PA Gives Peers Aid Advice

While Americans across the nation were phoning Butterball for help roasting their turkeys, peer schools were phoning Andover’s admission office for help dealing with the financial crisis. The current economy has provoked many changes in the way that prospective families look at schools. Said Jim Ventre, Director of Financial Aid, “Schools were calling us with all sorts of questions—how do you deal with this?” Jane Fried, Dean of Admission, and Ventre spoke to an audience of heads of school, financial aid officers and business officers from more than 50 prep schools at Milton Academy on Thursday, November 20. The event, titled “The New Sustainability and Affordability Puzzle,” was organized and sponsored by the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP) and focused on financial aid and enrollment issues. In their presentation, Ventre and Fried provided other schools with some of Andover’s methods of dealing with the shaky economy. However, the discussion primarily served to “allow these other schools to look at themselves in a way that we look at ourselves regularly,” said Ventre. At the forum, the schools were presented with a computer model of a simulated school that showed admissions data for interviews that could easily be replaced with each individual school’s own information. “We centered on the ways that the other schools look at their statistics,” Ventre said. These statistics include admission rates, financial aid budget, percentage of the student body on financial aid and median rank and SSAT scores of the admitted class. Specifically, Fried and Ventre stressed “simple things that we think are helpful,” said Ventre. For example, Andover recruits in homes to create a sense of intimacy, he said. “We have increased travel up 40 percent since 2001 because we are recruiting more broadly in over 70 cities,” said Ventre. With the economy in a slump, local towns and cities are making budget cuts, prompting parents to begin what Ventre called a “flight to quality.” According to Ventre, “flight to quality” is the natural reaction that many families have when they feel that local public schools are not giving their children the best possible education. He said this is leading to a large increase of calls to private schools such as Andover and many other members of AISAP. Ventre said, “Mrs. Fried and I have been here for about 20 years, and we have cultivated a passion for financial aid and everything that comes with it.” Ventre believes that this passion is the reason Andover received so many calls asking for a forum.