Economy a challenge for private schools

Area private schools are redoubling their efforts to convince people that their education is worth t

Area private schools are redoubling their efforts to convince people that their education is worth the investment despite the struggling economy.

Marc Meyer, head of school for the Brown School — a private nursery-through-eighth-grade school in Schenectady — said while enrollment has been fairly stable for the upper grades, enrollment is low for the nursery and pre-kindergarten programs.

“I suspect that families who would have normally sent their kids to nursery or pre-K just aren’t finding the economic wherewithal to do so,” he said.

The school has not had to cut staff, Meyer said. It has rearranged personnel and switched from a format of having a teacher and an assistant teacher to having co-teachers.

Tuition is around $10,000 a year. Meyer said the school is considering increasing its financial assistance and exploring more flexible payment options.

Enrollment currently stands at about 240 students. Meyer said they have had an increase in the number of inquiries and attendance at open houses but that has not yet translated into new enrollment.

“We try to remain calm, cool and collected here,” he said. “We try to sell the strengths of our program. We think we do a really good job of that. It’s very hard to overcome that anxiety associated with this economy.”

The Albany Academies, which have more than 700 students from nursery school through grade 12, is experiencing a similar situation. Ann Wendth, director of marketing and communication, said inquiries have increased.

“However, converting those into a signed contract with their deposit is taking far longer than it did last year,” she said.

Wendth estimated that about 40 percent of the new families considering the school are looking for some type of financial assistance. Currently, about 35 percent of the study body receives financial aid. Tuition ranges from $10,500 in the lower grades to $17,500 in the upper grades.

Wendth said the good news is that enrollment is holding steady. She anticipates that the admissions office will be busy throughout the summer as people evaluate their options for their children’s education when school is out of session.

She said that the school has not had to make any significant changes in its staffing.

Richard Enemark, headmaster for the Doane Stuart School in Albany — a 272-student nursery-through-12th-grade interfaith program — said the recession is hurting fundraising for its $11 million project to renovate a 117,000-square-foot building on Washington Avenue in Rensselaer for its new campus. However, Enemark said the down economy is actually helping to complete that project ahead of schedule and under budget. The first phase will be completed in August. “Subcontractors need the work and they’re willing to bid it low,” he said.

Enemark said the school, whose tuition ranges from $12,000 to $20,000, is up in enrollment and inquiries over this time last year. Enrollment currently stands at 280.

“We are absolutely thrilled that we’ve seen this kind of support from returning students and families and prospective students and families,” he said.

The school was able to offer contracts to all 50 staff members.

“This is at a time when other schools are not renewing contracts,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County


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