There are three recommendations I’ll make with respect to what independent schools might do to control costs:
- Follow the advice of legendary management consultant Peter Drucker, whose admonition was: ‘Nonprofits should engage in price-based costing, not cost-based pricing.”
- Consider adopting the Mind the Gap model developed by Richard Soghoian, the former Head of School of Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City.
- Make cost control an important governance function of the Board.
1. PETER DRUCKER’S ADMONITION
To explain what Drucker meant, let’s examine how most independent schools build their budgets.
Usually, the budgeting process begins with the CFO asking the administrators responsible for managing a budget to indicate what their needs are for the next academic year. For the most part, this results in budget managers requesting more money for their respective programs. Those reviewing these requests — namely the CFO, Head of School, and Finance Committee of the Board — may make cuts here and there, but generally, each budget manager receives an increase. Implicit in such a process is that the operating budget increases each year, and with it comes an annual increase in tuition. In Drucker-speak, those responsible for building the…