Amy Sara Clark writes about politics and education. A Columbia Journalism School graduate, she's worked at CBS News, The Journal News, The Jersey Journal, Mom365, JTA and Prospect Heights Patch. She comes to journalism from academia where she earned a master's degree in European History with a focus on Vichy France.
A Mamaroneck elementary school is trying a new tack to increase revenue — lowering tuition.
Westchester Day School decreased its rates by 25 percent this year for three grades: the pre-K program for 4-year-olds, Kindergarten and first grade. Next year it is extending the lower tuition to second grade.
For the past decade, the school has only had about 400 students. But it can accommodate 500 without hiring more staff. If the program attracts around seven more students for each grade it covers, the discount will pay for itself, said Daniel Kosowsky, president of the school’s board.
“The theory is that if you fill your classes you can sustain lower tuition rates,” he said.
Recently several schools have tried cutting tuition in the hope of increasing enrollment. Next year, Beit Rabban Day School on the Upper West Side is offering a discount to middle-income families who send multiple children to the school. In its plan, the combined tuition for all of a family’s children will be capped at 15 percent of the household’s gross adjusted income. And last year, Riverdale’s SAR High School gave eligible middle-income students a $2,000 tuition credit.
Tuition at Westchester Day School ranges from $8,500 for its 2s half-day program to $20,475 for sixth through eighth grades. This puts it on par with what most area schools charge for WDS’s third through eighth grades and brings it below average for the discounted grades. An exception is Westchester Torah Academy, which costs about a third less than the average.
Because WTA opened the same year that WDS lowered its fees, the school didn’t see an increase in enrollment this year, Kosowsky said.
“But,” he said, “despite the new entrant in the market, with communal support we’re confident that our strategy will succeed.”
And even if a competing school hadn’t opened, WDS’s failure to attract more students in the first year of the program is to be expected, according to Daniel Perla, a program officer at the Avi Chai Foundation, which is subsidizing Beit Rabban’s tuition discount as well as a similar program in Toronto.
“Year one, we’re not looking for anything more than a modest increase,” he said. “It takes a couple of years to have an impact.”