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Communicating about Refunds for Tuitions

Communicating about Refunds for Tuitions: Sample Letters
 

The decision about whether to consider refunds for tuition and fees is complex. Most schools, at this writing, are still in the process of reviewing their contracts, considering the impact on their community, and reviewing their long-term financial objectives with their boards.

How a school communicates with families about this decision can have enormous implications. Community perception is vital, regardless of the choices the school makes.

Schools should consider the following as they craft community-wide communications or reply to individual family’s questions and requests:

  • Be clear on what decisions you’ve made, and when you will communicate future decisions.
  • Acknowledge families’ desire for clarity.
  • Explain your school’s priorities at the moment.
  • Offer a way for families experiencing hardship to reach out to you.
  • Consider how your communication will be perceived and how it could “reverberate.”
  • Consider how your communication could reinforce your school’s value overall.

The Jane Group recommends a high level of transparency regarding a school’s decision making and to provide the specific reasons for tuition.  For instance, if a school is suggesting that parents consider any refund of fees be a donation, the communication could also say that the donations will be used to support families who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Being clear as to the reasons (for donation, etc.) further demonstrates the mission and values of the school.  The decision is not just about dollars and cents but rather a commitment to the school’s values. 

Below find several samples of letters and emails from SAIS schools to their families. Thank you to the SAIS schools willing to share these communications with us!


Sample Letters and Communications

 

SAMPLE 1

In this sample, the school:

  • reiterates its priorities up to this time
  • acknowledges that families’ questions about finances are reasonable and understandable
  • explains how decisions are being considered (in conjunction with the board of trustees)
  • offers a specific timeline for a decision
  • reminds families of a school’s status as a nonprofit
  • is personal in tone

 

Dear Family:

I hope this message finds you and your family healthy during this challenging time. 

Up to this point, most of our communications from have been about keeping members of our community safe and our transition to remote learning. I am so proud of our faculty and staff for their efforts to support students while the country tries to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve. And I’m thankful for families like yours who are both helping their children navigate this experience and partnering with our team to provide the best educational resources we can in the context of the governor’s recent shelter-in-place order.

As I have said in previous communications, know that the health and wellbeing of your family is our highest priority. We will continue to evolve our remote offerings to be as responsive and flexible as possible. Each student and family will have varying abilities to continue learning efforts in the days and weeks ahead. Up to this point, our overwhelming focus has been on transitioning to remote learning. For example, it is inevitable that as COVIID-19 spreads in our state that members of our community will test positive. We are already putting coverage plans in place if teachers or administrators become ill and are unable to continue working.  

I also know some of you have questions about tuition balances, deposits for the next academic year, enrollment fees for summer camp, and other financial details related to the COVID-19 global pandemic. These are both reasonable questions and difficult to answer at this moment.

With our initial remote learning plans in place, the leadership team is actively collaborating with the board of trustees to examine the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on our financial policies.

I want to be forthright that these are challenging questions with tensions that speak directly to the heart of what makes our school an educational community. Our school is both a caring community and a nonprofit organization. More than a hundred employees depend on us for their paycheck and healthcare benefits. The educators that are providing care for your children are just as nervous for their families as you are for yours. 

I promise that we will bring the same lens of equity and fairness that we strive to use in all of our decision making to these questions. We recognize that the pandemic and social distancing orders have already put a tremendous financial strain on some families. Other families remain unsure of what the actual impact will be on their financial picture and nervous about what will come next for the entire economy.

The chair of our board of trustees, and I are committed to providing an update on this topic by May 1. What I am asking for until that time is your patience while we determine what is the most right path ahead for everyone involved. Although we don’t yet have answers for these specific financial questions, Judy and I felt that it was consistent with our commitment to forthright engagement with families not to leave these questions unaddressed.

In the meantime, I would ask that you think of our school while you are striving to support local organizations you care about. Please complete the re-enrollment process and consider making a gift to the school to honor a teacher who has been particularly supportive of your family during this difficult time.

Give my best to your kids. I look forward to seeing them on campus as soon as we are able to regather as a community.  

With gratitude,

[either signed by Head of School or cosigned by Head of School and Board Chair]

 

 

SAMPLE 2

In this sample, the school:

  • clearly and directly asks families to honor their enrollment contracts
  • indicates when the next communication will come
  • offers options for financial aid for this year and next
  • asks families in a stable financial situation to consider donating and to paying their tuition for the following year in full

 

Dear School Families,

We are faced with a time of unprecedented uncertainty regarding the impact of COVID-19 in our communities. The situation is evolving rapidly, sometimes changing from one hour to the next. I want to keep you as up to date as possible, while still acknowledging that things could change in the near future. We have yet to make a final decision to extend online learning beyond April 6th. We expect to hear guidance from state agencies before the end of this week and will update families as soon as possible. We believe that an extension is likely given the recommendations and mandates we are seeing in other communities across the US and globally. In this event, teachers will continue to provide online learning and individualized support for families and children. We are preparing overviews of what families can expect from the distance learning experience following our return from Spring Break on April 6. That information will be shared with you later this week.

As a non-profit, independent school, we are primarily funded by tuition. In order for our school to continue to thrive as an institution as it has for nearly 55 years, it is vital that families honor their enrollment contracts and continue to pay tuition during this time. Our faculty and staff have been working diligently to develop distance learning and family/child support that aligns to Montessori philosophy and pedagogy and provides a robust, engaging learning experience for both children and families This is a challenging time for us all, but we will continue to adapt to the needs of our community as we navigate these times together.

To support our families, we have made the following decisions:

  • Morning and Extended Care fees will be waived for April and May, if distance learning is extended through those months.
  • We have opened the Financial Aid Application (FAST) for families who are facing a  temporary hardship due to loss of income. Families may qualify for a reduced tuition rate for April and May.
  • We are increasing our financial aid budget for the 20-21 school year. Families who face an extended hardship due to a loss of income may qualify for reduced tuition.
  • Families who are in a position financially to offer support could consider the following:
    • Make a donation to our Scholarship Fund to support our school’s ability to operate and our ability to provide reduced tuition to families facing hardship due to loss of income. Please contact me if you’d like to make a donation, and I can process it with your April and/or May statement.
    • Make your 20-21 tuition payment in full. There is a possibility (although we hope it is not likely) that recommendations for closure are extended into the summer months. Families who can make their 20-21 tuition payment in full can help to alleviate the burden of our summer operating expenses while we face a loss of revenue.

I am deeply grateful to serve this community. I look forward to moving forward together in strength and fellowship.

 

SAMPLE 3

In this sample, the school:

  • calls out that the school has been able to offer educational continuity
  • clearly states that refunds for trips, after-school programs, and extracurriculars will be credited, but is transparent in saying this may process may take some time
  • explains clearly — giving a summary of the language from the enrollment contract — that because the staff has continued to teach, refunds for tuition will not be given

 

Dear Families,

Thank you for your support and engagement in our transition to virtual learning this week. We are thrilled to see the commitment of students, teachers, and staff to maintain educational continuity while at home.

We recognize that while we are watching students thrive in their virtual classrooms, there are overnight trips and certain auxiliary and co-curricular programs and services that we have not and will not be able to provide during this period of campus closure, such as after school care programs, transportation, athletics, and after-school arts activities etc.

We are working on calculating partial credits for these programs, trips, and services where appropriate, and we ask for your patience through this process. Involvement in these programs and services is unique to each family, and cost structures and timelines are different for each program or service depending on our date of return, so this will take some time. If this results in a credit balance to your account, a refund payment will be issued to you.

Please be assured that this fee refund work is already underway and will be calculated on the extent of our time away from campus, any items already received, and the related impact to the program in which your student is involved. We will do our utmost to make this process as expedient as possible, working with our trip and program vendors, and will have an update for you as soon as a return to campus is confirmed.

A few have asked about tuition, and we appreciate those questions. Because school has continued in the virtual PK-12 environment and given that the financial agreement specifies that there are no refunds for tuition, even when acts of God and epidemics occur, no tuition credits or refunds are due. We continue to pay salaries to all faculty and staff as well as other school operating expenses and appreciate how hard your students and our teams are working in continuing the academic experience.

What we encourage you to do at this time is to focus on only paying the tuition portion in FACTS as usual, and to not pay the additional fees for the programs which you are not receiving during campus closure (such as EAZ, The Zone, transportation etc.). Upon confirmation of our return to campus, and when we have the credit calculations done, they will be applied against the outstanding fee charges on your account, and we can reconcile any remainder at that time.

Thank you again for your continued patience and understanding. If you have questions,  please reach out to our business office.

 

 

SAMPLE 4

In this sample, the school:

  • extends an offer for families experiencing financial hardship to reach out to the head of school
  • offers clear information for credits for lunch program, after-school care, etc.
  • reminds families that the business office remains in operation to help (but not to come to the school)

 

Dear Parents,

As we near the end of the first week of school closings and look forward to an uncertain schedule for the remainder of the school year, I know some may be wondering about their FACTS account with the school.

First of all, if your family is in a situation where your household income has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, please reach out to me. The School does have some flexibility in rescheduling tuition payments for the remainder of the year.

I do want to let you know that the School will be looking at the following specific areas and determining appropriate credits to your account.  This will be done when the duration of the campus closure becomes clearer.

  • Lunch plan:  Appropriate prorated amounts will be calculated and credited to your FACTS account once the duration of the cafeteria closure is known. It has been suggested that parents be given the option to request that their credited amount go to support the Food Bank.  More information on this will be forthcoming. 
  • After School Care: Those families that are on the Semester Payment option for after school care can expect a prorated credit.  Registrations for Super Sessions will be evaluated and credits issued where appropriate.
  • 12 Month Option:  Families with students enrolled in the 12 Month Option can expect credits to cover a portion of the amount paid that covers after school care for the time we are out and those days when school was scheduled to be closed, i.e. Spring Break.
     

The Business Office has remained open this week.  We will be closed for the originally scheduled Spring Break, but do expect to reopen Monday March 30 and will continue to be open, regardless of whether the campus is open for students or not. 

Please stay safe.  Parents are discouraged from visiting campus during this closure, but please reach out via telephone or email if you have any questions.

 

SAMPLE 5

In this sample, the school:

  • takes several opportunities to reinforce how the value of the school’s educational programming will remain intact, even in the virtual environment
  • states clearly that the tuition schedule will remain unchanged

 


Dear Families,

This afternoon, Governor Northam ordered all public and private schools in Virginia to close for the remainder of the school year.  As an accredited private school, we must follow this order, but we also do so in the interest of preventing the spread of coronavirus and keeping our students and their families safe. Therefore, unless something amazing happens that makes it safe for us to open earlier, our physical plant will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. We hope to open back up for summer school and camp.

We will reschedule our kindergarten and 8th grade graduation ceremonies; these are important milestones in our children's lives, and we will celebrate them together when this is all over. 

Even though the building will be closed, our school year will continue. In the interest of making sure our students complete their school year successfully, we are transitioning entirely to online instruction, and school will continue virtually. Our teachers got this underway last week and are ramping up lessons as they learn the new platforms and find the best ways to deliver instruction. Our intention is to provide a high-quality program that enables our students to complete the requirements for finishing their current grade levels, and to continue the excellent progress they've made so far this year. 

Over the next week, our online program will expand to include languages and specials. Our aim is to offer a structured day that will provide routine for students stuck at home, and allow them to remain engaged with their classmates and teachers. 

This week, teachers will create schedules, and will provide classwork, homework, and interactive, face-to-face time. Students should be prepared to turn in work, and attend class via computer or tablet. If you need assistance with this, please reach out to us and we'll do what we can to make sure you have the necessary resources.

Our tuition schedule will remain the same (minus extended care packages) to allow us to continue paying our dedicated teachers. We will be in touch again soon with more details about online instruction.

There will be challenges ahead, but all of us at our school remain dedicated partners in your child's education.  We are committed to delivering the rigorous curriculum you expect from us by adapting to the measures required by these extraordinary times. Together, we'll keep our students safe while advancing their education and preserving their special connection to the teachers and classmates who love them. 

 

SAMPLE 6

In this sample email response, the school:

  • outlines priorities and how they have progressed
  • offers a path for families hit with financial hardship to contact the school

At the onset of this pandemic, the school's first priority was the health and safety of our students, families, and employees. Our second priority was then education continuity for all students, Toddler through Junior High, as we launched our remote learning programs. The Board of Trustees and our Administration team are now actively engaged in our next priority of further planning for the educational, social, financial, and operational impacts of serving our students remotely for an extended period of time.

We know these are unsettling times, and we are committed to minimizing the effects of this disruption on our students, families, and employees. As the executive committee of your Board of Trustees, we understand some of our families may be financially impacted by this pandemic. If you have an immediate financial emergency that could affect your enrollment at our school, please contact us.

 

SAMPLE 7

In this FAQ, the school:

  • reminds families of all the people and resources involved in delivering education, even in a virtual environment
  • reminds families of the school mission
  • offers a path for families hit by financial hardship to reach out to the school

Will families receive a tuition refund while students are not on campus?

Our faculty and staff are more committed than ever to providing the best platform in the Triad for teaching and learning. Distance learning requires an all hands on deck approach with our nursing staff, technology team, faculty, maintenance technicians, and administrative staff putting in countless hours to ensure our students have the optimal learning environment at home. Teaching and learning will continue and therefore at our school will continue to collect the annual tuition. Families who are experiencing an extreme hardship due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic should contact the Financial Aid Coordinator to receive information about Financial Aid. For information about restructuring your current payment plan contact, Student Billing Manager.

Our mission is to develop the intellectual, ethical, and interpersonal foundations our students need to become constructive contributors to the world, and we are fully committed to living this mission in the midst of a local and global crisis.

 

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