Editor's Note: I asked Stephen Alexander of Wilson International to explain how out-sourcing a boarding program works. ~Rob Kennedy
1. Tell us about Wilson International, its history and the services it provides for schools.
Wilson International aims to be on the forefront of global trends in private preparatory school education, providing a housing solution to schools who recognize the value of increased diversity and academic caliber of their prospective students. The company was founded just this year, specifically for our first program in Roanoke, Virginia. Beyond providing a much-needed housing solution to our affiliate schools, Wilson cherishes the opportunity to help nurture thoughtful and competent global citizens, within the framework of our affiliate schools' mission statements. Here in Roanoke, Wilson provides 16 rooms and a total of 48 beds to its affiliates in a recently restored historical building in the heart of downtown. The building is completely updated with a fully secured access control program, designated fiber optic internet service, laundry facilities, and a full-time chef. In addition to room and board, Wilson provides a residential life program for its students and is also creating a recruiting branch of the company to assist day schools that need a jump-start in their international admission goals.
Both schools had engaged in specific and strategic initiatives to increase the diversity and caliber of their prospective students in the last seven years. Because both schools are day schools, they relied on home-stay arrangements for the housing of their international students. While some of these home-stay situations were positive experiences for the students, the schools found, in general, the placing of students in private homes to be unreliable and difficult to manage. The schools wished for their international students to have a more standardized experience. These issues prompted the schools to seek a more professional, controlled environment, with qualified management and educators involved in the students' lives outside of the classroom.
Here is an overview of North Cross School.
3. If a day school wishes to add a residential component to its program, what is involved? What kind of lead time is necessary?
Wilson aims to make the addition of a residential program practical for a day school that would be unable to afford it or manage it otherwise. It is important that Wilson partners with like-minded affiliates that share similar ideals and outlook on global educational trends. When a match is made, the school(s) and Wilson come to terms through a formal affiliate contract. The timing of the partnership is also important. Day school admission offices need time and resources to transition into an office that attracts boarding students, even if it is a small percentage of the student body, and Wilson needs time to develop an appropriate boarding facility and hire a staff. Ideally, a partnership would be created in the fall of the year before the boarding program begins, to capture as much of the admission season as possible.
4. Who staffs the new boarding divisions of these existing day schools? Their staff or Wilson International's?
Wilson assumes the role of staffing the boarding facility. However, the company goes to great lengths to create continuity in the students' lives by involving faculty and staff from the affiliated schools on the dormitory. For example, in the Roanoke dormitory, four faculty and staff from our affiliated schools live on-site, and another three work on the duty team in a part-time capacity. The students benefit from the involvement of educators they know in their residential life and the participating faculty benefit from free or discounted housing in a tremendous location in the city and/or extra income.
5. How do the fees for boarding at schools using Wilson International's services compare with other, more established boarding schools?
Because Wilson is able to focus its efforts entirely on the housing and residential life of its students, it can very efficiently operate a dormitory. Obviously, real estate prices and labor costs vary across the south and mid-Atlantic regions, which will create a range in boarding fees. That said, it is Wilson's goal to provide superior accommodations and locations at a lower price than traditional boarding schools. One can see this by examining our Roanoke facility. Despite having world-class dormitory rooms in a highly desirable location, room and board at our Roanoke location is just $20,000. So, combined with North Cross tuition and fees, for example, an international boarding student would pay about $42,000 in total. This is about $10,000 to $13,000 less than an international student can expect to pay at a comparable boarding school in the state.
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