BLUE HILL, Maine — George Stevens Academy wants to charge higher tuition from the seven towns that send it students, so the private high school can offset an expected $650,000 shortfall caused by a drop in its international student enrollment.
Exactly how much money the school will seek from each town won’t be known until school officials finish assembling budget projections for meetings they plan to hold with the towns over the next month. But if the towns absorbed all of the shortfall, the amount of money they would pay would increase by about $2,000 per student, Head of School Tim Seeley said.
If approved by the towns, the town tuition increase would be the first in George Stevens Academy history added to the per-student cost set by the Maine Department of Education. Under state law, areas that lack public high schools can contract on a per-student basis to send high schoolers to nearby private academies such as George Stevens. The towns pay a set amount in tuition per student.
“It’s not that our costs have increased. Actually, because enrollments have gone up, our cost per student has crept down a little bit, but the supplemental funding has dried up,” Seeley said. “So we’re hoping to get in the $2,000 range [per student] from the towns, or get as close as the law will allow us to be to our actual costs.”
Of the 331 students enrolled at the high school this year, 300 come from the seven towns that pay the school tuition to educate their students – an increase from the 267 enrolled four years ago and 294 in the 2017-18 school year, Seeley said.
The seven towns paid George Stevens tuition of $11,759 per student in the 2018-19 school year, according to the school.
But that only covers about 80 percent of the total per-student cost, according to a two-page outline the school sent the towns. The actual per-student cost to educate a student at George Stevens is $14,646, according to the academy.
The school has traditionally made up the gap between town tuition and the total per-student cost with surplus revenue from tuition paid by international students attending George Stevens. But the number of students from abroad has declined, resulting in less surplus revenue for the school to use to fill in that gap between the tuition it charges towns for their local students and the actual cost to educate them.
Today, 31 international students pay annual tuition of $52,000 to study and stay on the school campus — a decrease from 49 internationals just two years ago, Seeley said. A drop in the number of students from China is mostly responsible for the decline.
The smaller international student population represents a loss in revenue for the school of about $900,000.
“I don’t think we are ever going to see [international student enrollment] figures like that again,” Seeley said.
China, which had been among the world’s leaders in sending its high school students to the U.S., has begun discouraging the practice, and the number of schools across the country that seek foreign students has increased over the last three years, creating more competition, Seeley said.
Seeley hopes to gradually increase the tuition the towns will pay over the next three years, he said.
“I think we have a very good relationship with the towns,” he said, “and I think they have been very understanding of the situation we are facing.”