SHP Lacks Socioeconomic Diversity

  • Mira Ravi ’22

Lucas Library, Homer Center, McGanney Sports Center, and most other buildings at SHP have one thing in common: they are named after families who have donated a large amount of money to the school.

In fact, in some buildings, like Campbell, there are even rooms that are named after donors. While a lot of universities name their buildings after families, most high schools do not name all of their buildings after donors, and they rarely name specific rooms after a family. SHP’s tuition of $45,000 per year is also comparable to the average tuition of a four-year private college, which most people cannot afford.

The annual fund also displays how the school values donations: Sacred Heart “celebrates” the fund by placing signs with red and white balloons around the campus and by handing out gator cookies in the cafeteria. Even though SHP’s fundraising efforts make it possible to offer financial assistance to families, the school still lacks socioeconomic diversity. 

Since SHP is located in Atherton, a lot of the students who attend the school are from Atherton and Menlo Park, which are both extremely wealthy areas. On average, the people living in Silicon Valley tend to be wealthier, which makes it even more difficult to achieve socioeconomic diversity at SHP. Moreover, the majority of  students who attended the middle school at Sacred Heart come from wealthy families, given that they have been able to pay an expensive tuition for a longer amount of time. Because those students are guaranteed into the high school, the socioeconomic diversity of the school is further limited. While there are students who attend the middle school on scholarships, they make up a minority of students at the middle school, and so the school could still be more socioeconomically diverse.

In addition, siblings are given preference in admission to the school, and most siblings, like the majority of students at SHP, are from wealthy families. While removing the legacy program would allow for more students of different socioeconomic backgrounds to attend SHP, it would also come at the expense of separating families. “The question, in my mind, becomes ‘Is the school choosing the tradition of keeping families together here over the diversity question?’” says Dr. Everitt, Director of Mission Initiatives and Institutional Planning. The school should prioritize the creation of a more diverse student body over keeping families together; in most cases, students with older siblings at SHP could attend another comparable school, whereas it is more difficult for students from less wealthy families to attend SHP or other similar schools because of its expensive tuition.

To achieve a more socioeconomically diverse student body, the school could implement a  system where tuition is based on a family’s income, in addition to removing the legacy program. Wealthier families would pay more expensive tuitions, while less wealthy families would pay less expensive tuitions. If some families are able to donate enough money to the point where buildings are named after them, then they should also be able to pay a more expensive tuition.

The increased tuition for wealthier families would balance out the less expensive tuition of other families, and so the school would still be able to sustain itself because it would be receiving an average of a $45,000 tuition from each family.

Photo by Riley Avina ’21

By Axel de Vernou

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