The Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Financial Aid

What You Should Know.

 

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Photo: Courtesy of ‘Iolani School

 

 

Everyone who is interested in a school should apply; that may be the only way you’ll learn if you qualify.

 

 

Q. Who should apply for financial aid? 

A. Everyone who is interested in a school should apply; that may be the only way you’ll learn if you qualify. Jennifer Souza, director of admissions at Le Jardin Academy, says many families that are paying tuition for multiple children are able to qualify for some sort of award. Several schools are offering more aid after a year in which many families saw declines in income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. La Pietra, ‘Iolani and Parker School are among those. Most of the other schools we spoke with are offering the same amount as years past. Make sure that you let the school know about any changes to your finances this year that are not reflected in your 2020 tax returns.

 

Q. Will applying for aid affect my child’s chances of being admitted? 

A. No. Admission and financial aid decisions are separate and independent.

 

Q. Is need determined by my salary? 

A. Not entirely. Many parents ask, “How much do I have to make in order to qualify?” It depends on each person’s situation. In years past, the advice was to see if you could set aside 10% of the tuition a month for 10 months by adjusting spending, maximizing earnings and evaluating your assets. If the payments were still beyond your reach, you might be a candidate. Now, most schools say it is best just to ask. Finaid.org has a calculator that takes into account various factors, including debt and number of children in tuition-charging institutions, to analyze need. Find it at finaid.org/calculators/finaidestimate.

 

Q. Do I need to apply every year? 

A. Yes. In general, if there is little or no change in your family’s circumstances, you can expect the award to stay at about the same level.

 

Q. Are there other options for financial aid? 

A. Starting with the school of your choice is always best. There are limited options for elementary through high school education. But parents of preschoolers can apply for subsidies through PATCH Hawai‘i’s Open Doors program, Child Care Connection or Child Care Aware, which helps military families. Kamehameha Schools also offers Pauahi Keiki Scholars and Kīpona scholarships for children with Native Hawaiian ancestry attending participating schools. Keep in mind that the deadline for Kīpona is in early fall and eligibility is limited to students in certain grade levels. Seabury Hall’s director of admissions, Elaine Nelson, also notes additional programs including the Malone Family, ‘Ulupalakua and Maunalei Hawaiian Ancestry scholarships.

 

Q. What are the common mistakes parents make?

A. Not starting early. Applications are often available in the fall and the process of gathering all the documents you need can be time-consuming. Reach out to the school for help if you have questions. ‘Iolani’s associate director of financial aid, Mecca Monson-Gere, suggests making an appointment with your tax professional in early February to get all the required tax documents. Turn in everything before the deadline so there is time for the office to ensure all necessary documents are in order. Keep in mind that although it is never too late to apply, funds are limited. The first round of aid is usually the largest.

 

Q. Do you need to repay financial aid? 

A. No. It is a grant, not a loan.

 

Q. If parents are divorced, do both of them still need to provide information?

A. Yes. Each biological parent needs to submit a separate form. Stepparents are often also required to do the same.