Let's look at the facts.
Conservative Investment Policies
The investment approach for private school endowments has historically been a conservative, cautious approach. Trustees and their advisors have generally been good stewards of their finances. They avoided risky investments such as derivatives and real estate despite calls from some quarters to maximize returns. The reason for the decline in their portfolio value is simple: just about every investment-grade instrument declined.
Back in the 90s, sustainability became an important principle in private school mission statements and philosophies. The National Association of Independent Schools has taken a leadership role in supporting all kinds of sustainability initiatives including financial sustainability with its 1,500 member schools.
From the Nais: "In order for independent schools to thrive in the 21st century, NAIS believes that they must be sustainable along five dimensions: financial, demographic, programmatic, environmental, and global."
As a result, schools with significant endowments (greater than $10 million) generally were well-positioned to weather the economic storm which 2009 brought on with a vengeance.
Financial Aid is a Priority
1. You have to apply for it.
Applying for financial aid at most private schools is a separate process from applying for admission to the school. You also need to make sure that you apply early. This is particularly important if the school has no specific admissions deadline or rolling admissions.
2. You may be eligible for free tuition if your family income is below a certain amount.
Many private schools use a common financial aid form. This vastly simplifies the process of applying to several schools. You will have to fill out the Parents' Financial Statement (PFS) online at www.nais.org/financialaid/sss. You can also complete a paper version of this application. This will be available from school admissions offices.
4. Most schools have a sliding scale of aid.
You may think that you are ineligible for financial aid because your family income is $150,000. The truth is that you may indeed be eligible for some aid. It will depend on factors such as how many children you have at the . . .read more
The Perfect Storm
The impact of the financial markets' meltdown in 2008 meant that endowments shrunk significantly in most cases. 20-30% shrinkage seems to be the norm, though, of course, it is extremely difficult to unearth any data. You and I will have to wait until schools have filed their Forms 990.. Form 990 is the tax return not for profit organizations file each year. Most schools file at the end of their fiscal year which typically is June 30.
Added to the financial meltdown are the vast numbers of jobs which have been shed as companies have folded or down-sized. That means there are less parents able to afford private school without at least some financial assistance. Another factor is that many parents who were counting on sending their children to private school are scaling back their spending. The result is that there are fewer applicants for many schools.
The top tier schools are feeling minimal impact as they still have a huge demand for places and relatively strong finances. They can make the adjustments needed . . .read more
The deposit and contract for next year at Wildwood Country Day School are lying there in your stack of bills. You are one of the lucky ones. Your $150k job seems secure. At least for now. But your wife's job is looking kind of uncertain as sales are down. Layoffs are in the works. She's been there for 15 years and makes $95k as the HR director. All the economic indicators are just so scary. Maybe you should pull Jodee out of private school and save that $25k. If the school could help you a bit, you might feel a bit more confident about keeping her in school.
You are paying $1000 a month for your son's private high school. The school gave you a financial aid package which pays the equivalent of $1000 a month. But your wife just had major surgrey. Suddenly you are looking at $15,000 in medical bills you have to pay. Your cash savings are worth $5,000. Your 401k went south months ago. What do you do? Withdraw your son?
You just found out that you have to take a pay . . .read more
As you read about these schools and watch the videos, remember that all of these schools believe very emphatically that an education does not consist solely of academics. Each of these schools understands that a child needs nurturing and counselling so that he can make the most of the opportunities before him. These schools expect the child's family to be involved. His education is a partnership of three: home, school and student. That's what it takes to provide the solid foundation a child needs in order to succeed in his adult life.