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A Letter about Tuition from our Board Chair

Family Individualized Tuition (FIT) is coming for the 2020-2021 school year! Read more in this letter to our community from our Board Chair released on October 16, 2019. Check back for more information on FIT, and reach out with questions.

The new school year at Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School brings so much promise for our community. Oak Hill's enrollment grew by 13% this year and we enrolled 22% more new students this year than we did last year. Our JK4 teachers are especially busy with two lively classes totaling 29 students (including a little, redheaded spitfire of my own!). The excellent academic caliber of our students is evident as we celebrate 10% of our senior class receiving National Merit recognition for their outstanding performance on the PSAT.

As we capitalize on this positive momentum and build our Sacred Heart community, the rising cost of independent school education and the competitive St. Louis school landscape present challenges to bringing in new families. Together with school leadership, the Board has been exploring ways to introduce more families to our school that are consistent with our mission and the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart schools.

We have heard too many stories of families, including our own alumni, who believe in our mission and who want to give their children the gift of a Sacred Heart education, but they believe that our tuition is simply out of their reach. Furthermore, many in the broader community are not aware that Villa and Oak Hill support a very generous financial aid program that benefits 25% of our current students. We must change their perception and pave the way to bring more talented and motivated students to Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School.

To achieve this goal, we are implementing an innovative tuition model called Family Individualized Tuition or FIT for the 2020-2021 school year and beyond. FIT represents the best practices in the changing landscape of financial aid in independent school education and puts Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School at the forefront of this trend in the St. Louis market. Bottom line: FIT is designed to increase access to a high-quality Sacred Heart education for academically qualified students who can strengthen our community and advance the mission of the school.

What is Family Individualized Tuition (FIT)?
Under FIT, we will calculate for each family who chooses to participate an individualized tuition that reflects their financial circumstances. The School will continue to utilize Smart Tuition Aid, a third-party service, to assess what each family is able to contribute to education expenses and to maintain the transparency, fairness, and confidentiality that have always been at the heart of our process. All families, current and new, will have the option to apply for Family Individualized Tuition each year, and tuition can change with a shift in a family's economic profile.

Our tuition has never fully covered the cost of educating our students. Our generous community of supporters helps bridge the gap between tuition and operating expenses each year. FIT represents a shift in the way we talk about need-based financial aid but not a change in the process of awarding financial aid.

What does FIT mean for our school community?
We will remain a school where every child is known and loved. We will not change what differentiates us in the market: our mission, our Sacred Heart community, academic rigor, an outstanding faculty, small class size, and the most beautiful campus in the state of Missouri. The move to FIT will not impact any of our current families who have already applied for and received awards.

Goals III and IV of the Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria require us to build a welcoming environment that is socio-economically representative of our broader St. Louis community so that our students are prepared to be forces of positive change in their worlds and beyond. To succeed in this endeavor, we must work to remove the barriers that prevent families from considering our school as an option for their children.

Schools across the country that have successfully implemented this model have experienced increased inquiries from prospective families and a broader representation of families across the economic spectrum. We are a top choice in a competitive, independent school marketplace, but perceptions about cost and socio-economic diversity have created an unnecessary barrier to many students who would thrive here. Family Individualized Tuition strengthens our commitment to our mission, and will allow more families to give the gift of a Sacred Heart education to their children.

What can our parent and alumni community do to help?
Please share this great news with your friends and family, encourage those you know to start a conversation with us, come to our Open House, or schedule a tour. Positive momentum within our parent and alumni community is a key aspect of the success of this strategic initiative. We thank you for your support!

Finally, I would like to thank Michael Baber and the school's leadership team, as well as Board members Tom Adamitis, Missy Leggat, Aukje Vestjens-Rijpkema, Paul Schnoebelen, and Greg Billhartz for their leadership of this project. Over the past year, they have collected reams of data, read numerous articles, and conducted several interviews and focus groups to analyze the efficacy of this initiative for our community. We thank them for their time and their commitment to our school.

J. Spencer Finney, Jr.
Chair, Board of Trustees