How Will Private Schools Survive? Part 1

How Will Private Schools Survive? Part 1

By Avery Lawrence, DCschoolHUB Correspondent

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Draft Kings and private schools. One may already be extinct and two could be on their way out. Guess which one I’m going to talk about? Same thing Jim Young of Rueters kicked off his article with over 3 and a half years ago.

Private education as we have known it is on its way out, at both the K-12 and postsecondary levels. At the very least, it’s headed for dramatic shrinkage, save for a handful of places and circumstances, to be replaced by a very different set of institutional, governance, financing, and education-delivery mechanisms.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Private school enrollment in prekindergarten (preK) through grade 12 increased from 5.9 million students in 1995–96 to 6.3 million in 2001–02, and then declined to 5.4 million in 2013–14.

The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) reported a 70 student decline in average enrollment from 2014-15 to 2016 nation wide from 507 to 437. Myra A. McGovern, Vice President of Media at NAIS speaking exclusively to DCschoolHUB said, “For some schools, contracting enrollment is a strategic decision, based on the size and health of the market, how the school can best deliver on its mission, and more.”

Additionally, two sources, one who has served on a DC area private school board and a marketing colleague who has worked with private schools, have indicated a general decline in total enrollment and/or waiting list numbers in the Great Washington, DC area. “A lot of schools are scrambling to identify why their enrollment has gone down. For most of them they have the same wonderful program, there’s simply not enough interest at this time,” said my source who requested anonymity.

Even a check of our favorite board, DCurbanmom, indicates that schools are in a tailspin with no end is sight…and that some moms like their wine and anonymous cat fights midday-midweek.

So the question is, will private schools begin to shut their doors in the next few years? I believe the answer is YES.

Which schools will survive and how can they do it? That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked it!

Every few weeks I’ll provide you with a guide to ‘which will survive and how they can survive’. Here’s what we have for this week:

Which Ones Will Survive:

  1. The Apotheosized BIGs – You know which ones. The big schools in DC proper that are sited in every Tanya, Dick, and Harriet article about DC area private schools. Why will they survive? See last sentence and… They have little competition from DC public schools that go from good to terrible in one flick of my finger on Great School’s website. Big DC privates also have a very long history of sending kids to top Ivy League Schools. Lastly, if you live in DC you have some bucks and if you want a good education for your kid private school is pretty much your only option.

How Can They Survive:

  1. Lower Your Dang Tuition! – Sounds great, right? I mean the average tuition has tripled since 1991 from $7,749 to $21,453 nationwide (a number most greater Washingtonian private school parents would dream to pay). The problem is the cost to educate a kid has skyrocket too. Are you going to send your child to a school without laptops, tablets, or 3D printers? Schools had small tech budgets back then and certainly not a team of professionals caring for the equipment. Raise your hand if you were the director of marketing or communications in 1991 at a private school?…anyone? Not to mention the straight-out-of-college social media manager you need (nose ring and millennially-important wrist tattoo included). Have positions been eliminated from schools? Maybe the Director of Lamination and Mimeographing, that’s about it.

Back with more in a few weeks!