FAST Answers to Financial Aid Questions

Vol. 14 No. 7

fast q and a

Q: I’ve often heard ISM say that financial aid awards should be “mission appropriate.” While the idea “feels” right, I’m having a hard time visualizing what it looks like in the real world. Can you explain?

A: Great question! To start, ISM believes that a private-independent school’s success starts with delivering a clear mission that resonates with its community. Everything the school does—every decision that school makes—must keep the school’s mission in mind.

So, when a school’s financial aid committee is considering a family’s financial aid application, it should make decisions that are consistent with the values of the school's mission. In other words, schools must ensure that considerations of how a family earns and spends its money are both appropriate and following mission-specific standards.

Let’s look at a couple of obvious decisions a school might have to make. Typically, if a school is religiously affiliated, it would expect—and accept—that a family would give up to 10% of its income to a church or synagogue. A non-religiously affiliated school would often not allow for this expense.

Therefore, if a family makes $75,000 annually, a religious school would typically allow for $7,500 more as an allowable expense than a secular school. That is a huge difference!

Another example: How do financial aid committees consider aid to families with a parent who stays at home? In effect, your aid may be partially subsidizing this particular lifestyle choice, and your school must consider whether this family arrangement is one that your mission supports. Again, you can see how the values and beliefs set forth by your mission should guide your school’s decisions, especially where financial aid is concerned.

The answer, then, to the question of how to be mission-appropriate with financial aid awards lies with setting good policy and understanding how an award is determined. That way, policy can be used to ensure an award is not only fair to the family applying, but also fair to the other families paying full tuition.

Have your financial aid questions answered! Submit your issue, and we may answer it in a future column!

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