This post is the third of a four-part series for ABQ Mom. In our previous posts, we explored what makes an independent school different from other schools and the independent school application process. In our next, and final, post, a parent with experience in independent schools will share information about admission testing. We hope this blog series will answer questions about independent schools and help families navigate the educational process in Albuquerque.
How does tuition assistance work at independent schools?
Stepping onto the Albuquerque Academy campus for an open house a few years ago sparked lots of emotions for my family. By far, the strongest emotion we felt was excitement . . . the opportunities and academics, the accomplished students, the beautiful natural setting, the sense of community! We also felt a sense of apprehension. Applying for admission required several steps and documents, and we had concerns about how the tuition could fit into our family finances.
For families who have not had childcare or tuition expenses while their child attended elementary school, suddenly budgeting to pay tuition for their middle and high school years may feel like a major roadblock to the educational journey they desire for their child. Families with two or more children may feel that paying multiple tuitions will stretch their financial resources too thin.
Fortunately, tuition assistance may be able to help.
Tuition assistance is school-based financial support for qualified students that lowers their tuition expense in the form of a grant, and it does not require repayment. The grant amount is based on each student’s financial need, the portion of tuition that exceeds what their family can pay using their own financial resources.
Every year, independent schools in Albuquerque, including Albuquerque Academy, generously grant millions of dollars in need-based tuition assistance, enabling hundreds of kids to enroll who otherwise could not due to financial reasons. For your child to be considered for need-based assistance, you must apply for it. Although the policies for awarding assistance vary from school to school, the application process is similar for most independent schools.
All schools have deadlines for their applications and expect families to apply by that date. The first step in applying for assistance is completing a secure online questionnaire detailing your income, resources, expenses, financial liabilities, and other relevant financial details. Families will also need to submit tax returns and other documentation for verification purposes. Most schools post their tuition-assistance deadline and a list of required documents on their website.
When schools review tuition-assistance files and determine if a student is eligible to receive aid, they look at family finances comprehensively, considering many factors, including educational expenses of all children. If you feel you are not able to accurately convey your family’s finances in the application or a new financial development occurs after you have applied, contact a member of the tuition-assistance team. They welcome the opportunity to make a connection with a family and look forward to answering questions based on specific family circumstances.
Tuition assistance may also serve the purpose of including more socioeconomic diversity in a school’s student body. For our own children, we sought a school community that welcomed bright, motivated children representing the wide range of backgrounds and experiences found across our city and region. As we researched schools, it became clear that schools with need-blind admissions, like Albuquerque Academy, have the greatest success in enrolling students from neighborhoods and schools from around the city.
When a school uses a need-blind admission process, admission committee members do not know which students have also applied for tuition assistance. Children are admitted based on the strength of their admission profile-– without regard for how much their family can pay. Socioeconomic diversity may be enhanced further among schools who grant assistance that covers 100% of students’ financial need.
As you research schools, ask if the school requires a minimum contribution from every family or if full-tuition grants are possible for students who qualify for that level of assistance. There are lots of other questions that may come to mind as you explore the possibility of independent schools and tuition assistance for your own family.
Open house is a great opportunity to learn more about tuition assistance at independent schools and ask questions.
Albuquerque Academy’s open house is Sunday, October 24. Pre-registration is required. Click here to reserve a time slot. We hope to see you there!
If you have questions about Albuquerque Academy or the independent school experience, please contact us at [email protected] or (505) 828-3208.
About the Author
Emily Kienzle is a tennis enthusiast, avid gardener, and devoted mother to three children. She and her husband moved to New Mexico from the Chicago area more than 25 years ago, drawn by the promise of 300+ days of sunshine every year and the hope of raising their children in a place where sustaining a lifelong connection to the outdoors and natural world is effortless. Two of her children graduated from Albuquerque Academy and are following their father’s footsteps into the legal profession. Her youngest is currently a student at Academy and a 3+ year participant in the school’s stellar mock trial program. After stints as a teacher, stay-at-home mom, and grad student, Emily began working in the Albuquerque Academy College Guidance Office several years ago and moved to her current job of guiding families through the tuition-assistance application process in early 2019.