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The Benefits of Girls Schools: now on to longitudinal studies

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are single gender schools good for girlsHuffington Post contributor Susan Sawyers also posted some thoughts about the National Coalition of Girls Schools study confirming benefits for girls in single gender schools (Are Single Sex Schools Good for Girls?). While nothing earth shattering, her comments are an interesting, "yes, but..."Clearly, single gender education cultivates some benefits. Is it a panacea? No. The complexity requires more research.

"...But the question remains, however, if these seemingly confident public-speaking women will be able to express themselves in the workforce, in the company of men and around the boardroom table. First they have to get there. This leaves room for further studies that look at women's aspirations and accomplishments after they complete college or graduate school. It would be good to generate some numbers for women twenty or thirty years out of high school. You go girls, no matter where you are, we are cheering for you."

To read our post, visit: "Lasting Power of Girls Schools: more than anecdotal"
Admission professionals have been telling us the same story throughout the school year. Applications and inquiries are steady. Financial aid requests are up.

Using interviews at a few schools and with the National Association of Independent Schools, the New York Daily News ran a piece (Private schools see more financial aid requests during recession - but applications hold steady) documenting this exact situation.

Families are making tuition a priority and schools are increasing their fund raising efforts and aid budgets. Everyone in the school business seems to be exhaling deeply that we've made it though this year. But, if things say like they are next year, too, will be tough.

Chris Seeley, upper school admissions director at the Trevor School in Manhattan told the Daily News:

"We are tightening the belt...We are bracing for the possibility that we may have fewer students next year. But we are trying to cut the budget without affecting programs, and we haven't been forced to do any major tightening yet."

Kents Hill School Cuts Ribbon on New Performing Arts Center

Kents Hill School recently cut the ribbon celebrating the conversion and transformation of their former Newton gym into the Performing Arts Center in Newton Hall. A multipurpose gathering and performing arts facility the Center includes the Vivian Russell Theater "where Morning Meeting will be held, visiting lectures and presentations will be hosted, and, of course, Kents Hill's theater troupe and musical groups will perform."

The Center also features music practice facilities, visual art gallery space and a recording studio

While the first phase is complete, work on phase two continues. 

"The refit will see the second part of the building's new lobby completed, permanent theater seating installed, a stage manager's booth added, a permanent video projector for presentations and movies, and lighting and sound systems for the stage."
Many thanks to Kents Hill School's communications office for providing the photos below:

If you believe in a boarding or independent school and you can afford to make a financial contribution, give now. Independent schools- just as colleges and universities- are working through endowment decreases and pressure. With increased financial aid demand, creating an even greater strain on institutional savings and finances.

If independent school is part of your or your family's nature and you can do it, make sure to make any gift possible this year.

The New York Times recently ran a piece titled "Colleges Ask Donors to Help Meet Demand for Aid." The higher ed situation and independent school situations are similar.

"Faced with one of the most challenging fund-raising environments anyone can remember, colleges and universities are appealing to donors to help meet the swelling demand for financial aid...

The incoming student body for the fall of 2009 will have higher financial needs than in the past," said Clay Ballantine, Hampshire's chief advancement officer. "I tell donors these are excellent students and we want to take financial concerns out of their decision-making process, and we're looking to you to provide a gift that will help us do that."

Photo credit: vanhookc

Some Interesting Good News: Knox and St. Bede working to grow

We realized that we've published two posts last week about schools that are building dormitories and/or working to expand their boarding populations this week. While not a silver lining, nor confirmation that everything is rosy, it's great to find two schools well positioned and so dedicated to boarding that they're building dorms and working to expand opportunities for families and students seeking boarding school.

St. Bede Academy Returns To Boarding Roots: A commitment to build two new dormitories


Knox School Wakes From Slumber with Ambition and a Plan

Highlighted in the current National Coalition of Girls' Schools newsletter is a UCLA study confirming the lasting affects of a girls school education on graduates. I find the most interesting aspect of the study coming from its longitudinal view. Alumnae seem to carry and benefit from their girls school experiences deep into college and graduate work. I'd love to know if girls school alumnae and their coeducation alumnae ever gain equal education footing? Just how deep into life do these advantages carry?

Interesting work.

"According to the UCLA report, which was commissioned by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, girls' school graduates consistently assess their abilities, self-confidence, engagement and ambition as either above average or in the top 10 percent. Compared to their coed peers, they have more confidence in their mathematics and computer abilities and study longer hours. They are more likely to pursue careers in engineering, engage in political discussions, keep current with political affairs, and see college as a stepping stone to graduate school...

    (Skipping over data conclusions)

As the UCLA study points out, girls' schools graduates rate themselves more successful and engaged in precisely those areas in which male students have historically surpassed them - mathematics, computers, engineering, and politics. The findings may undermine opponents of girls' schools, who argue that single-sex education accentuates sex-based stereotypes and widens the gender gap."
April 7th marked the 40th anniversary of Requests for Comments or RFC. In "How the Internet Got Its Rules," in the New York Times, Stephen D. Crocker  recounts the fluidity as the World Wide Web became codified. RFC's are the technical working papers that worked through and created internet standards and protocols that allowed different machines and languages to communicate. It's a fascinating story.

"After all, everyone understood there was a practical value in choosing to do the same task in the same way. For example, if we wanted to move a file from one machine to another, and if you were to design the process one way, and I was to design it another, then anyone who wanted to talk to both of us would have to employ two distinct ways of doing the same thing. So there was plenty of natural pressure to avoid such hassles. It probably helped that in those days we avoided patents and other restrictions; without any financial incentive to control the protocols, it was much easier to reach agreement.

This was the ultimate in openness in technical design and that culture of open processes was essential in enabling the Internet to grow and evolve as spectacularly as it has. In fact, we probably wouldn't have the Web without it..." (NYT)
The article leaves me with a powerful lasting thought- openness and transparency.  

"As we rebuild our economy, I do hope we keep in mind the value of openness, especially in industries that have rarely had it. Whether it's in health care reform or energy innovation, the largest payoffs will come not from what the stimulus package pays for directly, but from the huge vistas we open up for others to explore."
The Internet makes AdmissionsQuest and our work with families possible and it's opened and continues opening new ways of communicating and connecting the boarding school world.  YouTube and Podcasting didn't exist when we started.

Openness and transparency foster new ideas, great creative thinking and healthy relationships and these are also the foundations of great boarding schools.


Although geared for college admission, one recent New York Times article and a new blog on their site provide some good thinking and advice- parts of which are applicable to private school admission.

The article first- "Paying in Full as the Ticket Into Colleges," lays plain for all to see that, with tight financial aid offerings colleges are accepting more students whose families can pay in full. This has always been the case at or near the bottom of college applicant pools, but the practice is creeping further up the ladder into the realm of highly qualified applicants.

As we've always argued, you can increase your aid opportunities by applying to a school in which your abilities and desires place you toward the top end of the applicant pool.

The Choice: Demystifying College Admissions and Aid is a new NYT blog exploring college admission and financial aid through the voices of students and professionals. Even though it's geared toward college admission, the issues, experiences and thinking are similar to private school admission. Keep in mind that college and private school admission are not the same.  I recommend it as a thought provoking read. You'll find some thinking and commentary applicable to private school admission.

Photo credit: Gwen's River City Images
I read a couple of articles over the past few days that, combined, provide a good pictures of the thinking, priorities and sacrifices that families are grappling with in their 'public or private' school decisions. With a generally more conservative outlook about future earnings and home equity gone as a banking option families are struggling mightily to reach the best decisions about schools.

Two articles provide insight into the two sides of the education coin:

The New York Times article, "The Sudden Charm of Public School," looks at family thinking and finances that underlie a migration into the public school system by families who previously assumed that private school would be their choice. The exact numbers are unspecific and anecdotal, but the number of families thinking through this process is clear.

In the current climate can we, and, should we send our kids to private school?

From the NYT article:

"There is no way of knowing just how many would-be or current private school parents are turning to the public schools. But there is no question that the city's public kindergartens are experiencing a groundswell of interest...

The growing undertow from private to public emphasizes just how desperate some families have become.

Moving your kid out of private school is usually one of the last things to go," said Kathy M. Braddock, a partner at Charles Rutenberg Realty. "You give up vacations and cars and take away summer camp first.

But I hear people evaluating everything now. I know lawyers who have been laid off, Wall Street people, the Madoff victims. These are people who never thought they would be in a financial situation where they would have to start making certain choices.

...saying you're interested in sending your kids to public schools used to be a taboo among a certain group of people....Now it's actually kind of cool and in vogue."
The NYC Private Schools Blog paints the opposing view. In a post titled, "Private School Not a Luxury to Most," the author paints a picture of the willingness of parents to prioritize and sacrifice for private education.

Much of the article comes from a Wisconsin Rapids Tribune article looking at one mom's desire and willingness to sacrifice so that she can afford private school tuition and efforts of the area catholic schools to create aid and financing options. 

As Beckie Rogers told the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

"It's pretty much a given tuition rates go up every year...But as a parent, I prioritize and give up other things. This is a necessity for my family."
The reality of the public versus private equation in the current admission cycle lies somewhere in the middle. With no sound data, we don't know how many families will choose their public or private education options. We know for sure that economic stress has increased the value and importance of the public side of the equation. We know, with certainty, that uncertainty has private school admission officers working to demonstrate the value of the product and looking harder at their cost structures and aid and financing options than they have in quite some time.

Boarding School Podcast Sustainablity Series

In light of the economic downturn, school sustainability and adaptive strategies have been hot topics for a number of months. No one is spared from the realities of a shrinking economy- schools, families, students- we're all impacted.

To encourage a conversation about the options available to families and schools, AQ's Boarding School Podcast hosted a four part sustainability series featuring leaders in the private school world. Each interview provides history, current thinking and insights regarding adapting for the future. I encourage you to listen and share.

Boarding School Podcast: Sustainability Series

Boarding Schools Adapting To A Changing Environment
Pete Upham, Executive Director, The Association of Boarding Schools

The Value of Working with an Educational Consultant in a Tight Economic Climate
Mark Sklarow, Executive Director, Independent Educational Consultants Association

Exploring School Sustainability Directions & Ideas with Patrick Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools
Patrick Bassett, President of the National Association of Independent Schools

Approaching Financial Aid in an Economic Downturn
Martin Peyer, CEO, TADS & Jamie Miller, Director of Financial Aid, Blue Ridge School

Rinker Buck of the Hartford Courant wrote an interesting piece this week, "Enrollment Shift Could Burden Farmington Valley Towns" in which he lays out the linkages between public and private school enrollment in private school dense areas. Looking at Hartford and its surrounding area, its private school density and the changing fortunes of private school families, he presents the private and public school sides of the education coin as some families shift their children from private to public schools.

Mark Zito, Simsbury schools' Director of Human Resources told Buck, "This winter, during our budget planning process for the 2009-2010 school year, we were aware that there might be an influx of students from private schools...We are planning for an extra 33 students above what the models predict our enrollment size should be." (Hartford Courant)

Public and private schools have been living in a very nice world with families paying local school taxes while paying private school tuition. Now local public schools face increasing resource demands as students migrate to public system while prep schools face declining endowments, enrollments and tuition dollars.

Westminster School Headmaster, Graham Cole added: "I have not seen anything like this before...The independent schools have been riding the crest of good times for so many years, so it's a wrenching emotional experience for us now. But I'm confident there will still be a role for independent schools and that they will still be here." (Hartford Courant)

It's March 10th! Time for Decision Day Insights and Resources

Today's a big day. It's when boarding school decision & financial aid letters go out and/or arrive. You'll learn which schools you've been invited to attend; which schools where the fit wasn't quite right; and, perhaps most importantly, the size of the financial aid package.

Weighing the options, you might feel that you now have a more serious, focused decision to make than when you constructed your list of prospective schools.

You might be wait listed; you might have financial aid awards to weigh; you might have received acceptance to several schools. What to do now?

We've published several articles over the years providing insight and thinking into the "which school should I go to; wait listed, what should we do?" questions. As you take the next month or so to make your final school choice you might find them helpful.

The Admission Process: Decision Time!

Waitlisted at a Private School?

Tips for Students Accepted at a Private School


Photo credit: ocherdraco


A School Administrator Talks About Paying for Prep School

As Brian mentioned in the post before this one, late last week I sat down with two financial aid experts for a podcast that examined financial aid in an economic downturn. My guests offered sound advice for families considering financial aid options.

We're always on the lookout for additional FA articles & resources and Rob Kennedy, my friend at privateschool.about.com, offers a number of blog entries that focus on the topic.

I encourage you to visit his site and read through his writings. A good one to begin with is his post on Paying for Private School in Tough Times- a Q&A with Dr. Wendy Weiner, Principal of Conservatory Prep Senior High.

Rob asks Dr. Weiner about what parents of currently enrolled students should do if they find themselves in a position where they can't afford their tuition payments.   

Dr. Weiner discusses the need to maintain an open line of communication with your school (a point we always stress); should parents use college savings to pay for prep school; what are your contract obligations; and renegotiating aid based on a change in circumstance.

A Podcast Conversation About Affording Private School in an Economic Downturn

Addressing the admissions notification and financial aid season, we produced a podcast today discussing financial aid in tight times.

Peter spoke with Martin Peyer, CEO of Tuition Data Services and Jamie Miller, Director of Financial Aid at the Blue Ridge School. They explored financial aid and tuition payment strategies for families as they make their private school commitment for 2009-2010.

Suggestions to families include:

Opening a dialog with admission and financial aid officers at the start of the application process

Prepare to document your financial condition

Explore tuition payment plans and lending options

Ask the financial aid officers about resources. They know the foundations and sources interested in supporting their students.

Please share their commentary and suggestions as we work through then enrollment and financial aid process in this difficult environment. The episode is available below, through our Boarding School Podcast directory or AQ's iTunes channel.

Approaching Financial Aid in a Recession Download the .mp3 (Audio) (16.9 MB)

Get it on iTunes Get it on iTunes!

From today's Washington Post (Aid Is Increased to Help Keep Struggling Families From Removing Students)- with experience working through difficult situations over the past decade- declining enrollment, increasing costs and families electing non-catholic education options, the Catholic schools of the DC area are moving quickly and decisively to help families seeking financial aid.

As Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association told the Post "Any kind of issues that we had before have just been intensified by the concern over the economy."

To their credit, the administrators of DC are Catholic schools are committed to finding and making increased financial aid available to families who might need tuition assistance for the first time.

"To retain students whose parents have hit rocky financial times, dioceses are increasing financial aid for next year, extending financial aid deadlines and offering emergency aid for this year for families facing sudden setbacks who are unable to pay tuition, which runs between $4,000 and $18,000 a year.

The Arlington Diocese, which has about 18,000 students, has increased its financial aid from $1.7 million to $2 million for next year. It is also offering $250,000 this year for people in immediate need, said Sister Bernadette McManigal, interim schools superintendent.

She expects the money to run out quickly. "I probably could use a half-million just for immediate need," she said." (Washington Post)
While doing great work, I find the-story-behind-the-story the most interesting aspect of this piece. Increasing financial aid is something that every tuition driven school would love today.  Most can't. But some schools- like the DC area Catholic schools- find more aid. And, I think the reasons are simple. Start with Lower overhead.  But, beyond that, I see commitment and communal bonds.

Most everyone, clergy, teachers, parents, students, charities and families share a common bond of service and shared sacrifice. "Working together, we can find a way to make this work." And, unlike stand-alone independent schools, catholic schools seem to be able to draw on revenues from other parts of their diocese.

"Barbara McGraw Edmondson, principal of the School of the Incarnation in Gambrills, said her school's leadership has decided that it will waive tuition, if need be, to keep children in school. Several families have come to the school seeking assistance because of unemployment or decreased income.

"If a family is in that situation, we certainly would have the child remain in school even if they can't pay the tuition," Edmondson said. "That is the reality now." (Washington Post)
One can't help but be impressed by the commitment and levels of shared sacrifice and wonder, "are there ways for independent schools to build, practice, and benefit from these intense levels of commitment and sacrifice?"

Faculty Who Connect: Perhaps the Greatest Private School Strength

It's a bit of a feel-good story- student who was a complete pain in the a**; returns to his alma matter after becoming successful; thanking the faulty member who reached out and connected; and making a sizable donation.

From Dirk Johnson's New York Times article:

"In the early 1980s, James J. Liautaud was a trouble-making student at Elgin Academy who ranked near the bottom of his high school class. He drank beer. He smoked cigarettes. He skipped class.

The dean, James Lyons, recognized the rebellion as insecurity, and saw what others did not - a student from a financially struggling family, trying to fit in at a prestigious school among wealthier, more polished peers. The dean, who had a working-class upbringing himself, put his job on the line. "If he goes," he told the faculty, "I go."
Faculty connection is a great strength of private schools- boarding and day. Faculty connect; nurture; and find the diamonds in the rough- even when it takes some patience, effort and risk.

As Mr. Liautaud told the Times, "It's a real simple deal...Jim Lyons believed in me."

The rough diamonds don't always turn out to be as wildly financially successful as Mr. Liautaud, but the number of rough diamonds uncovered, nurtured and smoothed by dedicated private school faculty is countless.

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