The Value of a Sage Hill Education is Beyond Measure

How can we measure the return on investment in a Sage Hill education? President Gordon McNeill explains in his latest blog post.

If you bought a cottage on Balboa Island back in 1962, your return on investment has been phenomenal. Ditto if you invested in Snapchat before the IPO this year. But how do we measure the ROI on a Sage Hill education? This time of year, I field a lot of questions about the value of a Sage Hill education, as families make decisions about where to send their children to high school. Our outcomes aren’t as easily measured as the appreciation on real estate or stocks. But they can be measured in reflections from alumni like Sean McElroy (‘08), a Stanford law graduate now in his first year of practice who recently said:

“Sage was really the defining four years of my life. I was surrounded by interesting people who really wanted to learn and engage and be challenged inside and outside the classroom. I can say without reservation, I would not have had the successes I have had if it weren't for the time I spent at Sage.”

We often say a Sage Hill education is as much about the journey as the destination. The Sage Hill experience primes our students for later success by unlocking their potential, not just as students but as members of our community and citizens of our world. So we can look at the list of where our students go to college, which is always impressive. But even more impressive is the way our talented, dedicated college counselors guide each student toward a college that fits his or her interests, learning style, and personality. In addition, I’m always impressed by the preparedness of our students when they arrive on campus, and the contributions they make, not just in the classroom but as members of the college community. Sage Hill does a phenomenal job of not only getting students into college, but getting them into the right college — the one where they will thrive academically and personally.

That translates to great outcomes in the work force. Can we measure Sage Hill’s success by our graduates’ salaries or the prestige of their jobs? I’d argue that our success is best reflected in the impact our graduates are having on the world and the contributions they are making to the lives of the people they encounter. Throughout the year, I get together with alumni whenever I can, especially when I travel. Last month, about 40 alumni joined me at a restaurant in New York City, and, as always, I was inspired to hear how they are now living their lives. What I see overwhelmingly are courageous, highly motivated young people, unafraid to combine their passions with their need to earn a living.

As our earliest graduates progress through their careers, I see many transitioning from a first job to a second job. Oftentimes that first job was a necessary weigh station where experience and skills were acquired, whereas the second job more clearly reflects their passions. And oftentimes, the roots of those passions lie in their Sage Hill education.

For example, Eden Phair (‘06) has worked her way up to associate director at the Honor Fraser Gallery in Culver City, her career as an art curator traceable to the influence of art teacher Donna Okamura and former AP Art History teacher Ingrid Gustavson here at Sage Hill. Lindsay Means (‘07) landed a job as an editorial assistant at Riverhead Books, after a first job that was more of a stepping stone. Robert Schaus (‘07), an investment banking analyst for Wells Fargo, helps public schools gain financing for building projects. It’s gratifying to see students like Hannah Peck (‘16) thriving in her freshman year at Pace University in New York City, and Chloe Jasper (‘11) who is in the enviable position of deciding between several nationally ranked law schools. Did I mention all this was in just one alumni gathering?

We express our pride in our alumni through profiles in our monthly alumni e-newsletter and in various informational pieces about Sage Hill School. Here are some excerpts from these write-ups, reflecting a common theme: Without exception, our alumni point to aspects of their Sage Hill experience as pivotal to their current success.

“Sage allowed me to imagine whole different possibilities,” said Alemar Brito (‘11), “not just for myself but for my community.”

“Sage was a start-up when I was there,” said Jeff Cruttenden (‘05), who has gone on to launch his own start-up. “From day one it seemed we were thinking actively and creatively about the world and how we can make a positive difference.”

“I never would have done any of this if I hadn’t gone to Sage Hill,” said Lauren Indvik (‘05), who is traveling Europe as a fashion writer. “I was pushed and opened up to new things, and I became interested in school in a way that I hadn’t really been previously.”

“Sage Hill instilled in me an insatiable curiosity and obsession with making the misunderstood understood,” said Carolyn Witte (‘08), who is developing a women’s health application.

The bottom line is that a Sage Hill education has intrinsic value. The four years spent at Sage Hill ought not be viewed solely as a means to whatever measurable end would justify the cost. The value of a Sage Hill education can’t be measured in future salaries or degrees earned or college rankings. It is better measured in moments — the moment when a student’s eyes light up because a class discussion has sparked a brand new interest; the moment when the curtain rises and a student on the tech crew beams with pride seeing his hard work fall into place; the moment when a Lightning runner crosses a finish line, not necessarily in first place but in a personal-record time; the moment when a dozen students on the freshman retreat coax their peer along the high ropes course; the moment when a shy student steps up at Town Meeting to confidently address the community. The sum total of the collection of moments is a bounty of experiences, personal growth, learning and friendships. That’s something beyond measure.
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  • Parker Reposa
    I'd say this is pretty much spot on from my experience at Sage as well. ROI is pretty hard to measure with these kind of decisions, however I really think a Sage education (academically and practically) is a high dividend investment.
    • <strong>Welcome to my blog!</strong> It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business of the school -- this blog is an opportunity to share my perspective on Sage Hill School.  I invite you share your thoughts and suggestions for future posts. Feel free to email me at <a href=""></a>.
      Mr. McNeill's Blog

      Welcome to my blog! It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business of the school -- this blog is an opportunity to share my perspective on Sage Hill School. I invite you share your thoughts and suggestions for future posts. Feel free to email me at

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