The Learning Center of Palo Alto

Fall-Winter 2021
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Market Analysis
Organization Type
Children, Youth & Families,


Founded in 1977, The Learning Center (TLC) is a child-centered, play-based, and nature-focused preschool providing care for approximately 48 children between the ages of 18 months and Kindergarten. More than a thousand children have been served by TLC over the years and it is recognized as one of the leading preschools in the area.


TLC would like to set up a scholarship program to be able to assist families who cannot afford its fees. TLC is funded primarily through tuition, however, during the pandemic the preschool received significant additional financial support from current parents. Management believes this indicates that the community and existing family base would be willing and able to respond to asks to finance a scholarship program and set up an endowment fund.

Project Objectives

The Learning Center asked an ACT team to clarify strategic objectives and develop goals for a scholarship program, research best practices from other schools, evaluate the sustainability of a scholarship program, and recommend how to administer financial aid.

Project Overview

The ACT team interviewed preschool and elementary school directors in the local community to learn their procedures, processes, and best practices for granting financial aid scholarships. The ACT team interviewed the Board and administrators of TLC and surveyed teachers and parents to get their input as stakeholders in the project. The ACT team provided summaries of this work along with a discussion of possible funding options for a financial aid program and the steps to execute such a program.

Key Recommendations

The ACT Team recommended TLC do the following:

  • Implement a financial aid program
  • Make the goal of the financial aid program to help current parents and teachers who need financial aid as well as to increase racial and economic diversity
  • Distribute partial aid to a few families rather than full tuition to one child
  • Provide for the child’s entire tenure at TLC
  • Award financial aid (in priority order) to 1) children of teachers 2) current families and 3) increase diversity
  • Consider using an outside agency such as FAST or SSS to evaluate applicants’ financial needs
  • Manage the financial aid funds in a separate account or a defined part of the operating budget; do not set up an endowment

Final Report Outline

  • Review project objectives
  • Determine work plan
  • Data collection
  • Analyze information gathered
  • Provide preliminary recommendations
  • Key questions for discussion
  • Q & A