As our economy fluctuates from year to year we are getting more and more questions about tuition assistance to help defer the cost of a Montessori education. Many of you know that when you are in the middle income bracket you have a hard time getting financial help. It doesn't matter that you pay your bills on time and are responsible with your money. You make too much for government financial aid but maybe not enough to foot the bill for a private school education. However, there is hope. As a member of the scholarship committee at White Bear Montessori, I am always surprised at how much scholarship money we are able to award every year, both for families that are eligible for child care assistance programs, AND those middle class families who also need help.
I thought it would be helpful to outline what tuition assistance is available at WBMS and what the requirements are for financial aid. We have resources for two types of families: those that officially qualify for financial aid through county or state programs, and those that don't but still need a little help to make it work.
County Assistance Programs
What does it mean to be officially qualified for county assistance? Most county governments have a child care assistance program (CCAP) to help you pay for child care while you go to work or school. If you have applied to be a part of this program and have been accepted, or are on the waiting list, this program designates you as 'eligible' for other tuition assistance opportunities. It doesn't cost anything to apply, so we encourage families to apply to find out if they are eligible. Many families are surprised at their eligibility, especially if you have one parent that is not working, is on disability, or is going to school. Keep in mind, this financial aid is for early childhood education such as our Toddler and Children's House programs; as well as before- and after-school programs. It is not for children in private K-12 education programs, such as Kindergarten and Elementary.
Think Small is an organization in Minnesota that provides families with services, resources, and advocacy for early childhood education. Their website compiles all of the information you need to determine your eligibility for child care assistance in Minnesota. Please contact them or your county agency to apply for assistance. CCAP tuition assistance applies to annual tuition, before- and after-school programs, and summer programs. (Here are a couple of quick links for our families: Ramsey County CCAP, Hennepin County CCAP, Washington County CCAP, Minnesota CCAP)
MN Department of Education Pathways Scholarship
The MN Department of Education created an early childhood scholarship program through the Parent Aware program. This program provides two early childhood education scholarships (three and four year olds) for families who meet their eligibility requirements. These scholarships are in addition to CCAP funding. White Bear Montessori School is eligible for both Pathways I and Pathways II scholarships because we have a Four Star Parent Aware rating. Parent Aware provides scholarships for up to $5000 to approximately 5000 families in Minnesota. A Pathways scholarship applies to annual tuition, school fees, before- and after-school programs, and summer programs.
Hiawatha Education Foundation
If your family qualifies for CCAP funding, you are also eligibile for a grant from the Hiawatha Education Foundation (HEF) even if you are only on the waiting list. The goal of this organization is to provide Montessori education for two to six year olds in low-income and at-risk families. You can supplement your CCAP and Pathways scholarships with a HEF grant if you qualify. A HEF grant applies to annual tuition only. When you apply for financial aid at WBMS you are automatically considered for this grant.
How to Apply for Financial Aid at WBMS
We have instructions to walk you through the process. The application itself is a secure online process provided by SmartTuition. Your personal information is kept confidential. SmartTuition compiles applicant information and only provides WBMS with a recommendation of need. The scholarship committee takes that recommendation to determine a final financial award. You can feel confident that your financial information is secure.
Applications are accepted all year long, however, most funds that are not provided by CCAP or Pathways are awarded typically by April 1st for the upcoming school year. After WBMS receives your summary information from SmartTuition, the scholarship committee will determine what funding is available to you. If you are awarded a scholarship, you will receive a written letter with details regarding your award which will include your total award from all sources.
Please, do not hesitate to apply even if you think you are not eligible. We are very creative in helping our families that show some kind of financial need.