Enrollment Aid: How The Columbus School Turned to Institutionalized Empathy

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The COSMUN 2019 Closing Ceremony takes place, and the Columbus School Female Basketball Team plays a match in Binationals 2019. COSMUN and Binationals are the first activities that Middle and High School students at The Columbus School are prevented from participating in when they’re unable to pay tuition.

Salome Beyer, Discoverer Staff Writer

Using empathy as a guiding principle, The Columbus School reevaluated its financial aid policies, helping families and staff stay in school after the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Although some families had experienced the school’s economic inflexibility, beginning in March 2020, the reevaluation resulted in a 30% discount to all families in need of it, Polideportivo being made free for all, and a personnel restructuring to prevent staff members from losing their jobs. 

“I went to the school’s Board meeting with three goals in mind… that all students continued (studying at The Columbus School), that all employees kept their jobs, and that we maintained our (financial) liquidity,” Elen Yepes, Senior Administrative Leader, said. 

Regardless of the situation, the school’s main goal has always been to find long-term sustainability, according to Yepes. Nonetheless, previous economic plans have made students feel left out and demoralized because of the school’s lack of flexibility regarding payments for extracurricular activities.

“Last year, my parents were behind on the payments and I was banned from participating in activities like Copa, COSMUN, and Binationals. The school is not flexible or comprehensive in regards to these situations, and it has demoralized me,” Sebastian Solorzano, 12th-grade student stated.

The COSMUN 2019 Closing Ceremony takes place, and the Columbus School Female Basketball Team plays a match in Binationals 2019. COSMUN and Binationals are the first activities that Middle and High School students at The Columbus School are prevented from participating in when they’re unable to pay tuition.  

This year, however, “the school has become more lenient” Solorzano added. The measures adopted have helped many students, like Solorzano, to stay in school and make the most out of their academic year. In addition to this, the aid has helped families stay in Colombia; a TCS family who was planning on moving to the United States to enroll their kids at a public institution were encouraged to stay by the school’s aid.

“(The School’s economic support) obviously made us stay! I am completely happy and incredibly thankful to the school,” a Columbus School parent wishing to remain anonymous, expressed.

Although the school’s financial aid plan “has always been there”, as Yepes stated, families in need have not been made aware of this option in the past, as Solorzando pointed out.

“We sent out an email telling families to ask for support if they needed it… but the process has remained the same; the same documentation and form. However, the number of requests certainly increased.” Yepes said. 

Despite it being evident that families, students, and staff are thankful to have been able to stay at The Columbus School, helping them has come at a price. Still, these consequences haven’t been economic.

“I don’t know what resting on a weekend is, and I didn’t rest during vacations either… but to this day, our financial reserve hasn’t been touched,” Yepes stated, “The school is at a financial balance at the moment.”

However, this still raises the question as to why the change was made at all. Empathy was what motivated administrators to seek more lenient and inclusive financial aid policies.

“Talking to the parents in need was really hard for me because we’re all human and we’re burdened with those feelings… but something I’m very proud of is that 100% of families who complied with the process received economic assistance,” Yepes remarked. 

Because of the school’s empathy, parents, staff, and students feel prouder than ever and the most “excited” they’ve been to be a part of this community, as Solorzano pointed out. 

“I feel completely proud (to be a part of the Columbus School community). Prouder than ever.” said the TCS parent, with tears in their eyes.