Where does tuition money really go?

Tolu Adewumi, Assistant Editor

Many students wonder where exactly their tuition goes every year. Despite common belief, a large amount of money is needed to run and manage a school like Mount Pisgah. 

Ruston Pierce, head of school, describes the financial breakdown as a “well-oiled machine.” When tuition is received in the spring, the budget is a combination of the lower, middle, and upper school tuition. 

The budget is divided into three main “buckets”: faculty and staff budgets, operations, and extracurriculars and academics.

69 percent of the budget goes to personnel and the acquisition of faculty and staff. Pierce explains, “from a school perspective, the most important people in the [student’s] lives are our faculty and staff, so we want to hire and retain the best.” 

Operations, the second most demanding resource, is 22 percent of tuition. This includes “housekeeping” which is the maintenance staff, food services, electrical and utilities. Financial aid is also included in this bucket. 

Lastly, extracurriculars, arts, athletics, and academic trips allot for 8 percent of the overall budget. It is a common misconception that “these day to day activities [would] cost a lot of money, but in reality, it doesn’t” reveals Pierce. 

Pierce also says that there are other “behind the scenes” endeavors that are important to Mount Pisgah which use the remaining 1 percent of the budget. 

In areas where tuition does not cover the entirety of funds, money is derived from the annual fund. 

The generosity of the Mount Pisgah community is tremendously helpful and their contributions provide students with the best education and environment possible. 

One of the most anticipated times of the year, the annual trip to SharpTop Cove, costs roughly $135,000 each year. This expense is taken from the annual fund which is technically “outside of the school’s operating budget and fixed costs,” says Pierce.  

He says that SharpTop is one of the school’s priorities because of the impact it makes in the lives of the students.

Many other campaigns are run by volunteer parents to provide the school with funds for many extracurriculars. 

For example, there are parent associations like AAMP for the arts, and the Patriot Club for athletics that take the majority of the responsibility in funding their programs. 

Construction is another factor that is dependent on individual campaigns. This year, the entirety of the money used to renovate the lower school has been funded by a separate campaign created by parents. 

These campaigns allow Mount Pisgah to keep tuition lower than competitors like Wesleyan School and Greater Atlanta Christian School. 

Pierce states that Mount Pisgah “offers things that many of our competitors don’t [and they] are [still] charging more than us.” 

These schools both have tuition that is at least $4,000 more expensive than Mount Pisgah’s for the 2019-2020 school year. 

“When you look at our tuition compared to our competitors, we [have] a pretty amazing value,” says Pierce.

While knowing that academic expenses only allot for 8 percent of the total budget, each department has to be meticulous about where to delegate money for field trips. For example, the middle school has recurrent field trips that they take, which is a priority of their designated budget. 

Another important element of student life is lunch. Feeding the students and staff costs almost 1 million dollars each year. 

Pierce recalls that in the past years, finding a good lunch service has been a struggle for Mount Pisgah and wants to provide the best food in the future. 

“We have a very long bidding process to get the best quality for the best value. A lot of people don’t know that it’s a very expensive part of what we do and we don’t take that lightly.” 

The culmination of faculty budgets, operations, and extracurriculars are the essentials needed to run a school. Mount Pisgah’s community has lent an enormous helping hand to this establishment. 

Without support from the community, many expenses, such as Sharptop Cove and lunch, would not be possible.