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St. Ignatius College Prep is making waves with its new initiative to provide a tuition-free junior high program.

San Francisco’s prestigious St. Ignatius College Preparatory is making waves with its new initiative to provide a tuition-free junior high program. The Sauer Academy (named after a past St. Ignatius president) will incorporate 6th, 7th, and 8th graders into the St. Ignatius community—with access to the prep school’s facilities, teaching, and overall student experience—while preparing them to enroll in the 9th grade college preparatory curriculum when the time comes. 

In announcing the program, St. Ignatius president Eddie Reese explained the intended effect of the program was to help lift low-income students out of the vicious cycle that so often traps them: “There is no clearer path out of poverty than education,” Reese said, “Our goal is to offer a rigorous preparation for high school to low-income students from San Francisco public schools. The Sauer Academy will prepare these boys and girls for an SI college preparatory education providing them a clearer path to college.” 

To be sure, the students — selected on the basis of merit and demonstrated financial need — will get a better education at the Jesuit prep school than they could hope for elsewhere. SI is one of the country’s top prep schools, consistently ranking in the top 1% of AP scores nation-wide. The Sauer Academy continues in a trend of top Jesuit schools—high schools and colleges—committing themselves to bold programs for increased access, such as meeting 100% of financial need for full-time students. 

Interestingly, the process for funding the Sauer Academy at SI is still, it seems, a work in progress. The school’s VP for Advancement told reporters that, “Our goal is to sustain Sauer Academy through an endowment [and] St. Ignatius is actively seeking partners to make this new project a reality.” In other words, they’re not already sitting on some well-developed endowment or a massive gift from an angel donor that would sustain the junior high program indefinitely; they are “actively seeking” those things now, at the same time they get the program itself off the ground. 

This highlights the need to support the program, of course, and well-heeled families and alumni of the Bay Area school will undoubtedly hear the jingle-jangle of Fr. Reese’s collection plate a lot over the next few years. But it’s also a refreshingly straightforward example of an organization being unafraid to go where its mission leads, and let the budget catch up, rather than the other way around. 

Photo credit: mark6mauno via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

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