I just posted tour notes for Marin Country Day, and have to say that I loved the school. I can even handle the idea of the bridge/bus commute, although I can understand why, for many people, that’s a non-starter. But in thinking through whether to apply, I also have to say that I keep getting that “Mind on my money and my money on my mind” feeling.
The main thing that gives me pause about MCDS is the price tag – up to almost $27,000 by the time a student reaches upper middle school. Ouch. No can do, especially with two kids in school within the next two years. That means applying for financial aid. Everywhere I turn, schools and school experts keep saying that it’s OK to apply for financial assistance. But I’m not so sure.
My first hesitation has been with the intention of financial aid – shouldn’t it be reserved for families who are truly in need? Schools say that they don’t want the “barbell” effect, with some students at the bottom of the income spectrum, lots at the top, and no one in the middle. But I’m not sure how much room financial aid systems have for middle-class families like mine?
And then there’s the issue of how applying affects one’s chances of getting in. Schools say that the two processes are separate. But it’s hard to see how. Most schools probably can’t afford to admit an entire class of students who need financial aid. To me, it seems that there have to be two groups of applicants – those requesting aid and those not – and the two groups compete amongst themselves for spots. Or do I have it wrong?
I’m not singling out MCDS’s financial aid policies here. They seem very generous, and have a unique “indexed tuition” framework that puts assigns accepted financial aid applicants an individual tuition based on ability to pay. But as I contemplate private school applications, I keep circling back to financial aid, and wondering whether signaling that we need financial assistance will reduce our chances of getting in so greatly that it's not worth applying to private schools at all.
Those of you more in the know, what do you say? And those of you applying for private schools for next year, what are you thinking on financial aid?