Insight Into the Current State of Boarding and Private School Finances

Private schools weather economic downturnConcord Monitor writer Karen Langley published a piece in last Sunday’s paper (Private Schools Weather Downturn: Many approaches taken to cut costs) covering the state of enrollment and finances of New Hampshire private schools.

She touches on the obvious- financial aid requests are up for all schools, endowment growth and income are down.

Of note, she adds some depth that we haven’t seen from other writers covering the subject- the strategies and choices that schools are using to weather the downturn- school business models.

Reluctant is a polite term describing most schools’ willingness to talk about their business strategies, but Langley got her subjects to open-up. Readers learn that one school spent “$13,000 on a radio campaign advertising the school” with the school’s director relaying to Langley that “he does not believe it drew a single student.” (CM)

Tilton School benefitted from a prescient and conservative trustee finance committee: “…two years ago the school’s finance committee signed off on a new strategy shifting a large portion of investments from stocks to bonds. (Tilton School Headmaster James) Clements said the timely move meant Tilton School saw a much more modest loss in endowment than many other nonprofits.

“‘The finance committee at the time expressed concern with the underlying volatility of the economy…They felt the primary responsibility was to protect the value of gifts people gave us rather than seek unusual gain through higher risk,'” Clements told Langley. (CM)

Most schools, of course are in the middle, tightening belts, trying to provide as much financial aid as possible, and working to make sure that the institution can live within its means.

It’s interesting to see how different kinds of schools, wealthy vs. tuition driven, small vs. large, boarding schools vs. day schools, are working to creatively respond to their situations and keep their institutions vibrant.

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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