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How best to help daughter's friend after she loses high school scholarship

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, 1:33 a.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My daughter is a freshman at an expensive private high school. She has become best friends with a wonderful girl who is at the school on a scholarship. My daughter’s friend is passing her classes but not getting great grades and is losing her scholarship next year. Her family cannot afford the tuition and is planning to send her to the public school in their neighborhood next year.

My husband and I are lucky enough that we can afford it, so we offered to pay for her tuition, but her mom told us she wouldn’t feel right accepting that.

I think we should fund a scholarship at the school, urge the friend to apply, then pull some strings to get her chosen for the scholarship. My husband thinks we need to take her mom’s “no” for an answer.

This young lady is both the best friend my daughter has ever had and a bright young girl who could really benefit from this school, which has far more resources to help her get college scholarships than her public school would. Should I keep trying on this or is my husband right that I’ve done enough?

— Trying

Short answer: Your husband is right that you’ve done enough. Any more risks interfering in this family’s business.

Long answer: There might be a bigger problem here, beyond this one friend, that your compassion and cash could help address. How well does Bucks Academy support the scholarship kids? Obviously the correlation isn’t 1 to 1, that a lower-income student automatically presents an achievement-gap problem. However, that correlation is quite common, disturbingly so in 2018 America, especially if the prior school is an underperformer.

If this friend is representative of such a gap at this school, and if the school uses its scholarship money in hopes of closing such gaps, then a parent of means might be able to do some lasting good by kick-starting (or expanding) a tutoring/mentoring program for kids who need extra support during their transition, particularly if said school has radically higher academic expectations of these kids than their prior schools did. Now that’s a sentence.)

This is kind of answering a different question from the one you asked … but maybe going to the school, citing the example of your daughter’s friend, and floating the idea of a program to support bright kids who have adjustment struggles — a program for which you offer seed money — could also become a non-meddlesome way to make the case for the school’s giving this friend another chance. And boy do these schools listen to people who walk in with money, alas, unless they have so much they can afford not to.

You could also donate that spare tuition money to public schools, to boost their college counseling staffs.

Re: Trying:

Good answer! My two cents as someone who has worked in financial aid, about “pull some strings”: It doesn’t operate that way. A donor can offer some preferred selection criteria, but once funds are in hand, the school decides the use of its resources.

— Anonymous

Trying:

I hate to say it, but at my school it absolutely does work that way, at least if the donor is wealthy/generous enough.

— Saying It

Sigh. Thanks.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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