Tuition is a fundamental part of how privately-funded schools function, and ASL is no exception. Tuition makes up 95 percent of the school’s operating budget, meaning changes to tuition are made with extreme care and caution.
Head of School Coreen Hester describes the process of determining tuition as “quite predictable.” Every October, the Senior Leadership Team, consisting of members of the Board of Trustees and senior administrators, meets to discuss what will be added and subtracted from the upcoming school year. This will help them estimate their operating budget.
Around November, recommendation for the upcoming year’s tuition is discussed by the Board of Trustee’s Admin/Finance Committee. The Board of Trustees votes at the beginning of December on the finalized tuition.
Increases and decreases to the tuition are a result of numerous variables, which can come from inside and outside of the community. In recent years, the U.K. government has had a large impact on tuition.
Chair of the Board of Trustees Admin/Finance Committee Alison LeMaire believes that the government’s influence has created uncontrollable increases to tuition. “Government influences change [to tuition] every year. Visas are a good example as a lot of our teachers require visas and it is an example of a huge expense that recently got bumped up significantly,” LeMaire said.
Other examples of U.K. government involvement can be seen through the levying of a National Health Service (NHS) tax, and the implementation of an apprenticeship levy (a levy placed on organizations with a wage bill over £3 million). Both the apprenticeship levy and the NHS tax have contributed to tuition increase in the past three years.
The fluctuation of tuition is also dependent on several internal factors, the most influential being compensation, which includes faculty and staff salaries, benefits and more. Altogether compensation makes up around 77 percent of ASL’s expenses.
Faculty are advised to live close to the school, promoting the engagement of faculty in extra curricular activities. However, with extremely high living costs within London, tuition has become an integral aspect of aiding faculty living expenses, providing adequate money for housing, [vacations], transportation and more. “The cost of living is a big factor because we want to attract teachers to come to ASL, and we want to retain them. We are aware that the cost of living in London is super high,” Hester said.
Increases or decreases in the number of faculty or full-time equivalent (FTE: the amount of hours an employee works), also plays a crucial role in the tuition process.
LeMaire believes that these changes contribute greatly to the overall tuition process. “It’s not unusual to add and take away FTE as education changes and curriculum ideas change,” LeMaire said.
This year [2017/2018] saw any additions to the FTE offset by not needing to fill any positions.
Benchmarking ASL against similar intuitions also contributes to the tuition process. The Board of Trustees Admin/Finance Committee benchmarks ASL against other international and private schools in cities that are relatively similar to London. In benchmarking, LeMaire believes that “we do our best to figure out where we fall to make sure that we are not relatively underpaying our teachers.”
The constant balance between compensation and tuition is integral as they’re “the two most important constituencies in this school by far,” LeMarie said.