Brandy Emery’s job is to distribute $6 million in tuition assistance at Cleveland’s Saint Ignatius High School. About half of the 1,500 boys attending the Jesuit college preparatory high school are eligible for aid, but determining the most fair and beneficial way to allocate the funds can be a challenge.

That’s why three years ago, Saint Ignatius High School made Brandy’s job easier by implementing FACTS’ Grant & Aid solution.

I had the privilege of speaking with Brandy about her role and tips for fair aid distribution.

How has financial aid changed in your 19 years as an accounting associate at Saint Ignatius?

Financial aid is constantly changing and evolving. The economy plays a critical factor in the school’s ability to meet financial needs and the family’s ability to afford tuition. Over the years we’ve had to adjust our policies and procedures to meet economic challenges.

What role does financial aid play in Saint Ignatius’ recruiting and retention process?

Enrollment is essential for the success of our school and financial aid plays a pivotal role in that process.  We understand tuition costs are a huge financial decision for many families, so we offer our incoming freshmen financial aid packages in December — before they apply for high school — to give families the time they need to make the best financial decision.

We also distribute an aid table to parents at our annual open house to provide a projection of financial aid awarded every year. Saint Ignatius High School also does due diligence to make sure our awards stay consistent for all four years, barring no significant change in family income.

What’s the philosophy behind your aid awarding?

We understand that attending a private school is a sacrifice for many families and our goal is to make tuition affordable for everyone. With that being said, our financial aid packages are based on a family’s ability to pay tuition and we feel it’s important that all families contribute toward their child’s education. Every family pays a portion of the tuition costs each year.

How do you determine what is fair and affordable for a family?

We use our FACTS Grant & Aid calculations which are tailored to our school requirements. Many family expenses are necessary, other expenses are not. Our core calculations are primarily based on necessary expenses with a smaller allowance for discretionary spending. We try to weigh these expenses in our core calculation to ensure financial aid is awarded as accurately and fairly as possible. All verified financial aid applications are reviewed monthly by our Financial Aid Committee and final awards are determined by the chief financial officer.

Saint Ignatius High School has been blessed with many generous benefactors and it is my goal to be a good steward of their donations.

How often does the financial aid disbursement process change?

We are constantly fine-tuning our financial aid policies and calculations to adjust to an ever-changing world. We annually review the FACTS Grant & Aid calculations, allowing us to gain insight into financial aid assessment and set parameters and spending limits in certain areas.

Any lessons you’ve learned along the way?

I know firsthand that paying tuition can be a sacrifice. Every family’s struggles are different and vary in severity, but they are struggles. I always try to be compassionate and understanding to our families’ needs and concerns while being fair and just.

What is the value of a private education at Saint Ignatius High School?   

Families see the benefits of attending Saint Ignatius High School as soon as they step foot onto our campus. Plus, we have many statistics to prove the success of our students.

Our 2018 class earned $7,624,000 in scholarship money — that’s nearly $30,500,000 over four years. They also had an acceptance rate of 88 percent to Jesuit colleges and universities, and a 10 percent acceptance rate to Ivy League Schools.

Saint Ignatius students lead with merit scholarships — the Class of 2018 had 36 National Merit Scholars. Plus, our faculty and staff are made up of an extraordinary group of people that are kind, compassionate, and willing to go above and beyond to help a student.

Any final best practices tips?

Affordability and accessibility are among the top strategic priorities for Saint Ignatius High School. Balancing those two priorities with the increasing compensation and benefit costs, plus other priorities is critical for us.

  • Over the past several years, we’ve adjusted our tuition with these priorities in mind — keeping our increases at a modest 3-4 percent on average.
  • We are also committed to providing need-based financial aid to students who qualify academically and want to attend our school.
  • We fund every dollar of financial aid annually — we don’t simply discount the tuition. This provides us with the continued strong financial performance that ensures the viability and sustainability for generations to come.

With this approach, we’ve been able to meet the needs of our families who are seeking the high quality, college preparatory Jesuit education we offer.

Brandy Emery,

Cleveland’s Saint Ignatius High School.