When we launched Abrome, we endeavored to tear down the practices and structures of schooling that harm children and society. However, we knew that simply removing testing, homework, standardized curriculum, grades, age segregation, and other hierarchical practices would be insufficient. Emancipated Learning requires more than just the absence of coercion and hierarchy, it requires a supportive community of free individuals who embrace opportunities for learning and growth. In order to cultivate such a community, we must be fully committed to diversity.
Diversity of experiences open up opportunities for leaps in learning and understanding that cannot be provided through lectures or textbooks. Diversity of thought is a catalyst for creativity and innovation. Exposure to diversity amplifies empathy and inspires people to take action to address the ills of society. But diversity is difficult to incorporate into alternative, private, or progressive schools that rely on tuition paying students to fund their operations.
At Abrome, we planned to generously leverage scholarships to promote diversity and offset the cost of attendance for families that could not pay the full price of tuition. However, we received feedback from multiple families that our listed tuition discouraged them from investigating Emancipated Learning. Further, in speaking with other alternative and progressive school leaders throughout the country, we learned that the scholarship model of tuition assistance resulted in a "barbell" effect in which there were plenty of high income families, and some economically disadvantaged families, but not many in between. Finally, full-pay families sometimes gain considerable influence over school affairs whereas many scholarship families feel as though they are imposters in a privileged environment.
Wanting to ensure that all families who would benefit from the Abrome learning environment were encouraged to apply, we decided to review our tuition policy. We wanted our tuition policy to be inclusive of all families across the socioeconomic spectrum, promote the egalitarian belief that every child can lead a remarkable life, and eliminate social hierarchy among families based on their cost of attendance.
Effective immediately, we are implementing a new sliding scale tuition policy that eliminates the categories of "scholarships" and "financial aid," and replaces it with an income and resources based method of determining tuition for each family. While affluent families will still be expected to pay the maximum tuition, families with fewer financial resources will pay a smaller, but equitable, percentage of their income. The minimum annual tuition is $600 (or $50 per month).
Sliding scale tuition policies are not typical among private schools, but they do exist. This policy is sometimes called “indexed tuition” or “flexible tuition,” and the degree to which schools graduate the expected tuition payments varies greatly. Perhaps the most notable example of a sliding scale tuition model is that of the Manhattan Country School which was adopted in 1970. Today, MCS has broad economic diversity and no racial majority, rarities in the private school education space.
Abrome seeks to provide an environment for learning and growth, whereby students are introduced to, welcome, embrace, and celebrate differences. Diversity is essential to that end. And our new sliding scale tuition policy demonstrates our commitment to cultivating such a space.