Wealth Privilege at Friends

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It has always struck me as ironic that Friends is so expensive. We are a school which strives towards simplicity, equity, and inclusivity, but the socioeconomic homogeneity that our $29,795 tuition dictates contradict this image. The ‘Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice’ tab on our school website purports that  “Friends School engages in open dialogue, embraces diverse perspectives, and celebrates difference.” It would make more sense if they phrased it in the hypothetical: Friends School would embrace diverse perspectives if these perspectives could make their way past the pay-wall.

According to the Wealth Privilege Survey that Mr. Heath sent out to the Upper School this fall, “Not a single US student identifies as “Lower Class.”’ Talking about diversity from the comfortable seat of the privileged is fun and all, and it certainly makes for a nice, warm feeling in your conscious. But until Friends School practices what they preach, we cannot truly embrace economic diversity.

All four grades each have about one hundred students, and each student pays close $30,000. This means that the school is receiving just about twelve million dollars from the Upper School alone every year. Recently, Friends raised twenty-six million dollars for “Setting the Stage,” a fundraiser for the new Forbush Auditorium. Thankfully, a few of those millions went into “dramatically increasing financial assistance for families through scholarship and mission fund.” This year, Friends awarded 5.4 million dollars in financial aid to students K-12. Currently, 30% of high school students receive financial aid.

Friends consider itself different from the many surrounding private high schools in our area, and I do not think we are wrong. Yet, even with our unique emphasis on simplicity, we are channeling money into competing with these other schools in the opulence of our facilities.

It looks to me like there is a choice. We must choose between pouring money into competing with the prep schools of the area, and thus being one of those schools, or making a serious commitment to diversity. We must put more and more money into our financial aid funds and focus on becoming a community with more socioeconomic diversity if we hope to live in our ideal community.

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Wealth Privilege at Friends