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Contracting Budgets at the Collegiate and Secondary Levels Mean Something for Everyone in Private Education

Let's be blunt; the crazy year in the financial markets is crushing and causing a wholesale resetting of budgets in priorities for everyone in tuition based education. Collegiate losses of endowment value and income are affecting college budget priorities and decisions. Wealthy, heavily endowed colleges and universities are paring back- beginning with (most obviously) building programs.

All parts of college and school budgets are under pressure. Three recent articles provide good insight into the shortfalls and compromises that everyone in tuition driven education faces.

Colleges Struggle to Preserve Financial Aid (New York Times)

Citing tough economy, Northeastern shelves dorm plan (Boston Globe)

MIT looks to slice $50m from budget (Boston Globe)

From an admission and financial aid standpoint, budget constraints bring the student's ability to pay back into the admission equation.

From the above New York Times article:

"Morton Schapiro, president of Williams College in Massachusetts, which has long had a commitment to accepting students without considering their financial situation, said he doubted that all colleges with such full need-blind policies would be able to hold to them.

"The major dial you turn for most financial crises is that you admit more students who can pay, as a way of increasing revenues," Mr. Schapiro said. "With the tremendous decline in wealth, I think fewer people will hold on to needs blind."

Less money means similar cuts on the boarding school world

Tight budgets, declining endowment values and family's ability to pay now sit squarely in the middle of every boarding school head's, business manager's and admission director's office. Suddenly, with a smaller endowment, less endowment income and fewer families willing and able to pay full price, the strain on boarding school budgets is enormous. Schools have less income while facing current budgeting and increased demand on financial aid.

Frustrating we don't see or hear a vigorous public conversation about the problem- along with thoughts on how to address it. Deep into this fall, word on street from schools was that all was fine- that the numbers look good. We kept squinting, shaking our heads and wondering how?

Beneath the veneer, we heard some quiet rumblings.

On November 11 a headmaster, put the truth on the table and in the light for all to see. Arch Smith, Trinity-Pawling School head, authored and sent a letter to the greater T-P community. He acknowledged the reality of the situation and publicly spoke of the ways that T-P will adjust and pursue its mission while insuring its future. The school will tighten its belt and behave prudently.

We commend and appreciate Mr. Smith's willingness to confront and talk about this issues. With concerns in the open, everyone- schools, families, faculty, boards, and donors- can see, understand, think about and adjust to current realities and constraints. Only after illuminating and and elucidating everything can we all make the best decisions about the best ways to sacrifice, persevere and arrive at a resolution wiser and more prudent.

Mr. Smith's letter is the best piece of open, forthright management that I've seen from a school in recent memory. You can read his full letter at the T-P web site.

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AdmissionsQuest's blog dedicated to boarding school admission & schools.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Brian Fisher published on December 1, 2008 1:46 PM.

The SAT Conundrum was the previous entry in this blog.

It's Tough. But, when we acknowledge the problem, we can work with it. is the next entry in this blog.

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