Access and Affordability
Increasing Our Financial Aid Endowment
Our commitment to ensuring access for talented students began with Maria Bissell Hotchkiss, the School’s founder, who insisted on providing scholarships to local students whose families could not afford the cost of tuition. To honor that legacy, fulfill our mission, and remain relevant in what has become an increasingly competitive environment, we aim to raise the percentage of boarding and day students receiving financial aid from 33 to 51 percent by 2028. That increase will bring us more in line with our closest competitors, acknowledging that they, too, will continue to strengthen their financial aid programs.
In 2017-18, our six closest competitors offered 30 to 47 percent of their boarding students financial aid, while Hotchkiss provided 29 percent with aid. In addition, more than half of those competitors gave full aid to 18 to 21 percent of their aid recipients, while Hotchkiss granted only 9 percent of boarders full financial-aid packages.
According to The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), American boarding schools face a continued decline in domestic, full-pay families. Demand from this segment has declined from between 1 and 1.5 percent per year over the past 15 years. Inevitably, this affects the overall caliber and quality of the student body. While Hotchkiss is fortunate to have a robust international applicant pool, domestic students currently constitute 85 percent of our student population. We must build the endowment for financial aid to ensure that the quality and diversity of our domestic student body is not compromised by the shrinking pool of financially capable families.
The market-research firm Stamats conducted a comprehensive study in 2017-18 to understand how key stakeholders — students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and prospective families — perceive Hotchkiss. When asked about criteria for school selection, all constituency groups gave Hotchkiss the lowest possible rating for cost and affordability. It is abundantly clear that the affordability of a Hotchkiss education is the leading strategic concern we face.
We must also continue to provide a reasonable level of non-tuition support to ensure that students who receive financial aid can fully participate in the Hotchkiss experience. Non-tuition aid would cover, for example, the cost of books and supplies, participation in international travel programs, internships, and a range of transformational experiential learning opportunities. While we currently offer some non-tuition support, we need to increase those resources so that all students, regardless of socioeconomic background, can take advantage of the opportunities available to them. For domestic families in need of substantial financial aid, the availability of that extra support may influence their decision to send their child to Hotchkiss.
The caliber and diversity of the student body affects the learning experience for all. We are currently at risk that over time, the quality of learning at Hotchkiss will diminish as a function of the decreasing number of highly talented applicants who can afford to attend. Perhaps counterintuitively, based on the experience of other schools, we anticipate that our yield on the most talented full-pay candidates will increase as we strengthen our commitment to financial aid: the brightest students tend to seek out the most talented, diverse peer group.
For further information, please contact Josh Hahn, assistant head of school and director of strategic initiatives, at (860) 435-3151.