New England Prep Schools Share In Financial Trouble

With the recent instability of financial markets contributing to a tenuous economic situation for investors around the world, it is not surprising that some of Phillips Academy’s peer schools have experienced the same decrease in endowment income and funds that forced the Board of Trustees to make considerable cuts to the operating budget. Many other New England boarding schools have faced comparable losses to their annual budgets and have responded to the problem in a manner similar to that of the Academy. In a letter to community members, St. Paul’s School Rector Bishop Craig Anderson observed, “Changes in market conditions translate into the need for changes in the way we do business at our schools.” In the coming year, St. Paul’s will eliminate seven percent of its operating budget through the termination of staff working in the support areas of the school. Although the staff cuts will not directly affect students, positions in the business, information, technology, food service, operations, physical plant, and human resources sectors will be reduced to deal with losses to St. Paul’s budget over the past few months. Administrators at Choate-Rosemary Hall have had to contend with similar adjustments as well. According to the school’s student newspaper, The News, staff compensation levels will rise only 1.5% this year, compared to 3-4% in other years. Tuition increases are expected to follow suit, though administrators at the school believe that the cost of attending Choate will remain low in comparison to other New England boarding schools. In total, the school will attempt to come to terms with nearly $1.5 million in budget cuts, most of which will be deducted from departmental spending and payroll expenses. Assistant Headmaster Donald Firke explained Choate’s financial situation, “I don’t think it [compensation changes] will have any significant consequences if it is a onetime occurrence and the school retains its long-term commitment to faculty and staff compensation.” He continued, “I think there is a clear relationship between compensation and a school’s ability to attract and retain the best faculty and staff.” At The Groton School, endowment losses have caused the school to cut three percent from its total bottom line. Although staff salaries at Groton will remain untouched for now, according to Chief Financial Officer Hail Smith, the school will raise its tuition levels by 5.5 percent. Like Andover, the school has recently completed a landmark capital campaign that has provided necessary funds for campus construction and renewal and has helped to solidify the school’s financial future thus far. Notably, many of the schools experiencing budget shortfalls have recently completed large capital campaigns. While Campaign Andover remains the largest—and most successful—private school fund drive in history, with over $208 million in donations, Groton has also concluded a successful campaign, surpassing its goals by nearly five million dollars. Convening on campus for their winter meetings, the PA Trustees addressed the $140 million drop in the Academy’s endowment value by imposing an immediate three percent reduction in all non-personnel spending throughout each of the school’s departments. Substantial cuts to the budgets of both the Office of the Physical Plant and the Office of Technology and Telecommunications were also made to curb losses stemming from the devaluation of the school’s investments. Furthermore, boarding and day stuents will face the consequences of a tuition hike beginning with the next academic year. The Trustees also instituted a three-year moratorium on all off-campus activities supported by the Academy, canceling popular student excursions like the Cantata Choir Tour and performances at the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as many opportunities to study abroad and the renowned Washington Intern Program (co-sponsored by sister school Phillips Exeter Academy). Additionally, the Academy’s participation in term-contained study programs at affiliate schools was temporarily terminated, effectively ending long-standing relationships with the Mountain School, the Oxbow School, and the Maine Coast Seminar, which have long served to attract many students to Andover over other boarding schools.