Saratoga County

Private education still top priority for many

Area private K-12 schools are holding steady in enrollment and even expanding programs, despite a


Area private K-12 schools are holding steady in enrollment and even expanding programs, despite a weak economy.

Doane Stuart School Headmaster Richard Enemark said enrollment went up nine students to 277 this year. This is the school’s first year in Rensselaer on Washington Avenue.

“In a down economic climate, we were asking our parents to make a leap of faith with us to our new campus,” he said.

Tuition at the coeducational, interfaith pre-K-12 school ranges from $13,285 to $21,400, depending on the grade. Doane Stuart has continued to do a lot of newspaper and Internet advertising, which Enemark said drives traffic to the school’s Web site. Inquiries have also increased, and there have been 82 applications for next year, a rise of 10.

Doane Stuart is not alone. Emma Willard School Head of School Trudy Hall said applications are running ahead of where they were last year. Enrollment stands at 307, and Hall said the school will be able at least to maintain that level if not grow a little bit. School officials have been aggressive in marketing and hired a new director of admissions.

Tuition including room and board is $41,550 per year.

The school has also tightened its belt — cutting about $1.5 million from its budget during the last year. It went from 160 full-time equivalent employees to 145. The school has been able to save $120,000 on its electricity bills by lowering the thermostat and being more careful about its use of electricity and water.

Hall said she believes more people may be considering private schools because of concerns about declining funding for public schools.

“It’s the quality of the education that’s offered. So many folks know that’s the one thing you can’t ever take away from a child,” she said.

Albany Academies spokeswoman Ann Wendth shared that view, saying that some of the local public and private schools are going through transitions, including change of administration and cuts in programs. That could spur interest in their pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school. Also, parents sometimes say it is time to look for something else, and “ ‘It’s not working where my child is,’ ” she said.

The Albany Academies is holding steady at 725 students, Wendth said. There is a new head of school who is a graduate of Albany Academy, and she said his presence is spurring interest in the program.

Wendth said the school just completed a successful “visiting week,” which they hold every year to allow students on winter break from public schools to sit in at the academy, which has a different vacation schedule.

“We had over 100 students come and visit us in February. That was a fairly good sign that there’s a lot of interest,” she said.

Also, there have been 325 inquiries. Not all of those will translate into applications.

Tuition ranges from $12,000 to $17,500, depending on the grade, which Wendth said will stay the same. She said about 40 percent of the student body receives some type of financial assistance. They are receiving more inquires about financial assistance, Wendth said.

Christian Brothers Academy Principal James Schlegel said he believes that the economy may have put a damper on people enrolling their children in the private grade six to 12 school. “They didn’t want to start their son here as a freshmen and have to take them out in 11th grade because a parent lost a job,” he said. “Some of that seems to be settling down a bit.”

Schlegel believes a lot of people also held off enrolling their children pending the outcome of discussions last year of potentially merging the all-boys schools, CBA and LaSalle Institute, because of declining enrollment. Both schools announced last fall that they would stay separate but would find ways to collaborate.

Maintaining enrollment is always a challenge, Schlegel said, but school officials are expecting an increase from its current level of 337.

Schools including CBA are looking to expand programs. HVCC is considering holding some classes at CBA’s Colonie campus and allowing CBA students to take them.

Doane Stuart is also expanding art and music programs.

“We’ve been really pleased to see that the general effects of the economy on other businesses has not seemed to affect us. I think people have become more discriminating in shopping for schools,” Enemark said. “I think we have remained a school that people want to continue to invest in for their children’s future.”

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