Affording The Gardner School – Financial Aid

Background

Distinguishing itself as a school that promotes individuality and encourages openness to differing ideas and perspectives, The Gardner School of Arts and Sciences has been dedicated from the outset to the principle that diversity in all forms is vital to the school’s ability to achieve the highest standards of learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Gardner is committed to the principle that learning is maximized when students of differing abilities and backgrounds work together and develop an understanding of one another. This commitment to facilitate high standards in its day-to-day endeavors as a learning community is equaled by The Gardner Schools dedication to the belief that a diverse educational environment is vital to the fulfillment of the school’s stated mission: to inspire all students to build knowledge of self, an awareness of our connection to others, and develop responsibility for themselves, their community, the earth and humanity.

The Gardner School of Arts and Sciences is an independent non-profit school which meets the charitable and educational definitions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (Tax Identification Number: 91-167-7685). As such, Gardner receives no outside funding from state or federal sources and is not supported by any religious organizations.

The operating budget of Gardner is dependent on various funding sources to support its educational program, including tuition, fees, private donations, and the annual campaign/auction fundraising. The operating budget ensures that Gardner meets its commitment to provide a competitive student/teacher ratio and a highly qualified and experienced faculty.

Financial Aid

The Gardner School has established a need-based Financial Aid Program. The Gardner School Board of Trustees reviews and approves the policies governing financial aid on a regular basis. As part of the annual budget process, the Board approves the overall financial aid budget. The Board reserves the right to revisit the policies and implementation of financial aid at any time deemed appropriate.

The criteria used to determine financial aid recipients are based upon a family’s inability to pay the full tuition to attend Gardner. As is the practice of other private schools, Gardner outsources information collection and data analysis to the School and Student Services for Financial Aid (SSS), which is a financial aid management service owned and administered by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). NAIS is a membership organization and the national voice of independent education, representing approximately 1,400 independent schools and associations in the United States. Families requesting financial aid must submit an application on-line via the Parents’ Financial Statement (PFS), found at http://sss.nais.org/. Additional supporting documents may also be required by the Gardner Financial Aid Committee.

In accordance with equal opportunity standards, awards are made without regard to a student’s race, color, gender, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, religion and national or ethnic origin, and in compliance with existing state and federal law or regulations.  The Financial Aid Program information will be made available to current and prospective families. Furthermore, information will be posted on Gardner’s website, included in academic program brochures, and distributed at public outreach events (e.g., Open Houses).

Organization

In order to administer financial aid, the Gardner School Board of Trustees established the Financial Aid Committee. This committee consists of the Head of School, the Business Manager and a non-parent member of the Board’s Finance Committee. The Financial Aid Committee has the discretion to administer the financial aid budget, as outlined below in the Financial Aid Guidelines.

The Head of School will report to the Board’s Finance Committee and subsequently to the full Board the allocation of financial aid awards at a Board meeting following the end of the normal financial aid process, normally in May or June of the academic year. In addition, the Finance Committee will be informed of periodic updates throughout the school year.

Qualifications for Assistance

The Gardner School does not use financial need as a consideration in assessing a student’s eligibility for admission. The Admission and Financial Aid processes are separate and distinct. No decisions regarding financial aid are made until the student is accepted.

The Gardner School recognizes that the primary responsibility for financing a student’s education rests with his/her family. A family is defined as consisting of both natural parents of the applicant, any stepparent, plus any children from the original marriage/partnership along with any children born during the current marriage/partnership. The Gardner School will not necessarily be bound by the assertion of a parent, including statements in a divorce decree, that he/she is not responsible legally for educational expenses, but will retain the sole discretion to determine on a case-by-case basis whether the financial circumstances of a divorced parent justify the providing of financial aid by Gardner. Thus, both parents must provide the information that is requested on the PFS form and filed with SSS. Non-custodial parents are also required to complete a PFS form and submit the appropriate supporting documentation.

In accordance with guidelines from SSS, Gardner holds that for those applying for financial aid, both parents in a two-parent household should be employed. Exceptions include families with children younger than kindergarten age, other dependents in the home requiring full-time care, or a documented physical or health problem that prevents gainful employment. If one parent is not employed, and there are no extenuating circumstances, the Financial Aid Committee will use the SSS guidelines for imputing income for this parent. Any necessary childcare costs will be considered. If multiple children attend tuition charging schools, it is expected that the family will apply for financial aid at all schools. Gardner should not be expected to subsidize tuition at other schools or colleges.

Financial aid is offered to a family for the purpose of providing tuition assistance only. It does not reduce any other costs associated with attending Gardner, such as aftercare costs, trip fees, or after school activities.

Financial aid awards for students attending Gardner in the year the application is submitted are contingent upon the student successfully completing the school year and the payment in full of all financial obligations set forth in the Enrollment Contract for the year.

Award Determination

The Finance Committee will determine the annual budget for financial aid and submit it for Board approval as part of the annual budgeting cycle. With careful consideration of the Financial Aid budget, the Financial Aid Committee will review a “blind” SSS analysis of the family’s expected financial contribution and other submitted documents.

Gardner safeguards the confidentiality of all financial aid information supplied by applicants and does not publicly identify recipients of Financial Aid. Families are informed that publicizing an award in any way is inappropriate and is in violation of School policy.

After considering all timely applications the Financial Aid Committee determines the award amount. The committee uses the SSS report as an assessment tool; however, final award decisions reside within the Financial Aid Committee. Current salary, net worth, and family circumstances will be considered when determining the award amount. Financial aid awards are made on the assumption that the family is allocating the maximum amount of resources within its capacity to fund their child’s or children’s education. It is expected that each family has prioritized educational costs after necessary living expenses.

Hardship Contingency

Financial aid decisions apply only to the year for which an application and supporting documentation are submitted to SSS and The Gardner School as previously described.   When there are dramatic changes in a family’s financial situation due to a significant setback, The Gardner School will do what it can to make it possible for the child to remain at Gardner. At the same time, The Gardner School expects a family in this situation to make other adjustments to their family expenditures, in addition to seeking financial aid, to help cover the cost of tuition. Likewise, when a family’s situation improves greatly, The Gardner School reserves the right to adjust the financial aid award to reflect the positive gain.

A family may experience an extenuating circumstance resulting in an unexpected need for financial assistance. These issues may arise after the application deadline has passed. Those who wish to apply for a hardship contingency would be required to follow the same financial aid guidelines and process.

The Gardner Financial Aid Committee reserves the right to review extenuating circumstances on a case-by-case basis. The financial aid award will be sent to both parents, who must then decide how to divide the family contribution. It is the responsibility of both parents to ensure that Gardner receives payment for educational services.

Notification

Families will be notified of their awards for the next academic year only if their current tuition balance is current and clear. Financial aid cannot be applied toward any tuition or unpaid fees from prior years. Financial aid applicants must still pay the 10% enrollment deposit when submitting the enrollment or re-enrollment contract. Once Financial Aid Awards are determined, the payment schedule will be based on the full tuition amount, less the financial aid award, less the full deposit paid to secure a child’s place.

Families who are notified of a financial aid award must accept or decline the award within two weeks of notification. If the family fails to comply with this and other reasonable requirements, the Financial Aid Committee reserves the right to grant the award to another applicant.

If sufficient funds are unavailable to meet the demonstrated need of all qualified candidates, priority goes first to returning students and then to new students.

Awards will not be automatically renewed for subsequent years. Every year, families must complete the required forms and provide the necessary documentation to be considered for financial aid.

Applying for Financial Aid

The Gardner School uses School and Student Services (SSS) to process financial aid applications. SSS is a service of the National Association of Independent Schools. Based on the financial information you provide, SSS gives us an estimated amount your family can contribute to educational expenses. This helps us make fair and objective financial aid decisions. To begin your financial aid application, follow the steps below.

Because financial aid funds are limited, it is important that these steps be completed no later than March 15, for the following academic year.  New families will be notified about their financial aid award by April 15.

APPLYING ONLINE:

  • Go to sss.nais.org.
  • Click on the prompt to begin your Parents’ Financial Statement (PFS). You only have to complete one PFS even if you have several children applying to our school.
  • You will be given a password that will allow you to return to your PFS at a later date before submitting it.
  • You will be given instructions about uploading required backup documents to the SSS site.  The Gardner School requires you to submit a copy of your most recent tax return and W-2s by uploading them directly to SSS. Your documents will be handled with the utmost level of security. To read more about SSS’s document security, or if you have any questions or concerns about the financial aid process please go to sss.nais.org or contact the business office at school.

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