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Private Schools in COVID Times

With summer’s midway point upon us and pressure from all possible angles, school administrators are frantically trying to assemble a plan for the fall - but the playing field is far from level. The range of disparities that exist in America are present now, more than ever, and the topic of educational resources has hit the spotlight, revealing a disturbing inequity between public and private school funds. While the public schools are handcuffed to state and federal budgets, private schools have the luxury of hiring development personnel to raise money. Or is it only a luxury for some?



The story of public and private school funding is harrowing, but for those seeking private education for their children in hopes of escaping the crisis, it’s important to note that the pandemic has threatened the sustainability of a wide scope of schools, including those in the private sphere. Surviving the economic blows of the pandemic requires schools to have a healthy endowment, as well as a strong team knowing how and when to spend, build, sustain and adapt it’s financial model. So if you’re entering the private school admission process this year, do some research on which institutions are on solid financial footing; but how? Endowment figures only reveal a singular part of the funding picture - you have to look deeper into how schools are managing their financial resources.


Look for the following:

  • Flexibility. When the CDC released their guidelines for a safe reopening of schools, there’s a reason why the Trump administration criticized it as “too expensive” - it’s because in order to effectively and safely open a school with COVID-19 still surging, you need money to make the proposed changes. Classroom architecture, supplies, ventilation, reducing density of shared spaces, sanitization, testing and screening materials are only a few of the areas needing modifications. Schools that can identify the ways in which they are adapting are likely flexing their facility for handling unexpected events...like pandemics.


  • Leadership. What communication has there been from the administrative teams in the institutions you will be considering this admission cycle? Is the communication clear and thoughtful or does it appear to be a strategy to distract, conceal or buy more time for problem solving? Is there a sense of accountability amongst the leadership when it comes to decision-making and its consequences or is there a diffusion of responsibility?


  • Faculty turnover or student attrition. Much like any work environment, if the people are unhappy there’s typically a flag of some sort you’ll want to investigate. Ask hard questions during the information sessions or in whatever opportunities you have to connect with someone from the school. Faculty and student satisfaction are going to impact your child’s experience and when schools struggle to retain their community members, it’s important to understand why.


  • Selectivity and enrollment. While it’s not a good idea to exclusively apply to highly selective schools, the degree of selectivity typically means the school is in high demand, with a deep pool of applicants. If the school is still desperately seeking to fulfill it’s enrollment goals in the summer, there may be a reason why people aren’t choosing to either a) apply or b) enroll once admitted.


The take home message: it’s important to be an informed consumer, no matter the product in which you’re choosing to invest. Do your research this admission cycle to make sure you’re not paying for a lateral move (or worse!) for your child. Look past the carefully curated websites to dive deeper into learning more about the financial stability and institutional action plans - you won’t be able to control everything in this process, but you can control what you learn.


If you are looking for more support navigating these waters, be sure to contact us.



Further reading:


Can Boarding Schools Survive Coronavirus?


In the Same Towns, Private Schools Are Reopening While Public Schools Are Not


The Class Divide: Remote Learning at 2 Schools, Private and Public

Why You Might Consider a Boarding School Now


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