income rather than a dollar amount. When a dollar amount is used, and the dollars are all gone, the school should not dole out more assistance. To do so is budgetary suicide. If the budget is based on a percentage of tuition income, then the higher the enrollment, the more money is available for tuition assistance. This gives the recruiter much more freedom in using tuition assistance in recruiting new families. On average, Christian schools in the U.S. give away about 12-15% of their tuition income and the average family applying for tuition assistance will need 33-50% of their tuition paid. 4) Require students to meet behavioral and academic standards to continue receiving tuition assistance. By tying the continuation of tuition assistance to behavioral and academic standards you quickly erase the complaint that tuition assistance only attracts undesirable students. This also gives you leverage in dealing with tough situations in which the families are also on assistance. 5) Consider creative ways to raise funds designated for scholarship or tuition assistance. It’s okay if tuition assistance money comes out of your budget (whether they appear as a tuition discount or appear as an actual credit to a family’s account). Most schools do it that way. However, if you are giving away 12-15% of your tuition income as tuition assistance, and then raising that same percentage through fundraisers to subsidize your budget, you may find fundraising much easier if the appeal is for scholarships rather than for general expenditures. 6) Use a committee of 3-5 to make tuition assistance decisions, (not the administrator and not the board). In a recent survey, we learned that it is not at all unusual for an administrator to make tuition assistance decisions on his own – and in many cases in the presence of the families. This may not be the most prudent course of action. This opens the administrator up to potential complaints when families feel that there have been inequities - especially if the inequity means that they pay more than their friend pays. It is much cleaner and more professional to utilize a committee to make these decisions. Then the administrator can distance himself or herself from the financial portion of the family’s decision. Not only does this appear to be more professional to the families, but it also relieves the administrator of one more task that he/she does not need to do. 7) If you bring someone into your school using tuition assistance and their financial situation doesn’t change, you need to have a commitment to continue the assistance. This doesn’t need much explanation. Obviously, the ethical thing to do is to continue your financial commitment to the family if their situation doesn’t change. Hopefully, this information and recommendations help you think through the finances of offering tuition assistance in your school so that you can help more families, increase enrollment, and not hurt the overall finances of the school. © by SchoolRIGHT, LLC., unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved.