Boarding Decision

Frequently Asked Questions about Boarding

Adapting to long-term trends in independent education, The Hockaday School Board of Trustees has decided to phase out the School’s Boarding Program over the next four years, even as Hockaday redoubles its engagement with and expands access to the Dallas-Fort Worth community. The following FAQ offers detail on that decision, as well an earlier decision, based solely on student safety and the COVID-19 pandemic, to continue the temporary closure of the Residence Hall through Fall 2021 and to reopen the Residence Hall in January 2022.

Updated July 7, 2021

Pandemic and Residence Hall Reopening in January 2022

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • When will the Residence Hall reopen?

    We are thrilled to announce that we will be able to reopen the Residence Hall and welcome our Boarding students back to residential living in January 2022. This timing allows us to hire and train staff, test our revamped safety protocols, and reorient students to residential living after the gap imposed by COVID.
  • Does the reopening of the Residence Hall in January 2022 mean the Board of Trustees has reversed its decision to phase out the Boarding Program?

    No. The Hockaday Board of Trustees voted on April 14, 2021 to phase out the Boarding Program gradually over the next four years, allowing all currently enrolled students to finish their education at Hockaday. We are excited to welcome these students (43 Boarding students in 2021-22) back to the Residence Hall in January 2022 through May 2025. No new students will be admitted to the Boarding program going forward. Please see our website for more information about this decision.
  • Why can’t you reopen the Residence Hall in August?

    Hockaday leaders are working as fast as possible to give our students the fullest in-person experience possible. It takes time to plan all the complex staffing, operational details, and safety provisions that are required to welcome our students back to residential living. We believe that by working in phases, we will give our community the greatest chance at a smooth, successful, and safe reopening.
  • Why can’t you reopen the Residence Hall during the fall semester, prior to January 2022?

    We will be working through the fall to make the necessary plans for our Boarding students’ return to residence and to ensure we are successful when we reopen. The work needed to move students back into the Residence Hall is significant and time-consuming. Additionally, we need to offer a robust orientation program to our Boarding students because many students have been away from residential living since March 2020 and some students are new to campus. Our academic leaders believe that doing all this in the midst of the fall semester would be disruptive to student learning. Therefore, we have determined that January, after a longer holiday break, is the right time to move Boarding students back into the Residence Hall.
  • What will your vaccination policies be for Boarding students?

    We are still finalizing our vaccination policies and will communicate details in the fall. If we decide to require vaccinations of all Boarding students and staff who live and work in the Residence Hall — which is a distinct possibility — we will help our students and families, particularly international students, to get vaccinated before they move back in. This is another reason why we need extra time to prepare for reopening the Residence Hall.
  • How will you handle room assignments, dining, transportation, and other logistical details? Will Boarding students be given single rooms?

    Making these and many other important decisions is the purpose of our planning over the next few months. We will communicate about these details in the fall.
  • Will Boarding students be required to live in the Residence Hall beginning in January?

    We realize that students and families have had to make other arrangements, and some of those arrangements may involve longer-term commitments. We will welcome all Boarding students back to the Residence Hall in January, but we will not require students to live there. As we have done throughout the past year, we will continue to work with families and students to ensure their individual needs are met.
  • How will you support the host families and Boarding families who upended their lives to allow Boarding students to live in Dallas and enroll in the Day program?

    We are in awe of our Boarding families’ determination to do what is necessary for their daughters to continue learning at Hockaday, and incredibly grateful to the host families whose generosity has helped to make this possible. We will continue to be flexible and work with both Boarding and host families to provide needed support.

Phasing Out Boarding

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • What is happening to Boarding at Hockaday?

    The Boarding Program has been a valued part of the Hockaday community for more than 100 years. However, long-term market pressures have led to persistent challenges in the program, affecting enrollment, finances and the student experience. Based on a review conducted in 2005-07 and another in 2020-21, Hockaday’s Board of Trustees voted on April 14, 2021, to phase out the School’s Boarding program by May 2025, allowing all current Boarding students to graduate.
  • When did Hockaday launch its Boarding Program?

    The Boarding Program was established in 1914 as the “Home Department,” housing six girls on Haskell Avenue.
  • What prompted the decision to phase out the program?

    The vote follows more than 20 years of discussion about the strengths and challenges of the Boarding Program and how best to fulfill the School’s mission, including an exhaustive, six-month examination completed in April 2021 by the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Boarding Program.
  • What happens to current Boarding students?

    The Hockaday Board reaffirmed the School’s commitment to fully supporting current Boarding students through to graduation and to honoring the legacy of Boarding at Hockaday. We look forward to welcoming them back to the Residence Hall in January 2022.
  • Is this long-term decision related to the temporary closure of Hockaday’s Residence Hall?

    No. In March 2020, we closed the Residence Hall because students would not be safe living in close quarters there during the COVID-19 pandemic. Short-term decisions about the pandemic were separate from the long-term, strategic deliberations of the Ad Hoc Committee and the Board of Trustees.

Effects on Current Boarding Students, Alumnae, and Staff

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

Boarding Enrollment and Financial Pressures

List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • What enrollment pressures have affected the Boarding Program?

    The Committee learned that Hockaday’s Boarding Program has suffered from declining demand in the U.S. and internationally, a reality that has led to persistent low enrollment (below the School’s capacity). In response, the School has had to offer increasing amounts of financial aid are needed to yield students into the program. The combination of under-enrollment and increasing financial aid has led to a large, and growing, structural deficit in the program.
  • Why isn’t there more demand for Boarding at Hockaday?

    There has been a multi-year trend of declining demand in domestic and international boarding school markets, along with growing competition for that shrinking pool. The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) documented that enrollment of domestic boarders fell about 1.5%, or 400 students, each and every year from 2000 to 2015. TABS began forecasting sharp declines in international student enrollment, both day and boarding, beginning in 2019. Current prospective Boarding student interest is highest for larger East and West Coast schools; the most successful boarding programs tend to have a distinctive niche, such as a specialized sport or activity, while Hockaday does not.
  • Has Hockaday invested in stronger Boarding recruitment?

    Hockaday has made many efforts to enhance recruiting, including hiring a full-time, dedicated recruiter for Boarding, engaging in additional marketing efforts, continuously cultivating strong relationships overseas, and refining our recruitment strategy based on emerging data. Our enhanced recruitment efforts since 2007 have led to short-term increases in inquiries and applications to Boarding but have not ultimately increased the number of applications from academically qualified students.
  • Why would Boarding need additional investment?

    The Committee determined that Hockaday would need to make substantial changes to ensure the quality of the student experience. In our peer benchmarking, we learned that other successful programs have a much larger, live-in staff and faculty who support an excellent student experience and help to integrate residential and academic life. Hockaday’s current staffing is insufficient to provide the experience we desire for our students.
  • What would Hockaday need to do to overcome the financial pressures?

    The Committee found that the persistent structural deficits over the past 30 years are too large to be addressed by increasing enrollment, raising tuition, reducing financial aid, or fundraising.
  • Can Hockaday raise more money from donors to address the deficit?

    Hockaday donors have given generously to Boarding in the past, and we are extraordinarily grateful for their support. The Ad Hoc Committee conducted a break-even analysis to consider a variety of financial levers to close the deficit, including fundraising. The amount of endowment funds that would need to be generated to support the program’s deficit far exceed the School’s demonstrated capacity to raise funds for this program.

Diversity and Access

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • Is Hockaday concerned about the potential loss of diversity with the Boarding Program winding down?

    Hockaday is deeply committed to diversity, equity, and to sustaining a “genuine culture of inclusion and belonging” – it is a one of four key priorities in our strategic planning. Through focused efforts across the School, Hockaday has grown considerably more diverse today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. The Day student body currently includes 40% self-identified students of color, an all-time high.
    Even so, we know we have more work to do to be a truly inclusive community. During the 2020-21 School Year Hockaday introduce many new efforts to strengthen inclusion and give students, faculty, staff, parents, alumnae, and Trustees the tools to engage respectfully across difference. This work is ongoing, and we are committed to building on it.
    Our Hockaday 360 research also found that alumnae and families want the School to be more socioeconomically diverse — a commitment shared by School leaders — and we have more work to do to ensure a Hockaday education is affordable for students of all backgrounds.
  • With the gradual departure of international Boarders, how will Hockaday ensure it has a global character going forward?

    Boarding students have contributed a wonderful breadth of experience, culture, and perspective to our School. Even so, Hockaday’s research shows that we have not been reaping the full benefit of the diversity in Boarding, because students have experienced the Boarding and Day programs as fairly separate. Families tell us they want a more global learning experience across the School. Going forward, we will review our curriculum and co-curriculum to create a greater global focus across our courses, programs and student activities. It is not sufficient simply to recruit international students and think that is making us a globally focused school.
  • How will Hockaday’s engagement in Dallas contribute to diversity at the School?

    The Hockaday 360 research found untapped opportunities to recruit diverse students from Dallas-Fort Worth, which is the fastest-growing metro area in the United States. This includes opportunities for greater outreach to students of color as well as international students who are right in our backyard. Non-Hispanic whites now represent less than a third of the population of Dallas, and two thirds of Dallas students under age 10 now identify as minority. More than a quarter of Dallas residents are now foreign-born. Hockaday is committed to building on efforts like our Institute for Social Impact to deepen engagement with the Dallas-Fort Worth region, increasing access to a college preparatory education for girls from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • What is the School’s plan to be more engaged in the Dallas region?

    Dr. Karen Warren Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School, has developed a preliminary vision that will enhance Hockaday’s connectivity and engagement in Dallas-Fort Worth.
    Hockaday’s leadership team will develop operational plans for several key areas, including:
    • Expanding Day enrollment and financial aid
    • Developing partnerships and outreach to recruit diverse students, faculty and staff
    • Refreshing the curriculum to incorporate even more innovative teaching approaches, enhancements to STEM, and multicultural and global perspectives
    • Enhancing equity and inclusion programming and professional development for faculty and staff
    • Extending programs that support social and emotional well-being for all students
    • Expanding ground-breaking efforts such as the Institute for Social Impact
    • Exploring summer pipeline programs in partnership with other independent schools

Ad Hoc Committee Process

List of 7 frequently asked questions.

  • Have there been previous reviews of Boarding?

    In 2005, faced with significant challenges to the Boarding Program’s enrollment and finances created by a shifting market, Hockaday’s Board of Trustees created an Ad Hoc Committee to study Boarding. That committee reported back in 2007, and as a result the School pursued the ambitious set of recommendations it offered. While some of committee’s stated goals were met, however, many others were never achieved, including making the Boarding program financially self-sustaining by 2012, consistently enrolling a full class of academically qualified students, realizing international diversity, and better supporting students with faculty and staff who live in residence.
  • What led to the current examination?

    In 2018, the Board of Trustees identified the Boarding Program as a topic for future attention. In 2019-2020, the School gathered detailed feedback about Boarding from students, parents, and alumnae as part of a comprehensive research project, Hockaday 360.
    In October 2020, in light of ongoing questions and the length of time since the prior review, the Board of Trustees formed a new Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Boarding Program and charged it with developing recommendations about the program’s long-term future. This evaluation was completely separate from the short-term decisions about the Residence Hall necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What is the governance process for making programmatic changes to the Boarding Program?

    Hockaday’s Board of Trustees is the body charged with making decisions about long-term changes to the Boarding Program. As it has before, in October 2020 the Board appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to conduct analysis and develop recommendations. The Ad Hoc Committee kept the full Board and relevant Board Committees apprised at every step throughout its six-month review. The Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations were forwarded to the Board of Trustees, and the Board called a special meeting to discuss and vote on whether to accept the recommendations. According to the Board’s bylaws, programmatic changes to Boarding must pass with at least a three-fourths supermajority of all voting Trustees.
  • What was the Ad Hoc Committee’s charge?

    Following the Board’s charge, the Ad Hoc Committee examined:
    • Boarding’s role in the School’s mission;
    • Hockaday’s ability, now and in the future, to deliver a high-quality Boarding experience that meets the School’s expectations for student well-being;
    • The competitive landscape in Boarding School education;
    • What would be required to achieve long-term financial sustainability in Boarding; and
    • The opportunity costs for the School in supporting Boarding.
  • Who served on the Ad Hoc Committee?

    The Committee was composed of Trustees — including many alumnae, former Hockaday Boarders, former Boarders at other schools, parents with children attending other Boarding schools, current Hockaday parents, and two Life Trustees — and members of the Hockaday Leadership Team with specific, subject-area expertise.
  • How were Boarding alumnae included in the Committee’s process?

    Two Hockaday Boarding alumnae were appointed to the Committee, along with alumnae of other Boarding programs. To supplement their input, the Committee made an extra effort to personally interview more than 40 alumnae of the Boarding Program from a wide range of graduating classes. The Committee also paid close attention to what Boarding students, parents, and alumnae told us through focus groups and surveys. Additionally, in March and April 2021 members of the Committee invited many groups, including all Alumnae and all current parents, to learn more about the research and analysis through a series of Zoom meetings.
  • How did the Ad Hoc Committee develop its findings and recommendations?

    The Ad Hoc Committee engaged in a thorough process of research, deliberation, and engagement with the Hockaday community, reviewing hundreds of pages of data and history and conducting more than 100 meetings and interviews with stakeholders between October 2020 and mid-April 2021.
    Over the past six months, the Ad Hoc Committee met 15 times; presented 13 updates to Board Committees, the Hockaday Parents Association and Alumnae Association; interviewed dozens of Boarding alumnae and reviewed additional research among Boarding students, parents, and alumnae; conducted benchmarking research with 12 peer schools with both day and boarding programs; and reviewed extensive Hockaday, national and international data and trends. Its outreach and data-gathering efforts have been at least equivalent to the work of the prior committee, if not beyond it.

Ad Hoc Committee Recommendations

List of 3 frequently asked questions.

  • What were some of the Ad Hoc Committee’s key findings?

    The Ad Hoc Committee found that many Boarding alumnae and current students rated their experience well and experienced many positive outcomes. It also found that some of the efforts invested in Boarding over the last 15 years had made a positive difference, but were not sufficient to overcome the significant, long-term market forces that have affected small boarding programs everywhere. The Committee found that the inability of the program to enroll a full class of students for more than 30 years, along with increasing amounts of financial aid needed to yield students to Hockaday, had created decades of significant structural deficits in Boarding that would likely grow worse in the future.
    Most importantly, the Committee determined through research and benchmarking that the student experience in Boarding, while regarded positively by students and alumnae, was not commensurate with the best boarding programs nationally. The Committee found that in an era of changing student needs and expectations, Hockaday would have to make major additional investments in Boarding, including far greater staffing, in order to ensure the program lived up to Hockaday’s standards for students’ academic and residential experience.
  • What scenarios did the Ad Hoc Committee consider for the Boarding Program?

    The Committee looked at a range of options. These included growing the program, shrinking the program, or focusing on specific market segments (such as only international, only regional, or only full-pay). The Committee also looked at whether there could be an opportunity to carve out a specialty or niche. And it has considered whether Hockaday could create a more robust live-in program for faculty and staff in Boarding.
    The Committee agreed on several key elements that must be present for Hockaday’s Boarding Program to be successful in the future. Its list of “must-haves” includes:
    • Developing a clear statement of the pedagogical purpose of Boarding;
    • Developing a realistic plan to achieve financial sustainability;
    • Addressing the gaps in support for student well-being;
    • Establishing a well-defined recruitment and marketing strategy;
    • And enhancing the student experience through improvements to staffing and programming.
  • What was the Committee’s recommendation?

    The Committee found that the original reasons why Hockaday’s Boarding Program was both necessary and distinctive have changed over time. Hockaday, meanwhile, does not have the capacity or scale to mount a best-in-class Boarding program, the Committee found.
    The Committee concluded: “We believe that for Hockaday’s Boarding Program to be competitive in the future, it would need to make significant investments in the program and facilities — and even with such investments, success is not guaranteed. We are resolved that if Hockaday cannot deliver a program that it can say with confidence is among the best anywhere, it should direct its resources and attention to other efforts that better serve its mission, enhance its leadership and distinction, and deliver, in the words of The Hockaday Difference, ‘an extraordinary student experience’ and ‘a model for how to educate girls.’ ”
    Based on those findings, the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Boarding Program recommended phasing out the Boarding program while supporting current students to complete their educations and graduate.
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