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Can't afford 'em? Maybe you can

"The island's private schools are not cheap. But the cost should not deter interested students, according to school administrators, because most offer enough financial aid to make the tuition manageable for any genuinely committed family.We don't want the tuition to be a reason that students can't come, said Island School principal Kelly Scribner. Our admission is need-blind. Some people might not come forward because of concern about the cost, but of those who do, we are able to help them.Most of the island's private schools use the School and Student Services group from Princeton, New Jersey, to assess family need. Based on financial information, SSS calculates how much the family can pay. The schools base their scholarship awards on that data.We have no quota for financial aid, said Hyla Middle School principal Paul Carroll. We accept the students we want for educational reasons, and so far, we have been able to find ways to work it out financially.Here is a school-by-school look at the financial-aid picture:Hyla Middle School: Because middle-school students have somewhat more complex educational needs than do younger pupils, it is not surprising that Hyla's tuition of $9,600 per year is the the highest of the island's private schools. And it has a correspondingly aggressive financial-aid program.According to principal Carroll, over 20 percent of the school's students - 18 of 84 - are on financial aid. And about one third of those students are paying the school's minimum tuition of $1,500, Carroll said.We are proud we are in a position to offer very substantial amounts for some families, he said. The school has an endowment of roughly $100,000 earmarked for financial aid, Carroll said, and it also gets gifts for that purpose. The remainder of the cost is treated as an operational expense and comes from tuition, he said.Carroll said the competitiveness of admissions varies from year to year depending upon the number of applications. Generally, the school gets 26 to 28 applications for the 24 available 6th-grade slots, but that number has been growing recently, he said.Completed applications for the upcoming school year are due March 3.It is important for the budget that we get a full enrollment, Carroll said. But we have been lucky. When we have looked at financial-aid requirements of the students we have admitted, we have been able to make it work out.Island School: At Island School, some 16 percent of the 104 K-5 students receive financial aid towards the $6,200 tuition, principal Scribner said. The school allocated some $68,000 - roughly 8.7 percent of its budget - to financial aid in the present school year, she said, and hopes to boost that allocation to 10 percent.We have had an aid program from the beginning, she said. It has been a high priority with us.Island always has a waiting list for students in kindergarten, 1st and 2d grades, she said. While there is less demand for admission to grades three through five, Scribner said students are admitted then only if they will be a good fit - the other kids have been together for several years.The deadline for applications is March 29.Carden Country School: Carden has limited resources for financial aid. But it has not had to turn anybody down, either, according to principal Chris Harvey.People self-select, he said. They see this little school with much lower tuition than anybody else and that obviously doesn't have a lot of money, and they don't ask about financial aid.The maximum scholarship is one-half of tuition and fees, Harvey said.Tuition for the K-4 grades is $3,450, and for 5-8 is $3,750. Harvey said between one and three students receive aid in a given year. Carden does not take scholarship funds out of its operating budget. It participates in the Bainbridge Foundation, and uses that money for scholarship funds, and receives gifts earmarked for that purpose.Applications to Carden are due by April 1, Harvey said. The school presently has 33 students, and would like to increase that amount to the planned capacity of 40.Voyager Montessori School: Voyager, which targets essentially the same K-5 population as Island, has a similar approach to financial aid.According to head-of-school Nancy Michel, roughly 10 percent of the budget goes towards aid. She said 10 to 15 percent of the 42 students receive aid ranging from $1,000 to $3,500 towards the $6,200 tuition.The school is trying to increase its enrollment from 42 to to 44, Michel said. New-student applications are due March 15.We encourage people to apply without regard to their means, she said. We have no quota on our financial aid.Waldorf Grade School: About one-third of the school's 80 students receive financial aid, according to teacher and school board member Dana Ashton. Some students receive full scholarships to cover the $4,500 tuition, while others receive partial assistance.The scholarship money comes both from specific fund-raising efforts and from the operating budget.We look at scholarship money as a budgetary need, as necessary as paying the light bills, she said. "

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