Affording RA: 4 Case Studies

Oftentimes when a family thinks about applying to independent school, they worry about the cost, making inaccurate assumptions about affordability. Families will sometimes assume they can’t afford tuition, there is no aid available, or that they won’t qualify for grant money. However, just as families learn about the right fit for their child(ren)’s academic and personal growth, they learn about RA’s tuition assistance program and realize the school helps roughly 28% of its students with an award each year, with the average award offsetting tuition by 40%. And just as the families who enroll their children at RA are diverse in their backgrounds, so are their tuition assistance needs. When we look at the community of families as a whole--and the $2M of tuition assistance to support their attendance--we appreciate the individual stories and partnerships with each; the examples below are constructed from RA’s financial aid committee over the past several years using elements from composite profiles.

Please note that while we have provided some basic financial information in each profile, it is important to understand that many other considerations can affect an award decision. If you would like to discuss your family’s specific circumstances in greater detail, please do not hesitate to contact our Director of Financial Aid, Dave Suter.
Case #1: Family of four, with one, an applicant for Grade 6, who lives with both parents, and has an older sibling at the public high school.
 
The family’s income is $245,000. The family owns their home, has some equity after living there for a decade, and both parents have accumulated retirement savings of roughly $225,000. There were no allowable unusual expenses. After the School and Student Services (SSS) calculation was adjusted for the Fairfield County, CT and Westchester, NY costs of living, the following was determined:
 
  • Tuition: $38,585
  • Estimated Family Contribution determined by SSS: $28,250
  • Aid offered by RA: $10,335
Case #2: Family of four, with one, an applicant for Grade 2, who lives with both parents, and has a younger sibling in full-time day care because both parents work.


The family’s income is $318,000. The family owns their home, has some equity after living there for a handful of years, and the parents have retirement and cash assets of nearly $400,000. There were unusual expenses of $25,000. After the School and Student Services (SSS) calculation was adjusted for Fairfield County, CT and Westchester, NY costs of living, the following was determined:

  • Tuition: $33,015
  • Estimated Family Contribution determined by SSS: $21,740
  • Aid offered by RA: $11,275
Case #3: Family of three, with one, an applicant for Grade 4, who lives with a single parent, and has an older sibling at boarding school.


Both parents, though divorced, have a cumulative income of $130,000. Both parents rent their homes, their assets total about $90,000 and there were no allowable unusual expenses. After the School and Student Services (SSS) calculation was adjusted for the Fairfield County, CT and Westchester, NY costs of living, the following was determined:

  • Tuition: $36,930
  • Estimated Family Contribution determined by SSS: $7,930
  • Aid offered by RA: $29,000
Case #4: Family of five with an applicant for Kindergarten, a sibling applying for Pre-Kindergarten, and both live in a single-income family as one parent stays home with an infant.


The family’s income is $410,000, and they own their own home, but with little equity having just moved to it last year. There are high “unusual expenses” related to the care of an elderly grandparent in the home totaling $40,000. They have significant assets in retirement and savings of almost $350,000. After the School and Student Services (SSS) calculation was adjusted for the Fairfield County, CT and Westchester, NY costs of living, the following was determined:

  • Tuition: $21,010 + $26,460 = $47,470
  • Estimated Family Contribution determined by SSS: $41,380
  • Aid offered by RA: if both children enroll, $6,090; if one child enrolls, $0.

Resources For Families

Glossary Of Key Terms

PFS, EFC, COLA:
Whether it starts with calling it Financial Aid, Tuition Assistance, Variable Tuition, Flex Tuition, or something different, families should know that schools might term related concepts differently. Most independent schools offer some type of discounted tuition program, based on both a family’s needs and the school’s financial operations, understanding that a diverse socio-economic school community benefits mission fulfillment. Spending time learning about the School and Student Services (SSS), their Parents Financial Statement (PFS) and Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), etc. helps understanding of these concepts.

Assets:
If a family has major assets, savings, or investments, the formula computes an income supplement that is added to the gross income. This income supplement varies, but usually net assets of $50,000 or less will have little impact on the computation. Home equity is based not on market value but on the price paid for the home and the years it has been owned. Generally, this will undervalue the equity. The income assumed to be generated by assets also takes into account parent age, leaving retirement savings intact. For most, but not all applicants, the additional income imputed from assets is a small factor. However, if the student has assets (savings, trust accounts, etc.), the formula includes them in calculating the amount the parents can pay.

Family Size:
Living allowance estimates are based on the number of people in a student’s household(s). Income is adjusted by expenditures for housing, food, or medical needs to obtain the available discretionary income.

Number of Tuitions (Preschool through Postsecondary) Currently Being Supported:
A student's financial aid grant is also divided by the number of family members (including adults) attending any tuition-charging elementary school, high school, or postsecondary institution.

Divorced, Separated, or Never Married Parents:
Financial Aid is based on the family's ability to pay as demonstrated by the information submitted in the Parents' Financial Statement (PFS). Both custodial and non-custodial parents (regardless of legal settlements) who are divorced, separated, or never married are required to submit the PFS. In exceptional cases where one parent cannot comply, the custodial parent should submit a written explanation. Lack of information from either parent may significantly compromise the school’s ability to make a determination.

Financial Aid FAQ's

A list of frequently asked questions can be found here.

If after looking over the resources and information provided here, you still have questions, please contact Dave Suter, Director of Admissions by email or by phone at 203.894.1800 x112.

The PFS Process From A Parent's Perspective

We invite you to learn more about the PFS process from a parent's perspective here.

An Introduction To FA For Independent Schools

New to the financial aid process? The Introduction to FA for Independent Schools is a great place to start!

Tuition Newsletter Archives

RA's Tuition Assistance newsletter provides updates on new developments, as well as valuable information on navigating, applying for, and maintaining tuition assistance.


Ridgefield Academy safeguards the confidentiality of all financial information supplied by applicants and does not publicly identify recipients of financial aid, except with parental permission. Only those persons directly involved in the financial aid process or in its administration will review this information.