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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 30, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, September 30, 2021
GSA requests $1,700 tuition increase for next school year
October 4 in-person meeting changed to Zoom

by Jeffrey B. Roth

After a year of controversy surrounding a $1,000 per student tuition increase for the 2021-22 school year, George Stevens Academy has announced a $1,700 per student tuition increase for the 2022-23 school year from its sending towns.

In a September 24 letter emailed to the school board chairs of the seven sending towns that pay tuition for students who choose to attend the private, non-profit high school, Sally Mills, chair of GSA’s board of trustees, stated that the $1,700 supplemental tuition request “equals the $1,000 per student, which the voters approved for this 2022 academic year, together with an additional $700 per student to cover most of the projected annual cost of education for each of our students.”

During the September 27 meeting of GSA’s Financial Planning Advisory Committee (FPAC), Mills told the committee, which is composed of elected officials from the sending towns, that a public Zoom meeting will be held on Monday, October 4, at 7 p.m., to present the tuition increase request and related information. The meeting was originally scheduled to be in person, but because of current conditions has been changed to Zoom. For the link, email g.strehan@georgestevens.org. For documents in support of the tuition request, GSA offers this link: georgestevensacademy.org/towntuitioning.

Mills noted that the October 4 meeting, the public FPAC meetings, and postings of supporting financial documents and other records for review on the school’s website demonstrate the school’s commitment to being more transparent.

GSA trustee James Crawford said, “There was a lot of discussion about transparency and about the willingness to share information, and we are trying to do the best we can. We’ll talk a lot about some financial statements tonight, and I want to assure all of you that are on this call…that everything we have at the board-level for GSA, all the financial information is now available on the website. We are working together with you all to try and develop the best education system that we can have on the Peninsula.”

Crawford said the tuition increase request is based on a projected enrollment of 303 students for 2022-23 and the estimated Maine Maximum Allowable Tuition (MAT), which is $12,071 per student, for a total MAT of about $3.7 million. He explained the actual estimated education cost per student is $14,251, for a total of about $4.3 million.

“So we have a deficit of about $2,000 [per student],” Crawford said. “And thank goodness, with the $1,000 that we received last year, we covered part of our deficit.”

The $1,700 tuition increase request “won’t cover all of our deficits…I think there are other ways we can do that. But, it will go a long way toward bringing the school back into balance,” Crawford said.

Without the supplemental tuition, GSA would incur a total deficit of about $660,825, according to the tuition document. State law caps supplemental tuition to 15 percent over the MAT. The $1,700 request equals 13.9 percent over the predicted 2023 MAT cap, Crawford said.

While several committee members asked questions to clarify some aspects of GSA’s plans regarding its boarding program, local student recruitment efforts and related topics, the meeting ended with an invitation by Mills for committee members and members of the public to email her specific questions about the tuition increase request or other questions about GSA’s plans to resolve its financial challenges.

The next meeting of the Financial Planning Advisory Committee, which is open to the public, is scheduled for Monday, October 25, at 7 p.m.