BLUE HILL, Maine — A private high school that serves public school students from seven Blue Hill Peninsula towns is proposing to phase in a tuition increase of $2,700 per student over the next three years to close a budget gap it expects because of a drop in its international student enrollment.
Tuition to George Stevens Academy — which the seven towns pay out of their local school budgets — would rise $597 per student next school year to $12,545. It would go up $1,158 the following year, 2021-22, to $13,703 per student. Then, tuition would rise another $945 to $14,648 for the 2022-23 school year. After that, tuition would rise by the same percentage as the state-set tuition for private high schools that serve public-school students.
Head of School Tim Seeley announced the tuition levels in a letter issued Wednesday. While the school has been discussing the potential tuition hike with local officials for much of this month, Wednesday’s letter was the first to specify the size of the proposed hike.
The seven towns that send 300 students to George Stevens Academy — Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Surry — would have to approve the tuition increases as part of their local budgets.
The size of the budget impact on each town would vary based on how many students from each town attend George Stevens. Blue Hill can expect to pay about $16,000 more to the academy in total next school year, while Castine can expect about a $2,000 impact. The impact on the other five towns would fall somewhere between those numbers.
Even with the proposed tuition hikes, Seeley wrote, George Stevens still expects to run deficits next school year and the following year.
“[B]ut because we can look forward to a much better financial situation after 2022, we think we can manage those deficits without much significant negative impact on the experience of our students,” he wrote.
Seeley wrote that the school proposed to phase in the tuition hike and raise tuition by the smallest amount in the first year “in recognition that school and town budgets are already being created.”
If approved by the towns, the 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 set by the state. This year, that amount is $11,948, below the $14,646 per student George Stevens says it costs to educate each student.
“GSA cannot be a good high school on what the state sets as the minimum tuition,” Seeley wrote.
The budget gap the school is trying to fill comes from a steep drop in the number of international students who attend the school. The number of enrolled two years ago, 49, fell to 40 last year. This year, 31 international students pay annual tuition of as much as $52,000 to study and stay on the school campus, Seeley has said.
The school has used surplus revenue from that program to balance its budget.
Seeley is scheduled to meet with the board of School Union 93 at Penobscot Community School at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.