Thursday, April 15, 2010

If you think touring, applying, and interviewing at schools is hard, just wait until you get accepted...

Okay, time for another long one...

We got accepted to our first choice school! Yep, one of the private schools that originally wait-listed us called while we were on vacation. They even hand-delivered the enrollment packet to our house so that it would be waiting for us when we returned. And thus began three of the most stressful days of my life.

Day One: I called, and said that the offer did not mention anything about our financial aid application, and the contract deadline is tomorrow. Can we have more time to think about this and figure out our finances? Their answer: We can give you a (relatively small) tuition discount and 'til the end of the week. I said I needed to think about it, and they called back at 7:30pm to ask what kind of discount we would need to make it work. Wow, I wasn't expecting that! So I told them I would call back tomorrow. The idea of trying to negotiate the cost for my son's future made me kind of sick to my stomach, but I needed to talk to Chris to figure out what we could really afford.

Day Two: I called, and told them the amount that we were requesting. I did not expect them to grant it, considering it was four times their original offer. They told me that I needed to give some more info to their financial aid department and they would get back to me. They called back near the end of the day with their answer: YES! Oh my god, I was giddy. I never thought they would say yes, but they took into account the fact that I am not really working right now due to almost all of my hours being cut, and were willing to give us a really great tuition discount. Well, giddy, but also nauseous. I mean, it was a great offer, but it was still a significant amount of money that we would be paying. With no guarantee that we would be able to secure the same kind of discount in future years. Not to mention that it wouldn't really leave room in our finances to eventually send Brody to preschool, or private elementary school after that. But, we got what we asked for, and we told them we were ready to commit. They emailed me the written agreement that evening.

But when I looked at the new contract that night, it wasn't what I was expecting. Yes, the discount we talked about was on there, but so were some new fees that weren't included in the original contract. The New Family Enrollment fee and the Extended Payment Service Charge stated "Waived" on the first contract, but were added back in on the new amendment. And these weren't small fees; they amounted to more than 11% of the total tuition and fees. Convinced that they made a clerical error that would easily be corrected, I sent an email with a copy of the original contract attached, and told them I would await their response.

Day Three (note that this back-and-forth happened over the course of the entire day):
Their response: Oops we sent the wrong contract initially. You were given the sibling enrollment contract, but should have gotten the new family contract. Those fees should never have been waived.
My response: I understand, but we were not anticipating those fees when we told you what we would need to make it work.
Their response: We can't waive those fees because it wouldn't be fair to the other families.  You can restructure your payments to pay more upfront, and lower your monthly payments. Besides, they are just one-time fees, and you won't pay them again in future years.
My response: If you can't waive those fees, can we revisit the tuition discount that we discussed? And, you originally told us we have until the end of the week, but this amendment says tomorrow.
Their response: Our last offer is the best that we can do. And part of that offer included us requiring an earlier response, which is why the deadline was changed. We are also talking with other families, and if you do not accept the offer, we need to call the next person on the waitlist ASAP.
My response: I see. I will need to discuss this with Chris because it was not what we were expecting. I will call you tomorrow.
Their response: I was really hoping for an answer today.
My response: WHAT THE F***!?!

Okay, of course that wasn't really my response, at least not aloud. But I have a feeling that she heard me, anyhow. Man, I NEVER thought that trying to enroll in a private elementary school would be such a stressful negotiation process.

So what did we do? We went back and forth about a dozen times:
+We love the school, and if the cost was the same for all of the schools we applied to, we wouldn't think twice about accepting.
-But the tuition would mean that I would definitely need to work, at least part-time. Maybe full time in the not-so-distant future, depending on what kind of financial aid they would offer in subsequent years.
+But we wouldn't have to worry about finding a middle school (even scarier than elementary options in the public school), since this one goes through 8th grade.
-But we would still have to figure out high school, which is even more expensive than elementary/middle schools if we go the private school route.
+But we wouldn't have to worry about all of those horrendous budget cuts that are seriously impacting all of our public schools, increasing elementary class sizes (some already at 26-30 kids with one teacher, no aides), cutting "extras" like P.E., music, arts, and even social studies.
-But how could we really afford it? I mean, even with this great discount they were offering us in tuition, if we stayed with this school all the way through 8th grade, for both of our kids (and there were never any tuition increases), we would be paying over $200,000! Not including the fundraising donations we would still be expected to give, fieldtrip fees, books, etc.

So, as you've probably guessed, we turned them down. And how do I feel? Disappointed. I really did think that the school would be a great match for our family, as their philosophy and values really seemed in sync with what we wanted. A little angry. They made a mistake, but decided not to honor what they originally wrote, and then added the extra pressure of making us decide sooner. A little worried. We still don't know for sure what our other options will be. But even more so, I feel kind of relieved. The monetary commitment was stressing me out. This leaves us a lot more flexibility to do different things with our life, like take a vacation or buy a new car. I still don't know for sure what's in store for us as far as schooling goes, but Jake is a bright kid, and he's going to be successful wherever we choose. Now, let's just hope we get in someplace good.

1 comment:

  1. Christy, you know I empathize with what you are going through and you are right Jake is going to be fine wherever he lands. And he will land where he is supposed to be.