FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT TUITION ASSISTANCE
The full tuition price charged by TDS is equal to the cost TDS incurs to educate a child. Therefore, for the TAC to grant financial aid, it means the TAC feels that the need presented by the applicant justifies asking our donors to fund that amount of aid. It's a common misconception that the gap is funded by The Samis Foundation. It is not. TDS donors give their tzedakah, legitimate hekdesh, to fund scholarships for families who would not be able to afford the bare essentials if they were to be asked to pay above their assessed amount. Assessments are based on the data provided by applicants and as verified by their tax returns and every family is assessed using the same system. This can be difficult and sometimes feel like an intrusive process. The TAC uses the utmost discretion in making an evaluation and does so knowing that every Jewish child deserves access to a Jewish education. Our goal is to ensure that happens.
The following represents the guidelines of TDS in regard to applicants for tuition assistance for their family.
1. Who is involved in deciding if a family is eligible for tuition assistance?
The Tuition Assistance Committee (TAC) consists of 3 or more persons suggested by the TAC and then appointed by the Designated Trustee and the finance officer of the school. Each member is anonymous in order to promote objectivity.
2. Is the Head of School involved at any stage of the process? Are members of the Board of Directors of the school involved?
No. The Head of School is not only not involved in the decision making but is not even informed as to the decisions reached. The Head of School has no input or influence on the decisions. Board members (except if they are on the school’s TAC) are likewise not involved.
3. Who else is involved?
The Samis Foundation has graciously agreed to coordinate the work of the school’s TAC. Linda Sullivan is a Certified Public Accountant working for Samis and doing the TAC work as a part of her job description. She helps in securing required information from applicants and in coordinating with FAST in regard to all applications. She has an advisory role only with the school’s TAC decision making. Samis pays for the services of the FAST System.
4. What is FAST and how does it work?
FAST is a commercial company that crunches numbers for many private schools and colleges throughout the country and deals with numerousfamilyies requesting tuition assistance. Since the system works with so many families it has the ability to compare a vast number of family situations. This minimizes the risk that a family will be treated in an unfair manner and enhances objectivity.
5. How in general does the FAST program treat various financial factors?
(a) The “science”/overall summary
Income (all sources of income) + Imputed Income (income assumed from (NetWorth-200k)*4%)=Total Income
Living Allowance: roughly 29k per family+ 3600 for each child, medical expenses, daycare for 2 working parents, bar/bat mitzvahs or weddings expenses(limited to 5k) are manually included in this number from a review of the application
Housing Costs: Mortgage or rent + property tax + insurance + home owners dues
Utility costs: Gas, electricity, heating
Insurance: Health – unlimited, auto-limited to $2,600, life – limited to $1,500
Taxes: Federal and Local, excluding property
Social Security Tax: computed from income noted in application
Allowed Savings: limited to 4% savings from income noted in application
(b) Total Income – Total Expenses = Income Available for Tuition (all schools, all children) The question is This computation assumes that while on reduced tuition, discretionary income is paid into tuition. Once a family is not on reduced tuition, discretionary income can be used any way a family wants to utilize it.
6. What about the usual fact that Jewish living expenses tend to be higher than the national averages considered by the FAST formulas?
The TAC does make adjustments for Jewish living but with certain limits, described below.
7. What is allowed for bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings?
The school allows an expense of $5,000 for bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings. It is realized that these events usually costs more but that they can be done for this amount. It is considered discretionary expenses beyond this level. The idea is that it should not be the school budget that suffers when a family incurs larger expenses, in essence asking the school to subsidize the event.
8. What credit should be given for charitable obligations such as synagogue membership?
None. This is incorporated into the FAST formulas and the amounts the school allows for living expenses. All parents are encouraged to contribute to the Samis Partnership by contributing to the school in recognition that tuition covers only a small portion of the total cost of educating each child.
9. What allowance is made for day care expenses for younger children in a family and for summer camps?
If both parents work then reasonable day care expenses are considered a family expense. Likewise, summer camp is treated to be the equivalent of day care. Only an amount equal to the costs of local day camps and overnight camps are considered. If a family chooses a more expense camp (for example, to Israel or out of state) that is considered discretionary income and is not considered beyond the charges for local camps.
10. What, if any, assistance is given for preschool tuition and what about single income families who apply for scholarship. There are three different scenarios:
1. The family’s youngest child is preschool age and they want to send that child to TDS preschool
2. The family’s youngest child is not yet preschool age and they want to send the second youngest to TDS preschool
3. The family’s youngest child is in K-8
The decision of the board is to enact the following 2 policies:
1. Preschool scholarships for children who are the youngest in a single income family are not available.
2. Single income families who apply for scholarship and have no pre-k children will have $10,000 added to their Gross Income when calculating “income available for tuition” by FAST (for scenario #3)
The TAC has full discretion to waive these two protocols based on special circumstances, instances of hardship etc..
11. What is ‘imputed income’, how is it calculated and what is its justification?
Net assets are considered to be a source of economic resources available to a family to help pay for tuition. The TAC allows for a net worth of $200,000, far in excess of the average net worth of families in the US. Many of the families have no net worth or minimal assets. This includes equity in real estate, savings accounts, investments, retirement accounts. For amounts above $200,000 our formula considers 4% of it to be income.
12. Will the TAC consider our family’s application if all required and requested information is not provided?
No. Full tuition will be assessed until full documentation is provided. This includes filling out in full the FAST application and providing all required documents such as the previous year’s Federal tax returns, including returns of all business entities in which the family has an equity interest. In the case of divorced parents this will usually require a copy of the decree of dissolution and the settlement agreement so that the TAC can understand the obligations of each parent in regard to educational expenses of the children and the expenses/income relating to child support and maintenance. In the case of capital gains the TAC may require more detailed asset information.
13. What year’s tax returns are required?
Generally by the time families make their financial assistance applications the only returns available are for the previous year. An application made, for example, by the deadline of Jan 31 requires the tax return for the previous year. Thus the tax information is a year plus a few months out of date, i.e., not updated for the school year in which the assistance is requested. All tuition reduction decisions are explicitly tentative pending receipt of the current year’s tax returns, because it is understood that the FAST application requires the parents to estimate their current financial situation. Since all returns are required to be filed by October 15, more than a month and a half into the current school year, that is also the deadline for providing the school with the return so that adjustment can be made to the tuition assistance for the current school year.
14. What if the family financial situation deteriorates during the school year? What if it improves?
The school has a policy of re-evaluation if a family’s financial situation deteriorates during the school year. The TAC encourages parents to give the TAC the opportunity to adjust the charged tuition downward. The school also requires a family to inform the TAC when the resources available to the family improve during the year. Examples are bonuses, capital gains, inheritances, new job with a higher salary, major gifts and so on.
15. What if a family forgets to inform the TAC of the improvements in family finances discussed immediately above?
If a family does not inform the TAC of improvements in financial situation, the TAC will re-compute what the tuition should have been for the year in which assistance was provided and add it to the current year’s tuition.
16. How does the TAC treat parents who have incurred voluntary major debt such as car purchase or purchase of a second home or home remodeling?
Such expenses are not usually considered. Such expenses are considered to be a matter for normal family budgeting which is included in the allowances for living expenses.
17. Is there a minimum tuition regardless of financial situation?
Yes. The school’s minimum tuition is $250.
18. What is the appeal process if we feel the decision of the TAC is unfair?
There is no formal appeal from the decision of the TAC. There is a reconsideration process by which a request can be made to the school’s business manager to ask the committee to reconsider. During this process the families are encouraged to submit additional information and to seek clarification of the decision making process. The business manager is the sole conduit of communications between the TAC and the family in this reconsideration process.
Regardless of circumstance, any family who does not have an established tuition assessment amount because they are in the process of initial assessment, tuition reassessment, or assessment appeal, must make monthly tuition payments based on a temporary assessment amount if their children are attending school. The temporary assessment amount shall be equal to 75% of the most recent assessment or $500/month/family if no initial assessment has been established.
19. Is family life style considered by the TAC?
Yes. When it is obvious that the information submitted, including tax returns, is inconsistent with life style, further explanation will be required. The same is true when there is an inconsistency between previous years’ applications and the information submitted in previous years. The TAC has available all applications previously made.
20. FAST only has a system for submitting an application to one of the community schools. How does the TAC access the submitted information so that the family is not subjected to duplicate applications? What about information submitted to schools (including colleges and yeshivas) not included the local community system?
When a family application notes that children are in more than one school, then and only then does the TAC access the information submitted to the other school. The TAC does not have access to the applications for post high school tuition assistance or scholarship applications but may ask the family for those applications and documentation.
21. What about the family whose income is irregularly and highly variable such as realtors, personal injury lawyers, commissioned sales people, caterers, family business owners?
These are situations in which the TAC understands that estimated income is hard to predict. The family should do the best it can but then submit updates periodically to the TAC so that tuition levels can be adjusted during the school year. This must include information on both improvements and reductions of expected income.
22. How does the TAC consider the situation of divorced parents?
It depends who has financial responsibility for the children and is then computed accordingly.
23. How does the TAC assess the situation of children of faculty members of the school or of other local schools on the FAST system?
Other schools receive no special consideration. TDS faculty are assessed like all other parents.
24. How does the TAC assess the situation of children of local clergy members?
No special consideration.
25. What is the school’s policy toward requiring volunteer hours from parents receiving tuition assistance? Conversely, should parents who devote a lot of volunteer time to a school be given extra breaks when requesting tuition reduction?
All parents are encouraged to help the school in whatever capacity they can. The TAC does not give special consideration to parents who help the school. The TAC considers the financial situation of each applicant.
26. How can I use my Section 529 plan to pay for tuition?
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains a provision that allows use of Section 529 savings to pay for private K-12 education up to $10,000 per year, per child starting in 2018. Establishing and funding a Section 529 plan can provide significant tax benefits. See your investment advisor and accountant for more information.
Unless special arrangements have been made with the Tuition Assistance Committee, all families who intend to make monthly tuition payments for any academic year must begin those payments no later than June 30th of the preceding academic year and complete those payments no later than May 30th of the current academic year.