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Economy impacts schools

By Staff | Jan 22, 2011

As enrollments dip at private schools due the economy, local institutions have looked to tuition increases and fund raisers to boost revenues.
Enrollments have declined slightly by 10 to 30 students from previous years at four area schools which have adjusted tuition amounts to compensate.
Meanwhile, fundraisers at the schools have raised, varying amounts up to $400,000-plus.
“People moving out of the county isn’t helping a lot,” Iris Mitchell, principal and director of the Early Learning Center said about the decrease in enrollment.
Christ Lutheran School currently has 87 students enrolled in its facility, which serves voluntary pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The school also provides 75 children with daycare services for those who are six weeks old through 4 years old.
The VPK program has seen a decrease in enrollment from 51 children last year to 36 this year.
The VPK program is a little bit unusual, Mitchell said, because parents have the option of dropping off their child free of charge from 9 a.m. until noon or from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. five days a week for $85.
Although the enrollment has remained relatively steady for the last three years, Christ Lutheran School had 115 students enrolled four and five years ago.
Mitchell said the decrease in enrollment is “attributable to the economy and the way it has changed the demographics of the Cape” due to families traveling “elsewhere to find work.”
St. Andrew currently has 250 students enrolled, which is a decrease from the previous year.
The decrease in enrollment, St. Andrew Catholic School Principal Sister Elizabeth Meegan said, is due to people not being able to pay for the tuition because of the economy. She explained that although they offer financial aid, some parents still could not make ends meet to pay tuition.
“There are a lot of unintended outcomes of a poor economy, and we can only hope that it turns around,” Meegan said.
She explained that they have seen a small increase in enrollment since the beginning of the school year.
Meegan attributes the increase to people moving into the area because they found work here or, perhaps, a positive sign that the economy is improving
Cape Coral Christian School has 130 students enrolled, which is down by 15 students from the previous year.
Enrollment coordinator Jill Rudnik of Cape Coral Christian School said they usually run about 140 to 150 students a year.
Although Canterbury School has seen a dip in enrollment from 632 students last year to 605 students this year, they have seen a 50 percent increase in the number of applications and inquiries they have received for those interested in enrolling their child at the school next year. Three to five years ago Canterbury’s enrollment was closer to 650 students.
“I think people are feeling more confident about the economy,” Director of Admissions Julie Peters said. “We are receiving a tremendous amount of calls from families who are seeking to relocate to our area…we are even seeing international inquiries”
Tuition for students at Christ Lutheran School is $6,200, which includes music, art, computer, Spanish and physical education classes. Mitchell said the tuition has remained the same for the past four years.
A chili cookoff and cake walk are held once a year to help raise money for the school’s general fund, in case the school needs to order such things as books for the students or playground equipment. Although revenue is generated from the event, Mitchell explained that they hold the two events mostly as a “fellowship sort of event to get everyone together.”
Three to four other fundraisers are held at Christ Lutheran School for community outreach programs to benefit the Cape Coral Caring Center.
Rudnik said they do not hold any fundraisers throughout the year because they run the school’s budget on tuition, which is $5,340 for kindergarten through eighth grade and $5,520 for high school students.
To offset the costs of this year’s school year, she explained that the tuition went up about $200 from the previous year.
“We are shooting to stay the same,” she said about next year’s tuition, “We just have to wait for our budget to see.”
A 2 percent increase in tuition was applied this year at Canterbury School, which ranges from $13,920 to $17,760 depending on the grade level.
Peters said they awarded $1.2 million in financial aid to assist families in offsetting tuition. She explained that 20 percent of their families receive some type of need-based assistance.
Canterbury School Development Director Chris Fusco said internal fundraising is pretty significant because the money raised goes to the greatest need of the current school year. He explained that they reach out to parents, former parents, alumni, grandparents or anyone who has a significant connection to the school to help them bridge the gap of what they charge to attend the school and what it actually costs to educate a child. That gap is about $910.
In recent years, the internal fundraisers would contribute in excess of $400,000 to their general fund. He explained that due to the economy they are hoping to reach about $350,000 this year.
“The economy has affected all non-profits and we are no different,” Fusco said.
A golf event held every fall and an auction held every spring also generate money for the school, which goes into their financial aid fund. The golf event typically raises about $3,500 a year and the auction can bring in as much as $130,000 a year.
Meegan said they hold two major fundraisers a year to bring in additional revenue for the school.
At the beginning of the year they hold a magazine drive, which is coordinated by the Home and School Association, which is usually over within the first four weeks of school.
She explained that the drive typically brings in between $15,000 to $20,000 in revenue, which is used directly in the classroom to benefit the children.
The other fundraiser, the St. Andrew Festival, which was held last weekend is their “massive fundraiser” due to the $100,000 it usually generates over four days.
Meegan said the festival has traditionally been used for their endowment fund, so they can provide financial aid to families. She said the money has also been used for a new roof for the school a couple years ago.
The festival is “absolutely crucial,” she said.
The tuition at St. Andrew Catholic Church is $5,720 a year for kindergarten through 8th grade students, which is the same as last year.