“Where are you going for Break?” —Understanding Our Least Visible Diversity at Waring

Julia Natale

Last year, Rosetta Lee visited Waring to discuss diversity at our school. Over the past two or three years, Waring has started to make a more concerted effort to increase diversity at our school. One aspect of what Rosetta spoke about discussed socioeconomic diversity—that is having a diversity of families of different incomes. She discussed socioeconomic assumptions that are often made in an independent school that assume a degree of shared affluence, such as asking “W here are you going during Winter Break this year?” Because Waring is an independent school that costs around $30,000 a year, it is assumed that most of the student body is in the upper class. Independent schools in general are stereotypically associated with wealth and privilege. In fact, more than a third of our students do not fit that description. According the school’ s own materials “about 35% of our families receive annual financial aidgrants” (waringschool.org). S o what does this say about the economic diversity we have at Waring? Is that a lot of diversity? Or only a little? I kept coming back to the question of “ Where are you going during winter break?” At Waring, as in the wider world, there is socioeconomic divide between those who travel during breaks, and those who do not. In a recent informal survey, Waring students were asked if they are leaving Massachusetts during winter break this year. The results came back as reflected in the chart at lower left. This data (if representative) suggests that in fact, about half of students are traveling for break, slightly less than half will be staying in the state. This data shows the divide that we have at Waring, but it also shows a newfound diversity that our student body has. While a lot of students are traveling, there are also a lot of students who will not be traveling over Winter Break. Next I decided to look at what has changed financially, including the proportion of money in Waring’s budget spent on financial aid over the last twenty years. In Waring’s public annual reports, there has been an increase in the percentage of the Waring budget that is used for financial aid, which would promote socioeconomic diversity in our school. Next I decided to look at what has changed financially, including the proportion of money in Waring’s budget spent on financial aid over the last twenty years. In Waring’s public annual reports, there has been an increase in the percentage of the Waring budget that is used for financial aid, which would promote socioeconomic diversity in our school the percentage of students who were on financial aid, but had increased the average award given to each student. This chart also shows that Waring projected to increase the amount of money spent on financial aid by about $125,000 from 2008-2009. [It is worth noting that this was the year of the financial crisis. This would mean that Waring projected to increase the amount of money spent on

financial aid during the recession. [Unlike many area schools, Waring did not see a drop in enrollment at that time, a fact that then-Head Peter Smick attributed to strategic use of financial aid awards, even at the risk of running a deficit. —Ed.] The percentage of students receiving financial aid has also risen [from?] to about 35% in 2015. Also, the amount of money spent on financial aid has almost tripled since 2003. In 2003, $273,544 was spent on financial aid, and in 2014, $667,858 was spent on financial aid. This figure does not take into the account the rise in tuition since 2003. When diversity is discussed, people often talk about race or religion, but having socioeconomic diversity is a more delicate subject. In a culture that values money and wealth as much as ours does, not being as affluentas one’s peers can be a source of shame and discomfort. Compared to other kinds of diverse backgrounds, where the fact of diversity can be difficult to conceal, and the school is anxious to showcase it, socioeconomic tends to be less invisible—and in fact everything about individual financial aid awards is treated as a matter of the utmost confidentiality. Increasing socioeconomic diversity at Waring might also be the most difficult part of our school to diversify, because promoting this kind of diversity is expensive. However, statistics show socioeconomic diversity at Waring seems to be improving and hopefully this will be a start to an even more diversified Waring.