By Rebecca Nussbaum
The Board of Trustees raised tuition for the 2011-2012 school year to $30,350, a 3.9 percent increase from this year’s tuition, Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin said.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Christine Hazy (Steven ’00, Karissa ’03, Trenton ’05, Courtney ’11) told parents of the tuition number in a letter on Feb. 4 that opened registration and outlined the reasons for the tuition increase.
“The Board’s first duty is to maintain the excellence of the Harvard-Westlake student experience,” Hazy said. “Attracting and retaining excellent faculty is at the core of the school’s mission, and we must achieve this through competitive salary and benefit packages.”
She explained that over the past decades tuition growth has consistently surpassed inflation. However, since 2003 the Business Office has made significant progress by reducing the increase from nearly 10 percent to a now consistent five percent per year.
Hazy’s letter was posted on the online registration page, which Computer Services and the Business Office created to increase efficiency and reduce the school’s reliance on paper, Levin said.
Key changes in enrollment give parents more control over their expenses. In the past, the school automatically billed parents $60 for membership in the Parents’ Association and signed up all parents who affiliated themselves with a certain ethnicity for ethnic parent organizations, whose membership dues range from $60 to $325. Students also purchased a yearbook for $90 to $100 without parental consent, Levin said.
The new “opt in” system, aiming to be more business-like and treat famillies with respect, asks parents which expenses they want to pay and which organizations they want to participate in.
The website details the purpose of each parent club and where the membership money is going, Levin said.
“When people pay dues, they are understanding that it’s helping to fund hospitality at performing arts events and faculty lunches and things like that,” he said. “In most cases people will feel good and think, ‘Gee, that’s where my money is going.’”
Also, each family will be given one complimentary Red Book. Extra ones may be purchased for $10 each at online registration, at Book Blitz, Back-to-School Day and in the bookstores.
In the past only two percent of parents chose to be excluded from the Parents’ Association, Levin estimated, and he hopes that having parents opt in will not discourage them from participating.
“We hope to have the same level of enthusiasm and enrollment,” he said. “This is more about how people feel treated.”
The school decided to switch to the “opt in” enrollment in early October when The Chronicle told Levin that students were being charged $26 for their yearbook photos without their knowledge. The school decided to take more efforts to be courteous to students and parents.
Initially the Parents’ Association and the multicultural parent clubs were hesitant to stop signing up parents automatically and thought that they might see a drop in participation, but Levin said they all eventually got on board.
Online registration is part of the school’s greater plan to decrease reliance on paper and better utilize technology, Levin said. In this spirit, Computer Services is working on making the Red Book available online in a safe, password protected way. Levin estaimes that the digital Red Book will be completed by the 2012-2013 school year.