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Red flags: A school in trouble

vwlizardvwlizard Registered User Posts: 232 Junior Member
Are there red flags to look for that indicate a school is in trouble (financially, student enrollment, staff recruitment)?

There is a school that I find quite interesting, but there are just things that seem to be tipping me off that they may be struggling. Just wondering what other people think would be a "red flag".

Replies to: Red flags: A school in trouble

  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 19,091 Senior Member
    High turnover in faculty. Lots of students leaving before graduation but that can be hard to ascertain. Declining enrollment or applicants. A falling endowment.

    What's raising your antennae at the school in question?
  • vwlizardvwlizard Registered User Posts: 232 Junior Member
    Starting a "satellite" school. New HOS that is called "CEO" and doesn't seem well liked. Staff exodus. New weird pricing structure. Unhappy looking students. Rules that seemed "weird". So, yeah, I think I've answered my own question.

    I just really wanted to like this place as I like their course offerings and curriculum.
  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 19,091 Senior Member
    A lot of red flags. Sounds like you should run not walk away. Staff exodus and unhappy students are not good things.
  • GnarWhailGnarWhail Registered User Posts: 314 Member
    Selling out to a for-profit education firm or some kind of shell company. Selling off half the campus for commercial development. Giving up a major sport.

    These are pretty good days for these types of schools in general. It wasn't too too long ago that many of these schools not on the tippy top of the food chain were in deep doo doo, but the new crop of foreign interest has certainly had an impact on the balance sheets.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 37,445 Super Moderator
    Giving up a major sport.
    That would not be an issue for me depending on the reasons. NMH dropped football a few years ago for reasons that I viewed as valid.

    I agree with the other red flags.
  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 Registered User Posts: 728 Member
    I would also look at current fundraising. How much are they looking to raise? For what purpose? If they need to raise money for example to build a new STEM center, what will the impact be if they don't raise enough? How often do they do major capital campaigns? What did they use it for the last time? It's such a big investment for a family and it's your child so you cannot do too much research before sending in the first payment.
  • CTMom21CTMom21 Registered User Posts: 261 Junior Member
    That sounds like it has been acquired by a for-profit corporation. I can't remember which one, but I heard recently that that occurred with one of the Western CT boarding schools.
  • Sue22Sue22 Registered User Posts: 5,538 Senior Member
    I think of the faculty as the canary in the coal mine. When you see a mass exodus you know there's something to be concerned about.

    You should expect to see larger than normal turnover in the first year of a new HOS, particularly among faculty of retirement age, but if the attrition is higher than usual in years two and three it's a red flag. Of particular concern is the loss of mid-career teachers. If you see their departure listed as a retirement but they then show up teaching at other schools of similar quality you know there's a definite issue.
  • dramakid2dramakid2 Registered User Posts: 149 Junior Member
    Wow, those definitely sound like red flags that would make me want to run away fast!

    I went to an all-girls boarding school in the early 90s that I loved - it was a life changing experience! But since then, the school has seen a significant decline in its boarding population. Being single sex hurts for sure, and it is often more difficult for girls schools to fundraise. The school's response was to increase the day student population and fill the declining boarding population with full pay students from main land China. They did not invest in updating their dorms, so they are outdated and full of international students who tend to stick together and not integrate well into the community at large. These mistakes have created a vicious cycle - domestic boarders are turned off by the atmosphere, which forces them to bring in more international students. As it is, boarding is down to about 25%, which is pretty pathetic. While I would not say that the school is failing (it is still an excellent choice for day students), it is sadly not a school that I would consider if I had a daughter. Both of my boys go to a K-8 feeder school, and I don;t typically recommend my own alma mater to my friends with girls.
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