Extra tuition expenses drop for international boarding students

Dana Hall students used to be on four different tuition tracks, depending on their grade, boarding status, and country of origin. Before the 2013-2014 school year, however, Dana Hall’s Board of Trustees streamlined the previous four different tuition prices for students into two tuitions: one for day students, and one for boarding students. Before this change, international students were required to pay more money than any other students, including their domestic boarding peers.

The four tuitions that existed before the Board’s decision were the Middle School tuition, the Upper School day student tuition, the Upper School boarder tuition and the Upper School international student tuition. The difference between the tuition for middle and upper schoolers was $89. However, international boarders had to pay $736 more than American boarders.

According to Mr. Charles Breslin, Chief Operating Officer, the reason for the extra expenses came from the orientation for first-year international students. Additionally, each international student has access to an international advisor, and there used to be an English as a Second Language (ESL) course. However, international boarders continued to pay extra money in their 2nd, 3rd and 4th years at Dana even when they didn’t attend the orientation, and the ESL course was cut in 1999 because Dana would only accept students with sufficient fluency in English. 

Ms. Wendy Secor, Director of Admission and Financial Aid, recalls that “when I traveled to Asia, international parents would ask me why their children had to pay more … and I realized that I didn’t have a good answer.” Mr. Breslin added, “It made more sense to have one tuition for boarders and streamline it to cut out unnecessary conversations in admissions and because international students felt like they were being penalized.”

Dana Hall also removed extra fees for all students from events like Harbor Cruise in the same year in order to further consolidate expenses and give prospective students a clearer view of how much they were paying for Dana’s education. “We wanted the tuition to reflect each student’s experience at Dana Hall,” said Ms. Caroline Erisman, Head of School. “Now, we have a flat tuition rate that covers all of Dana’s expenses throughout the year that a student may pay … and all boarding students, whether boarding or domestic, pay the same tuition rate.”

One policy that has remained unchanged, however, is that international students are unable to apply for financial aid because international families cannot file US tax returns, which are required for financial assistance. This is not a unique feature of the Dana Hall financial aid services; all boarding schools hold this requirement.

“The change definitely benefitted all of the international students as we do not get financial aid,” says Janice Chan ’16, an international boarder since before the tuition change was made.

Other private boarding schools in New England, such as Fessenden, Middlesex, Milton Academy, and Concord Academy, have also consolidated their tuition rates so that all boarding students pay the same tuition, regardless of their country of citizenship. However, though Dana shares a similar high school boarding program with other private schools in Massachusetts, Ms. Erisman insists that “Dana Hall’s different. We’re a hybrid.”

Dana Hall’s “hybrid” nature comes from the fact that the school is defined as a “boarding school,” though the institution only houses 30% of students, but cannot be considered a “day school” because it provides all students with three meals a day and round-the-clock campus safety officers. “It’s hard to compare ourselves to a school that’s just like us,” said Ms. Erisman, “so we based our tuition rates off of what was right for Dana Hall, not what was right for Concord Academy or Nobles or Rivers.”

Only nods of approval have greeted Dana’s tuition changes. Says Ms. Erisman, “I can speak as a parent who once had a student at Dana Hall. Now, we’re all paying the same tuition, and I can certainly offer positive feedback.”

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