Can I Ask For More Aid?

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Many parents are finding themselves short on funds to pay for private school tuition. What to do? Here are some answers.
Many parents are finding themselves short on funds to pay for private school tuition both after their child has been accepted and when it comes time to commit to another year at the school. What do you do? Withdraw your child? Send her to public school? Here are some options which you should explore.

Scenario A
The deposit and contract for next year at Wildwood Country Day School are lying there in your stack of bills. You are one of the lucky ones. Your $150k job seems secure. At least for now. But your wife's job is looking kind of uncertain as sales are down. Layoffs are in the works. She's been there for 15 years and makes $95k as the HR director. All the economic indicators are just so scary. Maybe you should pull Jodee out of private school and save that $25k. If the school could help you a bit, you might feel a bit more confident about keeping her in school.

Scenario B
You are paying $1000 a month for your son's private high school. The school gave you a financial aid package which pays the equivalent of $1000 a month. But your wife just had major surgrey. Suddenly you are looking at $15,000 in medical bills you have to pay. Your cash savings are worth $5,000. Your 401k went south months ago. What do you do? Withdraw your son?

Scenario C
You just found out that you have to take a pay cut of 20% in order to keep your job. When you filed your PFS last December, youI based it on the money you were making in 2011. That's all changed. You won't be able to send Helen to private school unless you get some more financial aid. Is it too late to ask for more money?

Here's what to do. These scenarios are much more common these days than you may think. These are incredibly tough times for many parents. They are also some of the worst times most private schools have ever experienced Their endowments have declined in value. Their investment income is unpredictable. Gone are the turbo-charged returns of te years before the financial meltdown..

But, know what? Putting your head in the sand and pretending the problem does not exist is not the solution. Don't be embarrassed. Make an appointment with the school. Sit down and discuss your situation frankly and openly. Explore all the alternatives. You will probably be pleasantly surprised at the results of that conversation. Why? Because the school doesn't want to lose your child any more than you want to withdraw him.

Listen to Peter Baron's excellent podcast Approaching Financial Aid In An Economic Downturn. Plenty of sound advice and encouragement contained in it. Read the NAIS' informative article Financing an Independent School Education. Bottomline: discuss your concerns and your situation with the people who can actually help, namely, the professionals at your school.

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Robert Knox Kennedy is a consultant who has written extensively about private schools.

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