Mercersburg Academy Bucks National Trends on Cost

Posted Feb 22, 2018

Mercersburg, PA (Feb. 21, 2018)—Building on the foundation laid by its $300 million Daring to Lead Campaign and informed by its ongoing strategic design process, Mercersburg Academy today announced bold and decisive next steps to address affordability and access as educational costs for students and families nationally continue to rise. The independent coeducational boarding school will hold the tuition increase to just 1.5 percent for boarding students (as compared to a 10-year average increase greater than 4 percent) and decrease tuition by 10 percent for day students. These important steps, paired with significant increases in financial aid, signal the school’s commitment to making a Mercersburg education within reach for more families from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

“For decades, there has been a national conversation about the cost of education. Today, Mercersburg is making a commitment to lead this discussion by addressing the challenge on our own campus,” said Head of School Katherine M. Titus. “Mercersburg has had a long tradition of humility, coupled with a deep egalitarian spirit. But with rising educational costs it has become more difficult to maintain these core values from an enrollment standpoint. We are no longer going to wait for the national conversation to guide action, but instead are setting a course that recommits us to being a school that is accessible and affordable, through slowed tuition growth with increased financial aid.”

A major focus of the Academy’s recent Daring to Lead Campaign was increasing the financial aid resources available to Mercersburg students. The campaign raised $300 million, with $77 million exclusively earmarked for financial aid. This success allows the school to take action to increase affordability while expanding the reach and diversity of the school community. By reducing day-student tuition, Mercersburg believes more local families will see a Mercersburg education as an option for their children.

“The success of the Daring to Lead Campaign speaks to the desire of Mercersburg alumni to make this life-changing education more affordable and accessible to students from a variety of backgrounds,” said alumna Deborah J. Simon ‘74, president of the Academy’s Board of Regents and trustee of the Deborah Joy Simon Charitable Foundation, whose $100 million donation to the campaign was among the largest single gifts ever given to an independent school. “Today's announcement sets the campaign's lofty goals and ideals into action, further asserting Mercersburg’s place among the leaders in independent-school education.”

In addition to dramatically moderating the growth in boarding tuition and lowering day tuition, the school has also sought to increase funds available for financial aid. Since 2007-2008, financial aid has increased 65 percent ($2,750,000). This year, the school will increase financial aid another 8 percent. A key component of this step is removing the requirement that all day students board their senior year, allowing families to make the choice that best suits them and their child, starting with the class of 2022.

“The practice in both higher education and independent schools has been to increase tuition freely, particularly if you are also raising financial aid,” said Quentin McDowell, assistant head of school for enrollment.“At Mercersburg, we are arguing that this approach is flawed. We do not believe schools should continue to raise tuition at the going rate. Instead, we are pushing back against the status quo and working to drastically slow tuition growth. Few other schools have the resources to support initiatives of this nature, but those same resources come with a sense of responsibility. In addition to addressing tuition growth, we will also keep increasing the availability of financial aid so we can put this exceptional education in reach of more deserving students.”

For the 2017-2018 school year, Mercersburg Academy received 728 applications for 150 openings. Currently, Mercersburg awards more than $7 million in financial assistance each year to nearly 50 percent of enrolled students. The average financial aid award is just over $33,000, and helps families from every socioeconomic background access Mercersburg.

The tuition reset is among the first major initiatives launched under the leadership of Titus, who joined Mercersburg as head of school in July 2016. She is also leading a comprehensive strategic design process that will result in an articulation of the school’s mission and values, as well as a roadmap to guide future priorities for the school.

“Mercersburg is leading the way because we are in a position to do so. We are embracing our roots as a school that serves families from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. This diversity is one of our greatest strengths,” said Titus. “For us, it’s imperative that we take a bold stand on affordability and access, which we believe are the defining issues for our school and for independent secondary education.”


About Mercersburg Academy

Founded in 1893 in the heart of south-central Pennsylvania, Mercersburg Academy is an independent, coed college-preparatory school offering a rigorous academic program to 435 boarding and day students who represent 29 American states and 44 nations. The school prepares young men and women in grades 9–12 and post graduate from diverse backgrounds for college and life in a global community. Mercersburg alumni include Rhodes scholars, Olympians, Oscar-winners, and a Nobel laureate. For more information, please visit