So much for that exodus from New York City private schools. If formerly rich people were pulling their kids out, there are still plenty of wealthy folks trying to get their children in. In fact, the schools claim that they’re receiving record numbers of applications and haven’t experienced a drop off in donations—except when it comes to tennis lessons with John McEnroe.
NY Times: Dalton, Ethical Culture Fieldston, Packer Collegiate Institute and the Calhoun School have also sent out letters attesting to their financial health in recent weeks. At least three other private schools — Trinity, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory, and St. Ann’s — have issued similar letters, while other schools have relied on parent association meetings and word of mouth to get out the message that it is business as usual despite uncertain economic times.
“We’re not experiencing any signs of impact from the economic downturn,” said Steve Nelson, head of school at Calhoun, though he added, “That’s not to say that we won’t.”
Private schools across New York City say they are thriving this fall, with record numbers of applicants and no significant decline in donations. Yet almost daily, even brand-name schools are finding that they have to reassure jittery parents about shrinking endowments and dispel rumours that requests for financial aid are pouring in, and that economically squeezed families are pulling their children out and enrolling them in public schools.
Still, the financial crisis is taking a toll on the schools’ endowments leading them to budget conservatively for next year.
Trinity[‘s] endowment has fallen to $40 million from $50 million in July, and at other private schools, affecting what they can spend on programs and activities. “There’s no way of escaping it,” said Lawrence Buttenwieser, a former trustee at Dalton. “If it happens at Harvard, it will happen to everybody.”
Many private schools say they are budgeting conservatively for next year and taking steps to offset any lost revenue from investments and the possibility of donor fatigue. In a letter released on Nov. 17, Dalton’s head of school, Ellen C. Stein, and Robert Kasdin, president of the board, wrote that while the school remained in “a position of strength,” mostly because it has no mortgages or other debt and fund-raising remains strong, it is “targeting efficiencies where possible” and “reviewing all capital expenditures.”
Dalton’s Web site refers to a $58 million endowment, but attaches no date to that figure. School officials will say only that its investment funds are down less than the market this year. Public records show that Dalton was heavily invested in hedge funds as of June 30, 2007, the most recent date available, with about half of its financial assets in six funds. That roster includes several funds that have gotten stung in recent months, like TPG-Axon and Greenlight Capital Offshore.
Curiously, the article didn’t mention anything about well-known schools like Spence, Collegiate and Horace Mann. Does that mean they’re in trouble or are they also doing fine?
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