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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."

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

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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

Ross School Offers Merit Scholarships

File this under the 'fantastic opportunity' category.

Ross School in Bridgehampton, NY "is offering $20,000 annual Merit Scholarships for students in grades 5-11 who demonstrate academic achievement and exceptional promise" in a number of areas.

Have a demonstrated talent for the Arts, Athletics, Community Service, Math, Media, Music (Jazz), Science, or Theater? This may be an opportunity to explore if you answered yes to any one of these categories.

I heard about this a bit late in the day (I read about it in the Independent Educational Consultants Association April/May Insights newsletter)- the deadline is May 1 and applications received post-May 1 will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

If you're interested, you can learn more on the school's site or submit an inquiry to school's admission office through their AQ admission inquiry form.

With new head of school George Alison at the helm, The Knox School is focusing its mission and looking to grow its current student population by 40 over the next few years- to about 170 from its current 130 students.

Jennifer Lawrence joined the Knox board of trustees and set to realizing the schools potential by connecting with the surrounding region. Building and refurbishment programs began; a marketing campaign; and, the school rededicated itself to preparing students for college.

Allison, who brings with him 23 years at Perkiomen School (PA), told Newsday (Knox School in St. James to open a new chapter), "We've got great faculty, fantastic kids...We need to get our name out there."

Photo credit: The Knox School
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

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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

Blue Ridge School recently added its Affordability Plan to the school's web site laying out their commitment to affordability.

It includes both philosophical and concrete examples of the school's approaches and commitment. Among other items in the Affordability Plan, Blue Ridge has increased its financial aid budget by 30% over the past two years and, one item that I really like, the school makes clear that the tuition, room and board are inclusive of all school activities- including textbooks. This is more important than it sounds; for years, many schools have used extracurriculars and books as profit centers- charging and billing for activities and bus rides.

I like Blue Ridge's willing to publish their positions and thinking. They use one of my favorite terms transparency. Transparency allows parents and families to make the best possible decisions.

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