Tuition, Salary, and Finance

Some of my recent work involves examining Christian school finance, including tuition, salary, and revenues. For some analysis on ACSI’s Tuition & Salary Survey, check out my recent analysis here. You can also access ACSI T&SS member reports from 2020-21, 2019-20, and 2018-19. For my analysis on Head of School compensation with Erik Ellefsen, check out the CACE Roundtable.

Respondents to the ACSI T&SS indicated that operating budgets have largely recovered in 2020-21, though schools with the smallest enrollments took the hardest hit (see Figure 1). Donation giving rebounded generously, but many schools have not recovered some donors lost during the COVID-19 pandemic (see Figure 2). School choice revenues increased greatly for most schools in what many have called a “breakout year” for school choice (see Figure 3).

For Head of School compensation analysis, Erik and I used Form 990 data from 22 Christian schools. The highest compensated heads of school tend to get more in compensation or more in “other benefits,” but not more of both, maxing out around $300,000 in salary and $30,000 in “other benefits” (see Figure 1). Schools with larger budgets tend to compensate their HOS more, though if you take out one outlier, the relationship is less clear (see Figure 2). Schools in the most expensive areas don’t necessarily compensate their HOS more. The highest compensated HOS led schools close to the national COLI average (see Figure 3). For most schools in our sample, changes in HOS compensation outpaced changes in school expenses (see Figure 4).

Selected publications on tuition, salary, and finance

Shuman, T., & Lee, M.H. Salary and benefits in international Christian schools.

Marrah, T.R., & Lee, M.H. Lessons in innovation and sustainability during the pandemic.

Ellefsen, E., & Lee, M.H. The laborer deserves her wages. WLCE blog. CACE blog.

Ellefsen, E., & Lee, M.H. Cost of leadership: An updated analysis of school leadership compensation.