The Questions Everyone Asks: Why Doesn’t Parkview Offer as Much Tuition Assistance as Other Private Schools?
Superintendent’s Blog – 2019 Summer Series
When I first arrived at Parkview, conversations around tuition assistance were at a fever pitch. There were lots of questions about how much tuition assistance we were giving and to whom. To be honest, I was a little nervous about what I might find. I analyzed our whole system of assistance and was in fact quite shocked by what I found, but not the way you would expect. Parkview was one of the stingiest schools I have found in terms of tuition assistance.
In 2013, Parkview gave less than $100,000 in assistance. I couldn’t find any evidence of favoritism for a certain sport, gender, grade level, or extracurricular activity. No program had the lion’s share of assistance. Especially football. The average GPA for all students on assistance was above a 3.0 average. They represented an average discount of $1,200 and around 6% of our students. Our numbers were great, but at the same time they were concerning because our school was out of reach for some really great families in our community. We were not really reflecting a spirit of generosity at all.
So, what would a school consultant say is normal for tuition assistance in a private school?
The range of answers can be broad here, but in general it can be 10% of your budget and 20% of your students. This is a good baseline average for schools. If Parkview followed these guidelines for assistance, we would budget $1,300,000 in assistance and help a lot more people. That would be a million-dollar increase in assistance to just get to the normal range for a school.
How much does tuition assistance cost parents who are paying the full tuition amount?
If tuition assistance and the families who receive it went away tomorrow, everyone else’s tuition would go up. A well-run tuition assistance program adds to the bottom line of a school and accomplishes the school’s mission by helping those who desire a Christian education for their children but find it beyond their reach. When we find great, mission appropriate families needing assistance, every $1 we grant in assistance can add as much as $3 back to our bottom line. When managed appropriately, tuition assistance lowers the cost for everyone and adds great families to our school.
Why don’t we offer as much assistance as other schools?
The Parkview community strongly values keeping private, Christian education affordable for hard working, middle class families. We are constantly balancing the competing interests of affordability, teacher salaries & benefits, investments in programs, and renovation & maintenance of campus facilities. I have not made it a priority to educate our community on the numbers and I have not put a tuition assistance vision out there, but that is going to change. Currently, I am not comfortable increasing our amount from $250,000 to $1,300,000 all at once. It will be a slow and strategic process for us. I know that we have the capacity to do better and although we are a little cramped on our campus, we do have room for some students who need assistance. We also are seeing more support for parents who want to give back to the community by helping others; that is encouraging to see. While it can make me feel a little uncomfortable to put these numbers in print, I believe we can do better, truly reach families for Christ, and provide a Parkview education opportunity to more hard-working families.
It is just not fair that some people pay full tuition and some get a discount.
While this is a great and valid point, it is not that simple. If we were following the philosophy of evolutionists, then a fair system would be valid. Those with means can afford private school tuition and those without will be left behind – that is survival of the fittest. As Christians, we are called to build a just society where we help one another and treat each person with dignity and respect. Traditionally, Christian schools are more charitable because it fits with their mission. What must be fair is the system we use for identifying those with a need and providing them with that assistance. That is why we use FACTS and require that everyone who needs assistance apply and reapply each year through this independent third party processor.
So how much assistance does Parkview give each year?
As I have educated our board about this issue, we have increased our assistance systematically to the current level of just under $250,000 per year. We currently have about 10% of our families on some type of assistance and these families add a sizable amount to our bottom line. Without these families, our tuition would be at least $500 per student more.
The giving heart of our families has always been there. We are headed in the right direction with our assistance program, and I want all our families to know that we will continue to do what we can to help students. My years as a student at Parkview made me a better man, and I know we are still building our students into the men and women God would have them to be!