Cristo Rey Boston is now tuition-free for all students

A 10th grade student at Cristo Rey Boston.

Prospective and current students at Cristo Rey Boston High School on Savin Hill Avenue will be awarded full tuition scholarships beginning this month, a commitment that will cost about $150,000 annually on top of the school’s $3 million yearly budget.

The school’s board plans to continue the full-tuition scholarships for the “foreseeable future,” according to Rosemary Powers, the school’s president.

“Acknowledging that Cristo Rey Boston students and families have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of Covid-19, the Board of Trustees has decided to provide full tuition-free scholarships to our existing students as well as incoming classes,” Powers said in a statement.
“This decision helps address the financial challenges that so many of our families experience and enables our students to pursue their academic and professional dreams free from any financial worries that tuition might present.” 

Part of a Jesuit-founded network based in Chicago, Cristo Rey Boston is one of the system’s 37 college prep schools in place across 24 states that exclusively serve students and families with limited resources. It offers students a rigorous curriculum, a distinctive work-study program, and the support of an inclusive community.

“Identifying systemic inequality in education is the first step to offering a remedy,” said Tom Guilfoile, the chairman of the Board of Trustees. “We know that our students are bright, highly motivated young men and women. The question becomes how to ensure an education that provides the best opportunities for future success?

“We believe that a college preparatory curriculum, combined with the Corporate Work Study Program provides an unparalleled academic and career experience for our students that prepares them for success in college, their career, and in life.” 

In an interview with the Reporter on Friday, Powers said the tuition decision is in step with the school’s mission.

“At Cristo Rey, our mission is that we only serve kids whose families are at or below the poverty line, so we never raised a lot of money from tuition,” she said.   “We really learned this year about the unbelievable stress that our families are under— mostly financial but also in other ways. We thought about what we could do to make the lives of our current families a little bit easier, and also what we could do to make sure that families who are similarly situated understand that Cristo Rey can be a great option for them.” 

A full 100 percent of the student body was already receiving some sort of financial aid or tuition assistance. Offering full tuition scholarships to current and incoming students reflects the school’s goal of identifying and removing the barriers to students’ academic and professional success. 

“We’re a school that focuses on a very rigorous pre-college program for our high schoolers, and we’re all about getting kids into college and making sure that they stay there so that we are bridging the opportunity gap and trying to work toward racial equity and social justice,” said Powers. 

“We think that taking this step now just seems like the right time and the right thing to do. We have so many generous benefactors and organizations that support us, and the board just felt that it was important that we do this—to relieve the burden on our families. We think that if we do a better job of telling people who have resources about our mission, we’ll be able to raise that, and the board has committed to it.” 

Tuition generally makes up a relatively small part of Cristo Rey’s financial model, around 4 percent of the overall budget. In a typical year about half the budget is raised through philanthropy, and the rest is brought in through Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) partnerships supported by professional partners from corporations across greater Boston, who commit to offering students the opportunity to work in a professional setting.

All Cristo Rey Boston students must work one day per week and the revenue generated by those efforts supports the student’s education.

“They’re really earning half of the cost of their education,” explained Powers.

“It costs about $18,000 a year to educate a student at Cristo Rey Boston, and the students earn about $9,000, which pays about half of our budget,” she added. Then we raise the rest through philanthropy.” 

Things have changed a bit due to the pandemic, said Powers, and the work/study program has accounted for about 25 percent of the school’s budget, with 75 percent raised through philanthropy. 

“This has been a really hard year for our program because most people aren’t going into the offices. We have jobs for about half of our students, where typically we have jobs for all of them,” she said. 

“A lot of them are doing remote work, and other corporate sponsors who are committed to the mission have signed contracts and still paid, but might not necessarily have a job to offer a student because their offices are remote.” 

“We’re about half of where we should be, but we’re feeling pretty positive about the fall. The news of the vaccine is good. We’re hoping that we’ll have our kids in school full time and that the corporate world will at least look a lot more normal than it does right now.” 

Cristo Rey Boston High School is currently accepting students for the classes of 2025 and 2024. Seats are available for the class of 2024 at the 9th and 10th grade levels.

To learn more information, or to apply, please contact Nicole Mollica, director of Enrollment & Retention, at nmollica@cristoreyboston.org or 617-825-2580 Ext: 31.