Community High School Latin class taught by Gayle Lambert
In a press release Roanoke’s Community High School of Arts and Academics’ Board of Trustees announced that they have unanimously voted to drop the tuition for 2013-14 from $10,200 to $5,000 per student. In addition to this reduction, CHS will continue to have ample financial aid reserves, according to Josh Chapman, Academic Director.
Community High School is fortunate to be in a strong financial position and the board determined it could afford to reduce tuition rather than to inflate both costs and financial aid packages. “We are doing this because we can do so without fear of fiscal instability,” says Josh Chapman, “and because we feel that it is a moral imperative to make progressive college preparatory education available to as many people in the valley as possible.”
American college and university tuition increases have been radically outpacing general inflation for many decades and private secondary education costs have been progressing at a similar rate. A liberal arts education that was within the means of most American families at midcentury is no longer.
“We have always been committed to meeting our families’ financial needs,” says Chapman. “We have never turned a student away due to financial constraints. Now we are cutting tuition without cutting financial aid.”
Chapman says the school is “doing this while maintaining an academically and professionally accomplished faculty, a rigorous and innovative curriculum, a commitment to providing early access to college education and to educational trips, and a belief in nurturing the cultural landscape of Southwest Virginia at large.
“The cost of these commitments is considerable. Our current rates do not cover the cost per child at CHS. Private education, on all levels, requires outside support. Generally this support is used to subsidize costs in confusing and opaque ways.
“For example, private colleges usually have very few students paying the sticker price; the financial difference between that price and a family’s actual bill is often severe, and is reconciled with a potentially precarious package of merit-based scholarship, need-based grants and loans.”
Chapman insists that “It seems to us that there is a lack of honesty and transparency in this system. Therefore, the board intends to change the conversation at Community High School and is looking creatively at the school’s uses of its outside funding.”
Sustaining financers and CHS officials and faculty want to make this kind of broad-based, liberal arts education available to more deserving students, and they have a goal of to reforming outmoded fiscal and pedagogical models in education, Chapman says.
Two years ago the school was moved to a state-of-the-art, permanent home in a repurposed historical building in downtown Roanoke, Big Lick Junction, complete with laboratory, gallery, and theater spaces. Thanks to a unique cooperative development model, it has been able to do this without substantially altering costs of operation. Thanks to similarly innovative thinking and thoughtful management, CHS is in a position to fulfill the parallel goal of fiscal accessibility, and intends to keep its tuition comparatively low for the foreseeable future.