West Sound Academy moves to sliding scale tuition model

West Sound Academy has made moves to adopt a more equitable, sliding-scale model for charging tuition its domestic and international students in the year ahead.

A small number of private schools in the U.S. have decided to move in this direction, doing away with financial aid and scholarships and solely basing tuition on a family’s financial resources. The goal of this program at West Sound Academy is to increase economic diversity among its student body and to promote fiscal responsibility in the operation of the school.

West Sound Academy (WSA) is an independent college preparatory school in Poulsbo serving grades 6–12 and offers an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. WSA has a mission to graduate accomplished, creative, intellectually curious young adults prepared to contribute responsibly to the world.

A press release put out by WSA’s Head of School Barrie Hillman explains the reason for the switch, which will begin in the coming school year, will be from the usual tuition to the sliding scale and its impact on current families and students.

“West Sound Academy … is committed to the belief that access to educational opportunities at the school should be as equitable as possible. To more fully meet the objective of enrolling a diverse student body while also operating in a fiscally responsible manner, the school’s Board of Trustees has approved the implementation of a Sliding Scale Tuition Model for all current and new enrollees,” a release from the school reads.

The sliding scale determines each student’s tuition based on the principles of assigning tuition requirements to families by examining their financial resources.

“We hear stories over and over about families that have kids wanting to attend our school but they self-select out when they see the tuition and the lengthy process required to apply for financial aid. By moving to a Sliding Scale Tuition Model, it opens up this opportunity for more families in the middle of the income ranges in our region, those who might not qualify for aid but can’t afford the full tuition rate,” Hillman said.

Beginning during the 2020-2021 school year, the board will set the tuition range with a maximum and minimum based on the previous year’s data. For example, the tuition range for 2020-2021 will be $3,920 to $22,000.

Families with less than $250,000 annual income are encouraged to submit the necessary documentation to be considered for a tuition rate appropriate to their income on the scale. To further simplify the process and remove eligibility barriers of the sliding scale, families must complete a simple form and provide a copy of their most recently filed tax returns and W-2’s.

The Board does set target enrollment numbers for families from different economic backgrounds due to the available resources WSA possesses. It does not have enough to enroll everyone who might be accepted into the school but is limited financially. Despite these targets, there is space available in each range.

Based on current enrollment the 25 percent of WSA students can afford the $18,000-$22,000 tuition range with about 30 spaces open for the coming year while about 15 percent of its students can afford the $3,930-$5,000 tuitions with room for about 18 more students. The remaining 60 percent can afford somewhere between the $5,000 to $18,000 tuition with room for a total of 72 students.

New WSA families or interested families are encouraged to attend an upcoming admissions event on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. at the WSA campus in Poulsbo.

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