re: DSM: Thoughts on Tuition Structure

From: Jesse Fisher (freedomworks@burgoyne.com)
Date: Sun Nov 18 2001 - 10:44:19 EST


Preface: Sometimes outsiders may be able to offer workable suggestions since they aren't emotionally or financially invested.

How about just tweaking the percentages as a compromise?
Based on the amount of the shortfall, the second-child discount could be, say, 80 or 85%. The third-child discount could be 64 or 72%. The rates could adjust according to the previous year's shortfall or surplus.

Just a thought.

> The current SVS tuition structure sets a tuition amount for the first child
> in a family. The second child is charged 75% of that amount, and the third
> and subsequent children are charged 50%. Last year this meant that single
> child families were charged about $500 more than they would have been if
> there were a flat rate for all students. Families with two children were
> charged approximately the flat rate per child, and families with three or
> more children were charged less than the flat rate per child.

> Last spring the Assembly was informed that the proportion of multi-child
> families had increased to the point that we faced a tuition shortfall. We
> were asked to reaffirm the current policy, and to further increase tuition
> in order to cover the shortfall. I voiced my objections to the current
> policy in the context of this discussion. I clearly was not the only one
> who thought we should re-evaluate this policy, since the Assembly voted to
> have the Trustees study it again.

> Now, this year, the Trustees have issued a call for papers to the SVS
> Assembly. Here, in brief, are my thoughts on this subject.

> We charge one rate for everything else at SVS, from pencils to
> dances, to ski trips, to the week of camping at Nickerson, because
> fundamentally we think that it is the fair thing to do. Everybody pays the
> same rate for everything, except tuition. I fully understand that not all
> multi-child families are wealthy, and that some families need the tuition
> discount in order to afford to send all of their children to SVS. But, as
> a
> result of the current tuition policy, SVS gives financial aid to some
> wealthy people at the expense of some families with less money and fewer
> children. This means that there are parents of single children who are
> struggling to subsidize the tuition of people who can afford to pay the
> full
> rate for each of their children. We charge the highest rate to some of
> those who can least afford it, including those students who pay their own
> tuition because they have been cut off from financial support by their
> deadbeat parents. If a family (or student) can't pay the full tuition at
> the beginning of each year, we charge them an additional amount (I believe
> it is 10%) for the privilege of paying over time. We have had kids
> struggling to make tuition payments while working at barely better than
> minimum wage jobs for the benefit of wealthy families who spend more on
> their vacations than those kids are living on in a year. I'm not blaming
> those more wealthy families, because we don't even ask them to pay their
> fair share. They pay what we ask them to pay.

> I think we should charge the same amount for each child unless the family
> decides that they need financial assistance from the rest of the community.
> This is commonly referred to as a sliding scale, and many kinds of
> businesses offer it. If any multiple child family decides they need to
> take
> advantage of the tuition discount at the old rate (25% and 50%), they take
> it. We're not going to question their decision. Not even if they drive a
> BMW, not even if they live in a mansion, not even if they hit the lottery
> for $100,000,000. They decide. And the school budgets assuming that
> every multi-child family takes the discount. Any monies collected above
> the
> budgeted amount would go into a fund to defray the costs for tuition-paying
> students and parents of single children who request financial assistance.

> Much of what I have written here I said at last spring's epic Assembly
> meeting. Since then I have thought more about this topic, discussed it
> with
> friends and family, and refined my position (of which the above is just a
> bare-bones version). I'm sure I will tweak it still more before I submit
> my
> paper to the SVS Journal.

> Since that meeting I have also been roundly criticized, my position has
> been
> distorted, and my motives and right to raise this issue have been
> questioned. I remain unapologetic about opposing a policy which I think
> has
> outlived its usefulness, especially when to go along with it year after
> year
> means that we raise the tuition rates on those least able to afford it more
> frequently than we might otherwise have to. I am an Assembly member and
> this is a matter which, according to SVS's by-laws, falls squarely on the
> Assembly. Expressing my opinion on this subject is therefore perfectly
> appropriate. The fact that I am only a parent should not automatically
> reduce my proposal to something not in keeping with the philosophy of a
> Sudbury model school.

> I'm very interested to hear what this listserve thinks about this issue.

> Dawn Harkness

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