I sat down to my mail the other day and was reading the spring magazine from my old alma mater. Up front was a short article from the new president and the title was ‘Cost vs. Value’. The opening statement addressed that, for much of its history, my much-beloved alma mater has occupied one of the two top places as the most expensive school in the country. Cost is finite and it's easy to compare the relative fees of different institutions. It is a data point – black and white, easy to understand. But how to assess value? Did you know that when you look up the word value in the dictionary there are no fewer than 15 definitions for the word as a noun? And three more for a verb. Clearly, the word "value" has many intrinsic values of its own!
And how do we decide whether a school’s value has enough merit to be a worthwhile option for an individual student? Individuals bring to a school community their unique experiences, perspectives, expectations, strengths, and needs. And families bring their opinions, hopes and fears. It is the synergy between family, student and school that helps define its relative value.
To digress slightly, I once attended a presentation and the speaker discussed a situation in which there was a difference of opinion between a school and a family. The family wanted the Cadillac of educations, and the school, in their opinion, offered a Ford. The trick here, of course, is to identify what the Cadillac education constitutes for each individual student or family. Is it academic, intellectual, social, artistic, athletic, altruistic, moral? And can it be counted upon to instill the qualities and values that will grow, mature, develop and enhance a life through the years? For one student, the autonomy of a large public institution where there is access to myriad activities could be the perfect school: their personal Cadillac. Another student's Cadillac might look like a school in an urban environment, with a multitude of cultural opportunities and the chance for heightened independence. For a third, it could be a low teacher student ratio in a warm and nurturing environment. The value of identifying and investing in that ‘best fit’ school can pay off in exponential growth over a lifetime.
So, when choosing a school, and perhaps when thinking about cost versus value, compare which attributes really determine the most perfect school ‘fit’. Identify the true Cadillac on the lot. Appreciation of its true worth will only improve with age.
Audrey Ludemann is Director, Independent Day and Boarding School Advising for Bertram Educational Consiltants. She can be reached at 203.762.7401 or at firstname.lastname@example.org