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CaliMexCaliMex Registered User Posts: 666 Member
So many questions...
- Do boarding schools take cost of living into consideration? (Our income looks decent on paper, but it doesn't go far in our very expensive city).
- Do FA packages include any $ for travel to and from school?
- Are you expected to 'raid' savings accounts earmarked for other purposes (retirement, 529s, etc)?
- Do they take parental age into account? (Parents in their 40s have more time to save for retirement than parents well into their 50s, no?)
- What else should we be asking that we haven't even thought of yet?
- Which schools WL strong candidates for whom they have no FA? Which ones admit FA candidates without offering aid?

Replies to: BS FA

  • vegas1vegas1 Registered User Posts: 340 Member
    So many questions...
    - Do boarding schools take cost of living into consideration? (Our income looks decent on paper, but it doesn't go far in our very expensive city).
    Based on our experience - Yes.

    - Do FA packages include any $ for travel to and from school?
    Depends on the level of aid. They usually include stipend for computers, tablets, books, music lessons, study abroad etc..

    - Are you expected to 'raid' savings accounts earmarked for other purposes (retirement, 529s, etc)?
    Retirement accounts did not seem to factor into aid calculations and were never mentioned by the school.

    - Do they take parental age into account? (Parents in their 40s have more time to save for retirement than parents well into their 50s, no?)
    I don’t think this has any bearing.

    - What else should we be asking that we haven't even thought of yet?
    Make sure to calculate total cost of attendance: travel, books, lessons, travel abroad opportunities, laundry service, yearbooks, spending money etc...

    - Which schools WL strong candidates for whom they have no FA? Which ones
    Choate in our experience- this was referenced in our wait list letter years ago for DS1.
  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom Registered User Posts: 3,965 Senior Member
    Choate will be upfront if FA need is the reason for denial. I’ve posted here many times that we applied for (partial) FA because we didn’t understand how we could possibly swing it but ended up FP. We were in our mid 50s but, as @vegas1 posted, that is irrelevant. You will not be expected to dip into retirement savings (accounts with penalties for early or non-qualified withdrawals). I believe changes to the 529 plan have been proposed to allow them to be used for secondary education, but I don’t think that is in effect yet. If it does pass, those applying for FA in the future will be affected but, no, your 529 balance will not be considered liquidable. Choate offers a special Icahn scholarship for those needing full aid, and that scholarship includes a travel allowance. “Regular” FA does not. Other schools may handle this differently.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 344 Member
    edited February 3
    "I believe changes to the 529 plan have been proposed to allow them to be used for secondary education, but I don’t think that is in effect yet."

    Yep, they are in effect. Up to $10,000 per year can be withdrawn for primary and secondary education, presumably including organized academic camps and online courses, starting in 2018. There had been a provision to allow homeschool parents also to access funds, but that was stripped out on a Democrat challenge late last year.

    This article focuses on the implications for financial aid and also the likelihood that private schools might simply raise tuition in order to capture the savings. That makes sense to me, but only on a medium term basis. Should be a benefit for the next few years on a net basis I would think for those who have overfunded 529 plans.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/your-money/529-plans-taxes-private-school.html
  • dramakid2dramakid2 Registered User Posts: 45 Junior Member
    @CaliMex this article does not address all of your questions specifically, but I think it is a helpful overview of how financial aid awards are determined. While the article focuses on Tabor, I would venture to say that the process is similar at other schools. It is a bit dated as it is from 2014, and the 529 factor has now changed for 2018, but worth a read.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/your-money/for-boarding-schools-an-evolving-financial-aid-philosophy.html

  • CaliMexCaliMex Registered User Posts: 666 Member
    The article says to never to tell a school that a different school offered more aid. Is that really bad form? We’ve warned our girl that her choice of schools will depend on FA... but what if she really prefers a school that gave less? Is it that uncool to mention the other school’s package?
  • CaliMexCaliMex Registered User Posts: 666 Member
    edited February 3
    (I hope I’m not jinxing my girl’s chances by writing as if we are assuming we’ll have choices to make. We might not! She’s a kind, earnest, thoughtful kid with good grades, not an impact athlete with crazy stats and a long list of awards!)
  • zixzaxzixzax Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
    This question has been something we've been struggling with. For a while, we had a deal with zixzaxkid that-- if we are lucky enough to have multiple options-- we will eliminate any that we simply can't afford, and then she freely chooses from the remaining with no knowledge of the FA differences. Then (about two months ago) she decided she really wants to know the FA picture before she decides. She feels that it *should* impact her decision (to know what we will need to sacrifice as a family.)

    My thinking (still) is that (of the schools that love her, fingers crossed!) she should choose the school that she loves, unfettered by imaging the various financial implications. She feels that her choice (in the case of different levels of offers) potentially impacts her siblings, and she has a responsibility to them to take this into account. I love her inherent goodness, and I am proud of her for her concern, but this is going to be hard for us (as a family) to resolve on M10-- simply because she's so adamant that FA should be an impacting factor for her decision-making process, and we are so adamant that (after we've figured out what we can't afford) it shouldn't be a factor at all.
  • GnarWhailGnarWhail Registered User Posts: 306 Member
    As has been said many, many times before, most schools do not have unlimited funds for FA and do make all of their decisions based on need. A few schools have enough money to do whatever the heck they want. But those schools are the most competitive in every other way, too.

    The fact that some schools will offer insanely generous FA deals far and above what you might get at another school should be all the proof anyone needs to see that the FA thing is as much of a subjective contest as the admission process.

    But that's what you signed up for if you need FA and want to give these sorts of schools a try.
  • GnarWhailGnarWhail Registered User Posts: 306 Member
    Once the decisions are in, if you have a school with an FA+ offer and another with what seems pretty skimpy, don't hesitate to contact skimpy if they are otherwise your first choice and explain the situation. There's no reason to feel weird about it, and it happens quite regularly. The worst first choice skimpy can say is no. And they might. Take it or leave it. Thanks for playing.

    Once again, those few schools with unlimited resources might grant your petition and offer something less skimpy. If so, yay!

    Keep in mind, tho, that the less-resource-embarrassed schools, and that's pretty much all of 'em, will often come in with their best possible offer on the first salvo in an attempt to lure you with the siren song of USA cash money if they really want your kid, so if you get something that looks fantastic right off, you've won and should consider gift horses' mouths and whatnot.

    This plays out often with the same relatively-resource-poor school and families in similar financial situations: the kid from family A gets an ostentatious FA+ package with a gold-plated pencil, voucher for a ride in the assistant hockey coache's BMW, and nightly turn-down service, while family B's kid get nothing but the absolute bare minimum aid which prevents family B from even considering another BMW for themselves or anything. Which kid did the school want?

    Relatively-resource-poor school might never be able or willing to meet a fantabulous FA package for most kids, but for those few target kids, they shamelessly slather on the bucks.

    As always, that's racing.
  • twinsmamatwinsmama Registered User Posts: 1,353 Senior Member
    We didn't get anything specifically for "extras." But (as I have mentioned before), I think the amount of FA our children received was somehow perfectly calibrated to make paying for BS painful, yet possible, which I find exactly appropriate to the situation.
  • preppedparentpreppedparent Registered User Posts: 2,639 Senior Member
    At Choate, I heard Icahn was out, but they may have found another benefactor to support URM and first gen kids who need full FA.
  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom Registered User Posts: 3,965 Senior Member
    edited February 5
    Ah, thanks for the update, @preppedparent. I hadn’t heard that. I did hear that the school eliminated AP classes as of this academic year. Lots of changes going on at Choate.
  • buuzn03buuzn03 Registered User Posts: 763 Member
    @twinsmama perfectly calibrated indeed! I love it because it is so accurate! We didn't get $ for extras, although FA does contribute to required athletic gear, school trips etc at the same percentage it contributes to tuition. Optional items, I believe are still on our dime (he hasn't gone anywhere fun...lol).
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