To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Year 3: Part 8: Post 2: Money


I'm continuing with non-narrative posts through most of January. I was at home thirteen years ago, so I thought it better to spend these weeks tying up some loose ends rather than telling you what it was like living with my parents.

I mean, if you have parents, or know anyone who does, you already know more or less what it was like.

I don't think you really know how the school's finances worked, though--or how fundraising influenced our lives on campus. Basically, we subsisted on a combination of tuition, alumni donations, and renting our facilities to others. In such general outlines, I don't think our school was unusual.

First, tuition.

Because we had a very small student body, the school had no economy of scale. So, the school has a whole got a smaller proportion of its funds from tuition than larger schools of similar cost do. Also, we never let students take on debt to pay tuition, nor did we accept outside grants or scholarships. Instead, many of us were allowed to cancel some or all of our tuition in exchange for work. So the school really ran on a shoe-string.

Partly that worked because the faculty and staff were almost volunteers. Besides free room and board and free medical and dental care, the masters each received a stipend of only $1000 per month. The other big money-saver was the student work itself. We worked for free, meaning that the school not only didn't have to pay us for our work (obviously), they also didn't have to pay any other payroll costs. So our work cancelled out twice as much that way.

But we still needed other funds.

Alumni giving worked about the same way as it does for other schools, except no one ever did fundraising mailings or cold-calls. The school waited for us to offer what we could, and we always have. More magic, I suppose.

We also had two "cash cows," as it were.

One, that I've already told you about, was the summer camp--which still exists, by the way. Legally, the camp was separate from the school and its participants mostly had no idea what we were up to. The camp charged $1000 per week, per kid, which is not unusual for such that sort of thing, but since the staff were all students working as volunteers the profits were large and, one way or another, all of that profit found its way back to the school. Sixty kids every week, twelve weeks, it added up (the Sprouts, of course, were among the campers and did not have to pay).

Finally, we rented out parts of the campus for events--mostly weddings, though we did a few bar/bat mitzvahs, high-end birthday parties, that sort of thing, too. And we did a few conferences and conventions. The campus, remember, was beautiful.

Most of these events were in the summer, when we weren't wearing uniforms because of the campers--we didn't want them asking certain questions. So, we looked like an ordinary college, probably on summer break, as there were so few of us on campus. In the morning, at breakfast, they'd announce which parts of the campus had been rented out and by whom and we'd all stay out of the way.

We sometimes resented it, or at least I did. This was our home, and to have parts of it borrowed by strangers with little or no warning or say-so certainly rankled. But we also understood why it was happening--the events were giving us as a community a financial cushion. If something on campus broke, if one of the masters became gravely ill, if enrollment or alumni giving dropped for a year or two for whatever reason, that cushion would keep the school open and cover the necessary bills.

And so, knowing that, we kept our peace.

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