News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 7, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, October 7, 2021
GSA officials share context for 2022-23 tuition increase

by Jeffrey B. Roth

During an October 4, public Zoom meeting, with about 24 participants in attendance, George Stevens Academy officials discussed the reason behind the private, nonprofit high school’s request to increase student tuition for the 2022-23 school year, from the current rate of $1,000 to $1,700.

Jim Crawford, treasurer of GSA’s board of trustees and the head of the finance committee, explained that in 2019, the total per-student cost of secondary education, according to Maine Department of Education data, was $14,000-plus; however, the state’s Maximum Allowable Tuition (MAT) amounted to about $12,000 per student, which left the school facing a $2,000 per-student budget deficit.

“Remember that last year, the towns all approved to supplement our town tuition by $1,000,” Crawford said. “We said that we were trying to stagger our ask over two or three years to make it more palatable to everyone’s budget. This year, we’re asking for $1,700, and our ask, I believe, is 13-point-something percent of the [15 percent MAT] cap.”

Crawford explained that the supplemental tuition increase request is based on a projected enrollment of about 303 students. The $1,700 per-student tuition request represents a $700 increase above the current $1,000 per-student tuition rate, approved last year.

“Back in 2019, we recognized that the school was going through a significant change,” Crawford said. “The boarding program was under pressure for a number of reasons. We had 30 [boarding program] students, and we had revenues over $1 million. Then, in 2020, that revenue declined to $850,000. In 2021, it dropped to $240,000, with only 11 students. Currently, we’re expecting that to decrease to $110,000—partly due to the COVID issues related to visas and traveling, but also related to the international relationship between China and the United States.”

That program, Crawford said, provides cultural diversity and has been a source of “inspiration for our students. We would like to see that return, but it’s difficult to predict when that will occur.”

Crawford said GSA is continually evaluating its budget to look for opportunities to decrease its expenditures, but, at some point, budget cuts will negatively impact the educational experience of the students. About 70 percent of its annual budget covers staff salaries and benefits, and roughly 11 percent covers costs related to the physical plant, Crawford said, noting those items account for more than 80 percent of budget expenditures.

“We are not asking for something that is completely unusual or without good financial planning,” Crawford said. “We hope, once again, the community will support us. They understand that we do want the best education possible for our students.”

For more information about GSA’s proposed budget and tuition increase request visit georgestevensacademy.org.