How Riverdale Country School Spends Its Tuition Dollars

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An article in the Metropolitan section of The Times on Sunday by Jenny Anderson and Rachel Ohm about the rising cost of private school tuition in New York City set off a tidal wave of conversation. At this writing, 475 comments have been left on the post, many expressing outrage and invoking the Occupy Wall Street arguments about the nation's chasm of wealth.

Riverdale Country School charges $40,450 for 12th grade. Last week, Dominic A.A. Randolph, Riverdale's head of school, was not available for an interview before the article's deadline. But on Monday, David N. Roberts, chairman of Riverdale's board of trustees, and Mr. Randolph sent the following e-mail and invited SchoolBook to publish it.

We write in response to your recent article regarding private school tuition rates in the New York area. The article touched on many of the important issues facing private schools, including the challenge for families to afford tuitions and the need to provide competitive compensation and benefits for faculty and administrators.

Based on our experience at the Riverdale Country School, we thought it would be helpful to outline where a dollar of tuition at Riverdale generally goes. Out of each $1, approximately $0.15 goes to scholarship and $0.70 goes to pay for employee salaries and benefits. Another $0.25 goes primarily to maintain facilities and buy instructional materials as well as a host of other expenses necessary to running a school. The $0.25 of expenses is generally fixed and grows roughly in line with the rate of inflation.

So, we have about $1.10 of expenses vs $1 of revenue. That $0.10 deficit is made up primarily through voluntary giving by our parents, alumni, and other friends of the school.

As you can see, the main variable expenses of our budget are compensation and scholarship. Tuition increases are directly linked to our ability to increase compensation to our employees and to broaden the availability of a private school education. We believe both are worthy goals and it is a constant balancing act to further those goals while attempting to restrain tuition increases.

David N. Roberts, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Dominic A.A. Randolph, Head of School