Johan Santiesteban still remembers the first time he heard about Brophy College Preparatory. One of the school’s teachers visited Santiesteban’s junior high school and told the kids about the benefits the school had to offer.
“The school seemed perfect,” said Santiesteban. “I learned more about it, the programs they had, heard about the teachers. So I said, ‘Maybe I’ll apply.’”
But Santiesteban ran into a problem that can be a common one among students applying to Brophy: the expensive cost of tuition. The annual tuition for 2016-2017 at Brophy is $14,650.
“My dad said it was too expensive,” said Santiesteban. “He asked me why I was even trying, he couldn’t afford to pay for this.”
Today, Santiesteban is thriving as a junior at Brophy and his story is not unique. His classmate, junior Taif Abdulazeez, also thought he had no chance of being able to attend the school.
“I asked a teacher about the price for Brophy and I knew I wasn’t going there,” said Abdulazeez. “My parents want me to succeed but [the tuition is] just too much.”
Both Abdulazeez and Santiesteban were able to attend Brophy with the assistance of financial aid programs set up to help students who want to attend the private school. With the high cost of tuition, there is a common misconception that Brophy is a school populated with students who all have the means to pay for it. This isn’t the case and the school has worked for years to offer financial aid to students who need it.
“Our mission is to find young men who have the capacity to make an impact on the world,” said Bob Ryan, principal at Brophy. “That is the litmus test for us. A family’s background or ability to pay shouldn’t impact their ability to come to the school.”
A huge asset to students who have wanted to attend schools outside their family’s price range has been the Brophy Community Foundation. The independent nonprofit school tuition organization was incorporated in 1998 and began by helping students attend two schools. Today, they offer financial aid for students attending 30 different schools statewide.
“We wanted to find kids whose families needed the educational boost,” said Genny Matteucci, executive director of the Brophy Community Foundation. “We saw an opportunity to provide financial aid based solely on financial needs, so that students and their families would have an option to consider private education.”
“Availability is all based on verified financial need,” said Dawn Kennedy, director of corporate tax credits for the Brophy Community Foundation. “Parents have to apply and submit W-2 [forms] and income tax returns. We make sure that the folks who need the money the most get it.”
Brophy Community Foundation allows for both individual and corporate donations and financial aid, and is recognized as Arizona’s top rated school tuition organization. The average family income for a family of four who received financial assistance from the foundation in 2015-2016 was less than $39,000, with the majority of the recipients being minorities. Although legislatively allowed to take 10 percent for operating costs, the foundation averages around 5 percent, with the idea that the extra money goes to more kids. The donations are not allowed to be designated to a particular donor but are solely based on financial need.
One of the biggest factors that contributed to the amount of money given to the Brophy Community Foundation is the private school tuition tax credit. This allows dollar-for-dollar tax credits against state income tax obligations for donations. Basically, it means giving to the Brophy Community Foundation doesn’t cost donors anything, since they would otherwise be using that money to pay the state as individual income tax.
“There’s been an individual tax credit since 1999,” said Kennedy. “A corporate tax credit was added in 2006. This has helped give us the ability to solicit funds and help more and more kids.”
Brophy College Prep is one of the schools that students can attend with money from the Brophy Community Foundation. The financial aid at the high school is applied for and handed out only after acceptance.
With the help of the Brophy Community Foundation and other types of financial aid, Brophy College Prep has helped many students fulfill their dreams of attending a private high school. Josh Benjamin, a 2016 graduate, is one of those students.
“My parents found out about Brophy when I was in seventh grade and wanted to send me to a school with a good track record of getting kids there,” said Benjamin. “So I went to All Saints’ Episcopal Day School, which is one of the schools the Brophy Community Foundation supports. Going there helped me to have a smooth transition into Brophy in ninth grade.”
This fall, Benjamin will attend Harvard, after also being accepted to Yale, Columbia and MIT. He was the first African-American valedictorian in Brophy’s school history.
“We want to make Brophy a place for a wide variety of young men who have the capacity and interest for making an impact on the world to be able to come and be formed in how to do that,” said Principal Ryan. “Over the years, we’ve tried in a variety of ways to try and meet that pledge.”