By Luis Contreas
As a non-profit, Catholic organization, it can be a mystery how the school’s finances are divided among its many needs. With a $950 increase in tuition and a pioneering transition to tablets, students and parents alike are wondering whether their payments are still worth it.
But to understand the financial decisions of the school, it is important to understand the complexity in making all ends meet.
According to Eve Grubb, the vice president of finance, the process includes many different people with many different opinions. The goal is to find the best fit for the school at the best moment possible.
“The budgeting process begins in December,” Grubb said. “All deans and department heads are asked to provide their budgets for the following year.”
Each department creates a line-item budget detailing how much money the department will need and what it will be needed for. Every dean takes the best interests of the students into account and presents the best possible budget for everyone in December.
These individual department budgets are then combined into one overall budget and approved by President Rev. Kevin Storey, C.S.B., and Principal Rev. Patrick Fulton, C.S.B.. Once Fulton and Storey finish their approvals, the budget moves on to the school’s board of directors, which concludes the process with a meeting in January.
The board then approves the budget and changes minor details until it matches the school’s interests for the upcoming school year. Once they are done, the budget is finalized and tuition is set for the year.
Last January, the board decided to raise tuition by 7.7% to a final dollar amount of $13,250. The board and financial heads of the school are hoping that additions to the school’s campus and several of its programs will prove to be worth the nearly $1000 increase.
Multiple new advancements have taken place this school year in terms of technology. New tablets are an expensive
but productive update. In exchange for a few hundred dollars from each student, the new tablets provide a convenient and fast paced school environment.
“The tablets alone are worth the money,” said senior Jon Trent. “They make school a lot more interesting and honestly a lot more easy.”
But 800-plus new tablets come with a need for a larger technology department. This means tuition also has to cover for new equipment, an expanded wi-fi system and new infrastructure. These necessities result in a dreaded increase in tuition.
“I do not think it’s worth it,” senior Tommy Kherkher said. “Maybe if we got to keep the tablets at the end of the year it would be worth my family’s money, but to be honest I think it’s stupid to buy something we won’t get to keep and pay for all the things that come with it.”
The most noticeable changes this school year have been facelifts to the campus. A new track and a returfed football field adorn Grange Stadium. A finalized parking garage stands tall near the front of the school. An ornate statue of St. Basil commands visitors’ attention in the courtyard. Though these additions were expensive, they have not stemmed from the tuition increase. Instead they have been fueled by a combination of last year’s auction gala and the ongoing capital campaign. They have had a large impact on the school visually and have been important in improving everyone’s experience on campus.
“The track and turf and the [repaving of the] back parking lot were both decisions based on safety,” Grubb said. “They improve the safety of our student athletes [with stadium improvements] and faculty, staff, students, and visitors [with improved parking].”
The various additions to the school’s campus and programs seem to overshadow the issue of tuition. However, students on financial aid feel the pain more than any.
Senior Emanuel Garcia has been on financial aid for all four years of his high school career. His family has felt their wallets get a little bit lighter year after year as prices have gradually increased. In the past four years, the Garcia family has seen a tuition increase of $2,150. In comparison, Strake Jesuit has gone up by $2,200 and St. Pius X has been bumped by $2,100.
“I think the school could be doing a little more,” said Garcia. “I don’t think I am alone in saying that times are tough and recently the school has made them a little tougher. A lot of us are having to cut back on other things now.”
The school is confident, though, that the financial aid program remains one of the best in the city.
“Last school year, St. Thomas put $1,400,000 aside for tuition assistance,” Grubb said. “This year it was increased to $1,650,000. So while tuition increased 7.7%, tuition assistance actually increased 17.8%.”
Freshman Curtis Brady is convinced that the school has been and will continue to be an incredible value.
“We’re using it for the future,” Brady said about money. “Its for the future of the school and of the students.”
The new additions and improvements around campus do provide the school with hope for a bright future. However many students and families are on edge as to how much they will truly benefit from the changes.
Only time will tell how things will play out and affect the elite status of St. Thomas High School.