Category Archives: School Policy

Tuition Assistance: A Blessing for Our Families

It is CLS policy that our families see actual-cost tuition billing. The amount can vary from year to year, depending on enrollment. While this amount is comparable to other fine private schools in Oregon and elsewhere, it can still be surprising to those who have not previously considered the cost of a great education. We believe that it’s important that our families know this cost even if you don’t end up paying the full amount. Knowing the true price of something is an important part of knowing its value.

Columbia would like to make a high-quality Christian education affordable to families committed to providing this for their children. To that end, we encourage our families to participate in our tuition assistance program. This post is a report on most of the tuition assistance awarded to our participating families during the 2016-2017 school year.

The total credits and tuition assistance for this school year have been $21,932.50. This includes discounts for multiple students per family, a practically free tuition for a new student via the new student voucher won from last year’s radio auction, and $10,557 in directed and general tuition assistance. It does not include ShopWithScrip.com credit toward tuition, which is figured on an ongoing basis, as family scrip purchases are reported to the school treasurer.

For the upcoming school year, we are expecting our first year of proceeds from the Quinn/Klaviter endowment to provide the equivalent of 1-3 full tuition amounts. The intent is to split these funds as general tuition assistance among students participating in financial aid, according to the estimated need of the families.

Besides the endowment, tuition assistance money comes from special gifts and fundraising. Unlike some schools, CLS does not require that our families participate in tuition assistance or fundraising, though families receiving tuition assistance are encouraged to help with fundraising, if possible. The more help, the more assistance there can be.

To participate in CLS tuition assistance, families begin with the TADS financial aid assessment of your family’s financial need. This can be done online, but TADS has a customer service crew in the U.S. available to help by phone and email. The school and other families can also give advice and some kinds of help, if needed. TADS is a national company providing financial services with customer support for schools and their families. Their financial aid assessment process is designed to keep financial data secure and confidential.

For anyone reading this before April 1, 2017, remember that our per-family registration fee of $450 has been drastically (but temporarily) reduced since December. It will return to the full amount on April 1. Qualifying students must be registered for the next school year via TADS before April 1.

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The Demands (or not) of Fundraising

We have had several high school students at Bethany Lutheran Church who were involved in one thing or another, and as a result had to do annual fundraising. It reminds me of the fundraising I had to do in my high school career for my extracurricular activities of choice. I’m afraid my neighbors and relatives may have learned to associate my call with a request for more money. It was just another a chore for me, but my parents probably felt the constant cycle of fundraising more acutely than I did.

Fundraising Thermometer

You’ve seen these before, right?

A Christian elementary school also has a constant need for funding. There are salaries to pay, supplies and utilities to provide, and facility maintenance. Beyond that, if the school is in a growth mode, it will require funding for expansion and promotion. Many private schools meet funding needs partly by requiring all students and their families to be involved in fundraising. The system works, and where it’s especially successful, the tuition rate can be lower.

Over the last year, as Columbia Lutheran School transitioned from a plan into a reality, I’ve spoken to several parents and prospective parents with strong thoughts about fundraising. Almost all of them are opposed to mandatory fundraising, because of the strong-armed demands on the family’s time. They don’t necessarily have a problem in principle with the idea of fundraising, only with mandatory participation in fundraising. They want to be able to say “no, not this time,” without paying a penalty to make up the difference.

There’s another problem with mandatory fundraising to support ongoing operational school expenses. It gives a false impression about the cost of school operation, and about the amount contributed by parents. It artificially reduces the billed tuition to a point where it no longer reflects the actual expenses of the school. The tuition seems to be lower, but when families factor their time, inconvenience, and donations (or even penalties) contributed through the fundraising program, the cost of the school may be even higher than if they had simply paid an actual-cost tuition. Mandatory fundraising tends to hide the true cost.

At Columbia Lutheran School, we do have fundraising, but not mandatory fundraising. The fundraising is coordinated by the Boosters, an organization of volunteers that operates separately from the school. Some fundraising money can be designated for tuition assistance, which helps families that need lower tuition expenses. Other fundraising money goes to special needs, like capital improvements or expansion. Parents, grandparents, and others are welcome to volunteer with the Boosters, but their participation is not required.

Tuition assistance is allocated according to the need of participating students. Those who wish to receive assistance complete a financial aid questionnaire with a third-party service called TADS, which provides the school with an objective measure of the need. Additional tuition assistance may be designated through donations directed toward a specific student. In that case, one fifth of the donation will be redirected for general tuition assistance. Through these assistance mechanisms, CLS students can still receive help with tuition, but without mandatory fundraising. In fact, participation in tuition assistance is also optional. A number of current families have elected not to receive tuition assistance, preferring to pay the full tuition directly, with zero fundraising. That may sound expensive to some, but to many, it makes a lot of sense.

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Limited-Time Opportunities for 2015-2016

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This year, the CLS School Board is offering an early registration incentive based upon the generous gifts we have received over the past year. All students registered for 2015-2016 before May 15th will have their registration fee later credited toward their tuition. This still allows the school to make needed purchases in anticipation of the next school year, while also effectively lowering the monthly cost for our families without any mandatory fundraising. Registrations after May 15th will not qualify for this incentive.

In addition to this, for a limited time, new student registrations will also qualify for a sponsored discount, due to a generous donor who believes in the principles of Christian education followed at CLS. The net result is a monthly tuition rate below $499 for next year, before any tuition assistance is provided. This combined discount is an opportunity that eligible families will not want to miss.

Besides these discounts for early registration, interested families will want to bid in this year’s Bicoastal Media Radio Auction on Saturday, March 14. Columbia Lutheran School has donated a new student enrollment for next year. Items donated for this auction often sell at an excellent price, so if you know of anyone who might be thinking about CLS for next year, now is the time to spread the word about this auction. It might be won for hundreds or even thousands less than its full value!

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Possibilities for 2015-2016

Merry Christmas to all! I write this just after the last class day of the second quarter. It may seem early to be considering the next school year, but in our school start-up last year, we learned the value in early preparation. Easter will be here before you know it!

As a small school, Columbia enjoys certain advantages over schools with more inertia. There are some education practices with advantages, which are hard for larger schools or entire districts to implement.

District 21 has been considering the possibility of a full-year schedule, as other places have tried. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The disadvantages are generally inconveniences that arise whenever a family must harmonize different schedules. The main advantage is academic: it avoids the loss of learning that takes place every summer, requiring a month or more of teaching in the fall just to catch up.

A full-year schedule is not really year-round. There is a 6-week (or so) summer break, as well as a slightly shorter break around Christmas. The two remaining breaks are about two weeks long — long enough themselves for a family vacation. Overall, students also have more school days through the year, but without the dreaded hard transition from a long summer. Students and their families can look forward to a generous break after each quarter.

The academic advantage has been observed in other countries and in a number of American schools that have already made the switch. It’s been supposed to be part of the reason that students in public education do well in places like Japan. There are both proponents and detractors from the idea, but since every school and every student has different challenges and gifts, the question boils down to whether it makes sense in a given environment.

The most difficult disadvantage for us is ironically something not even found at Columbia Lutheran School: the inertia of schools like District 21 and St. Mary’s. While we are able to make a change like this without as much hardship as they might face, we are also affected by the inconvenience of their contrasting schedule. Families with students in two different systems have to adjust and compromise. This is also true with students in multiple District 21 schools, but it will always be another, similar challenge to harmonize the Columbia Lutheran School schedule. Furthermore, extracurricular programs in the community have the greatest incentive to accommodate the District 21 schedule, and may be ignorant of Columbia Lutheran School.

The question then turns back to our flexibility. Can CLS be flexible and creative enough to take advantage of a full-year calendar, while also helping our student families to manage the scheduling challenges? There are ideas we could use in the summer quarter that would allow students and their families to accommodate the demands of certain extracurricular activities, and retain some sense of “summer vacation” while still progressing academically. One example is something that has been used year-round at a classical Lutheran school in Roswell, New Mexico. School meets for 2 or 3 days each week, with longer take-home assignments for the intervening days. Parents are asked to attend a weekly session so that they can stay up to date with the progress of their students, and make sure the work is well done. Another possibility would take advantage of the longer daylight hours, starting the school day later (or earlier) to allow another part of the day for other activities.

There is little doubt that a full-year schedule would further distinguish the excellence of our classical academic program, and be a significant benefit for our students. But as we reach out to the community with the hope of attracting more students, will our neighbors also recognize the importance of this distinction? If they are not willing to consider it or learn about it, then it may be an idea before its time, even at Columbia.

The CLS School Board has been considering this from the very start. We didn’t begin with a full-year schedule because of the time constraints we faced in the CLS start-up, and to allow our families a more gradual transition. The change seems to be a very good one, and it deserves serious consideration. The time to make this decision and set a plan in place for marketing is now upon us. Please pray for our school, and come, help our school board with the planning process.

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Lessons from Genesis 4

This week in Bible history, we are covering Genesis 4. We have been talking about the difference between myth and reality, because our Latin class includes some Roman myths, while Bible history covers many things that are beyond our ability to verify or even understand. Since the Bible is from God, though, we know what it says is real, even when something horrible is described, like the murder in Genesis 4.

The final word on the difference between Cain and Abel is found in Hebrews 11:4. “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” There’s a lot to talk about there, and I hope to get there in the coming classes.

Today, though, someone asked what Cain used to kill Abel. The picture shows him holding a rock, just like the stones both men had used to build their altars. It was a good opportunity to talk about what we mean in the school handbook by a “weapon,” and why it’s important for everyone to be careful about how we use tools and objects in our lives. Even a common rock when brandished or used as a weapon, should be considered deadly, and it would result in immediate¬†consequences according to the CLS weapons policy. But a rock is also an inanimate object. What makes it a deadly weapon is the sin within the heart of man, as God explained to Cain in Genesis 4:6-7. So it is with all “weapons:” when used improperly, influenced¬†by the evil nature of fallen man, they bring suffering and sorrow. When used well and rightly (think of a policeman with his service weapon) they enrich our lives with peace and comfort.

So we thank God that Abel is in heaven now, and that there is also forgiveness through Jesus when we repent of our sins.

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