Stories of boarding school budget cuts and layoffs have been moving through the tight knit school grapevine and in some cases published in the paper "Emma Willard trimming $1.5M from budget by 2011" give us great pause. We know these people and these are our schools.
With shrinking endowments, reduced endowment income, potentially smaller pools of full pay applicants, and increasing financial aid need, no piece of a boarding school budget lives free from cost cutting pressures. Here in our office we're just like everyone else. How can we be more economical and what can we do to decrease our costs- all while maintaining and improving our services?
If the anecdotes and published stories that we're hearing are accurate- and we believe they are- boarding school heads and trustees seem to have turned quickly toward cutting faculty as quick way to reduce costs. It's easy to see why. Faculty salaries and positions are tangible and their cost savings quickly accountable.
Around the office- prompted by some reading- we found ourselves debating out loud whether, or not, layoffs are indeed the best way for schools to reduce costs. We began with the notion that boarding school is a living, breathing organism/community that, while required to live within its means, must also remain as healthy as possible for its current and future students.
Can schools look at ways other than layoffs to reduce costs- cost reduction methods that might keep the school fabric/community more healthy in the long-run?
Voluntary wage cuts?
Pension contribution cuts?
Across the board wage reductions and company wide spending cuts affect more people, but, keeping employees- even at reduced rate- might be a strategy better suited to a boarding school community that a layoffs. Group sacrifice and effort can build mission loyalty. Most importantly, in a boarding school, a good, well seasoned, faculty who understand and want to live among teenagers, is a school's single greatest asset.
As Craig Reider, Director of Human Resources at Global Tungsten & Powders (Towanda, Pa.) told the New York Times: "We have a very skilled and competent work force and the last thing we want to do is lose them when we're assuming this economy is going to come back."