Re: DSM: Thoughts on Tuition Structure

From: Scott David Gray (sgray@aramis.sudval.org)
Date: Sat Nov 17 2001 - 12:04:38 EST


Scott Gray from Sudbury Valley here.

This topic is, I think, separated from abstract discussion
of the Sudbury Model; it strikes me as a question of
internal policy that depends upon the feelings of the
community in the Sudbury school in question. I find it a
little strange to think that a policy on tuition scaling
could be _derived_ from the first principals on which a
Sudbury school operates.

However, in the interest of presenting a balanced picture of
the different interests within the school community, I wrote
an article that treated the issue in the last SVS Journal.
Reprinted here:

Revisiting Tuition Scales

Scott David Gray

     The Trustees have been asked to revisit a large and
complex issue; tuition scaling.
     For many years, the school has had a policy keeping the
tuition rates for the second child from a family at 75% of
the level paid by the first child from a family, and the
rates for the third and subsequent child from a family at
50% of the level paid by the first child from a family. In
2001-2002 tuition is $7,750 for the first child from a
family, $3,600 for the next child from a family, and $2,425
for the third and subsequent children from a family.

     At one extreme, a "Family policy" would create a single
tuition rate that would cover all children within the same
family (a family rate of roughly $8,500 per family,
regardless of how many children come from that family).
     At the other extreme, an "Individual policy" would
require that for each child enrolled a parent pays full
"first child" tuition regardless of the number of other
children s/he has enrolled in the school (roughly $4,250 per
child).

     In practice a "Family policy" for tuition (assuming
that the number of siblings in each family enrolled remains
constant) would cost single-child families more (about $3700
more), would make no notable difference to families sending
two children, and would require the school's largest
families to pay much less (up to about $11,975 less).
     In practice an "Individual policy" for tuition
(assuming that the number of siblings in each family remains
consistent) would require one-child families to pay slightly
less (about $500 less), would make no notable difference to
families sending two children, and would cost the school's
largest families much more (up to about $9,250 more).

     In defense of a tuition policy closer to the Family
policy:
   * The toughest decision that a family has to make about
the school is not the money, but the philosophy. Requiring
one-child families to pay slightly more will not impact
their decision significantly, but requiring large families
to pay much more may impact the family's decision.
   * The school's broad policy that students are responsible
for themselves cannot go so far as to cover economic
considerations. Because of the legal and social climate, as
well as the desire to let young children enjoy their youth,
means that economic decisions are made on the family rather
than individual level.
   * The school works hard to avoid being branded as a place
to send "problem kids." Families are happier and healthier
when all the kids are allowed to enroll in SVS. The entire
SVS community is benefitted by an association with large
families. A policy that points to the school as a choice
for the whole family, is good for the school.
   * When/if a family is forced to choose _which_ of its
kids to send, it can hurt the family more than if both kids
were removed from the school.

     In defense of a tuition policy closer to the Individual
policy:
   * The toughest decision that a family has to make about
the school is not the money, but the philosophy. As such,
sending the first child is the toughest choice. The school
should not penalize people for sending the first child from
a family.
   * In every respect, the school argues that each person is
responsible for him/herself. The school should not break
this policy in tuition.
   * It may not be a terrible thing for 200 separate kids
from separate families enroll. Even if 50 siblings are
unable to enroll because the cost is prohibitive, 50 other
kids are allowed to enroll at a non-inflated tuition rate,
and thereby 50 more individual families will have been
touched by the school and moved to embrace the school's
educational philosophy -- making broader social acceptance
easier for the school.
   * A parent's choice to have more than one child does not
justify charging parents in one-child families more tuition.

     In defense of the status quo:
     Deciding where to fall between these two extreme (and
equally compelling) philosophies is very difficult. It is
an exercise requiring the heart much more than the head; as
the arguments have to do with equity and fairness, rather
than an analysis of economic returns. There is no rational
way to determine the ideal point on the scale from a Family
policy to an Individual policy.
     No matter where on the scale we set policy, some people
will feel strongly that it hasn't been set fairly.
     The school has a long-standing tradition of where it
stands between these two different ideas about tuition
policy. The longevity of the school's policy has minimized
the extent to which Assembly members feel slighted by a
tuition policy -- the age of the policy has depersonalized
it. In addition, the longevity of the school's policy has
made it possible for families to reasonably predict next
year's tuition when making economic decisions.
     With the Federal Income Tax code, every time it is
tinkered with it in one congressional session, it is
likelier that there will be a political need and political
will to tinker with it again during the next session.
Likewise with a tuition policy -- unless the new policy is
set for clear-cut reasons that receive very broad support
within the Assembly, such changes will likely end up being
temporary and will serve as invitations to keep tinkering
with the tuition policy.
     In short, it seems that any change from our current
tuition policy (whichever direction we go in changing the
current policy) would effect three things: It could be
taken as an affront or disrespect by some members of the
Assembly, it would set us off balance and force us to
continue to revisit the question every year for the
foreseeable future, and it would make it harder for every
Assembly family to plan effectively for the future.
     Finally, if a change in tuition policy _does_ change
the make-up of enrollees dramatically then the school's
budget may be put off-base again. And more importantly,
some individuals who are already part of the school
community may feel that they are unable to continue their
membership in the school. We know and care about these
individuals whom we already know -- and it is hard to
justify substituting the interests of unseen potential new
members of the Assembly for real flesh and blood members of
the Assembly who have already shown themselves to be able to
live with the school's current compromise position.

     With this in mind, I hope that the Trustees advise the
Assembly to retain its current tuition policy.

On Sat, 17 Nov 2001, Dawn Harkness wrote:

> 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
>
>
>
> ===========
>
> If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email TO
> majordomo@sudval.org (do NOT reply to the mailing list) with the following
> phrase in the BODY (not the subject) of the message, replacing
> "email@host.dom" with the email address that you subscribed under:
>
> unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model email@host.dom
>
> If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is too much,
> you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing to
> "dsm-digest"
>
> This mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives
>

-- 
 
--Scott David Gray
reply to: sgray@sudval.org
http://www.unseelie.org/
============================================================
In spite of oppressors, in spite of false leaders, in spite
of labor's own lack of understanding of its needs, the cause
of the worker continues onward. Slowly his hours are
shortened, giving him leisure to read and to think. Slowly
his standard of living rises to include some of the good and
beautiful things of the world. Slowly the cause of his
children becomes the cause of all. His boy is taken from the
breaker, his girl from the mill.  Slowly those who create
the wealth of the world are permitted to share it.  The
future is in labor's strong, rough hands.

-- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones ============================================================

===========

If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email TO majordomo@sudval.org (do NOT reply to the mailing list) with the following phrase in the BODY (not the subject) of the message, replacing "email@host.dom" with the email address that you subscribed under:

unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model email@host.dom

If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is too much, you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing to "dsm-digest"

This mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives



This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Wed Mar 27 2002 - 19:39:48 EST