By Naomi Shulman
The next time you’re on campus, turn your gaze to the students: dozens of healthy, attractive, bright young boys and girls tromping across the quad as they make their way to their next classes, their meetings with their advisors, their lacrosse matches. These students come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Aside from a few trends that have apparently caught fire (hello, rubber Wellies!), the style and brands of clothing run the gamut. And while the subject matter may seem too gauche to bring up, you may find yourself wondering: What’s the breakdown here? Who is paying for this experience, and who is getting aid? Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Patricia Gimbel has a simple reply: “Every single one of these students is on financial aid,” she says firmly. “Every one of them.”
Gimbel goes on to explain: tuition to attend Deerfield, which now hovers at $48,000 per annum, including room and board, is itself subsidized via gifts to the Academy’s endowment, directed giving, and annual gifts. The actual cost to educate each student? “Approximately $72,000,” Gimbel says. She lets that sink in for a moment.
However, the fact remains that even Deerfield’s subsidized price tag of $48,000 is out of reach for all but two percent of American families. One might assume that is why about 50 percent of those who apply to the Academy also apply for aid—but that assumption would be wrong. “Deerfield, and most boarding schools, would have no trouble finding families who can afford to pay,” says David Pond, Associate Head of School for Alumni Affairs and Development. “It’s in the culture. We could fill the school with full-paying kids if we wanted to.”
But if Deerfield did that, they’d miss out on students like Ashley Laporte, Class of 2006. Back in 2002, Ashley was a promising 14-year-old living with her single mom in Vermont, who would have had no hope of attending a school like Deerfield without significant financial aid. Now in her early 20s and a Harvard graduate, she realizes exactly how valuable her education was.
“I’m not sure I was as appreciative as I should have been. Hindsight makes me realize the value—not just the dollar amount, but just how much the school gave to me,” says Ashley. “I’m almost thankful that I wasn’t very aware of it, because I can appreciate now how seamless it was, how my time at Deerfield wasn’t under a burden to be paid back,” she explains.
A far cry from her hometown, Ashley currently works for a brand consulting firm in New York City, where she synthesizes research findings and provides marketing strategy for a diverse roster of clients from around the globe—in financial services, hospitality, pharmaceuticals, and insurance, among others. It’s an intense job, and Ashley she says she can’t imagine landing it without having had her Deerfield experience. “Nope. No way. I wouldn’t have gone to Harvard, either, if I hadn’t been at Deerfield. I was able to open myself to many more opportunities than I could have had elsewhere. I’m not sure I’ll stay in consulting forever,” Ashley continues, but, “I do know that wherever I end up, I will continue to try and put myself in situations where I am constantly creating opportunities for myself and for others.”