The Economy: Planning for 2009-10

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by Lark Palma, head of school

Dear Catlin Gabel families,

As we head into this holiday season and the turn of the year, it is uncertain how the current recession will affect all of us. But as John Kenneth Galbraith said, "The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable." It is good to know that a report from Independent Schools Management shows that independent schools tend to weather economic downturns well, if they are careful stewards of their resources and stay focused on teaching and learning.

Be assured that Catlin Gabel is doing everything we can right now to budget prudently for the coming year. I have asked those responsible in every department and division to think about how their area could reduce expenses as we begin to tighten our belts. This exercise has helped us clarify our thinking about which expenses most uphold our core mission and what we can trim. We're approaching this downturn in a spirit of clarity, community, and cooperation. We are boosted by the knowledge that we are well placed to come through these times.

The end of the year is when Catlin Gabel determines the tuition rate for the following school year. In November and December I meet with the director of finance and operations and the finance committee of the board, along with other staff members, to project the tuition figure and the rate of increase. We aim for a tuition rate that will respect the needs of our families while providing an appropriate amount of operating funds. In January the board of trustees reviews the tuition figure and either accepts it or suggests an alternative.

While comparative schools have raised their tuition rates dramatically since 2002, Catlin Gabel has held down tuition increases to between four and five-and-one-quarter percent. This year we hope to keep the increase to a minimum. Our biggest expense is people–our dedicated teachers and staff members–and we must make sure that they are compensated fairly. Especially in a down economy, we want to place as light a burden as we can on families, while never compromising the high quality of our students' educational experience. Setting the tuition rate is difficult, and we want to get it right.

Our families and our students are most important to us. Our priority is making sure that every one of those students remains at Catlin Gabel, regardless of changes in the family's economic situation. Among other concerns, the projected tuition rate depends upon the number of students enrolled at the school, the money we receive through our ongoing annual fundraising and our endowment, and the amount of financial aid we provide to families. In our quest to set the right tuition rate for the 2009-10 school year, I ask all of you to let us know if you anticipate a need for financial aid next year. I encourage you to speak about financial aid with me or Traci Jernigan Rossi '83, admission and financial aid director, if your situation should change.

I thank all of you. I am grateful to everyone who has volunteered for the school or stepped up to help us meet our fundraising goals. Know that we will continue to provide the best possible education for your child, unhampered by any economic circumstances. Our eternal touchstone is the inspired teaching and learning that takes place every moment our students and teachers spend together.


Lark Palma
Head of School