North Cross on the other hand, spends approximately $16,000 per upper school student, of which 91% comes from tuition and 9% comes from development efforts that include the annual fund, the gala, and the Big Flea. Traditionally, this model of offering a comprehensive educational program, at a fair price, and supported by an appropriate financial aid system, has served as the most sustainable model for good independent schools. I was pleased to see that we offer a much wider diversity of academic and athletic programming, with greater college placement success, all the while operating on 60% of the total revenue at Community High School. This speaks directly to the efficiency and fiscal discipline that we have developed over the past two years.
As another comparison, Roanoke City Schools cost per student is $11,247 per student (report from Roanoke Valley Economic Development Partnership), with average student to teacher ratios varying from 17.7:1 at Crystal Spring Elementary to 19.2:1 at Patrick Henry High School (available through multiple sources, including http://publicschoolsk12.com). When you factor out the cost of our admissions program, an item not needed in public schools, our cost per student is $13,548 and our student to teacher ratio is 8:1. What this tells me is that the North Cross educational model places a much greater emphasis on keeping class size smaller and on maintaining a comprehensive educational program that includes staffing for robust programs in physical education, art, music, band, athletics, and foreign language.
We are fortunate in that over the past three years, we have spent hundreds of hours discussing ways to make our educational program better and more efficient. In these lean times, we have found better and more sustainable ways to support an academic program that will allow our students to compete successfully at the highest levels of college education. We have cut more than a million dollars in costs over the past two years and have refocused that money on new programs in world language, technology, and global studies. We have continued to operate an athletics program with more than thirty teams and a participation rate of 90%. I believe, without a doubt, that we are the best private school in southwestern Virginia and given the early signs of upcoming enrollment growth, I restate what I said in my State of the School Address. “I truly believe that there has never been a better time to be at North Cross School.”
Strategically, we know where we are, we know where we’re headed. Our strategic plan provides a reasonable, achievable blueprint for growing this school. Our board developed a detailed multi-year plan with an efficient and sustainable financial model resulting in the first balanced budget in a decade. Our tuition is where it should be, at a level needed to attract and retain a diverse student body and to deliver a competitive, challenging, and comprehensive educational experience. Speak confidently in saying that no school in the state provides what we provide for the tuition we receive.
Perhaps it was serendipitous that this article arrived on my door step at a time when I was thinking about our newfound lean and mean status. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.