SALTSBURG — The Kiski School is reducing its annual tuition rate by more than 20 percent next year.
The private, all-male boarding school across the river from Saltsburg in Westmoreland County will drop its annual rate from $61,300 to $48,500 for the 2020-21 school year.
“It’s pretty significant,” Headmaster Christopher Brueningsen said Wednesday. “The tuition’s gotten crazy, out of control. To be honest with you, we were embarrassed by our sticker price.
“I wish we could reduce tuition by 50 percent and still operate, but that’s not possible. But we feel like this is a big step in the right direction, as we are the first boarding school in the nation to do so.”
Brueningsen said approximately 90 colleges have reset their tuition prices since 2010 and Kiski decided to follow suit for practical reasons.
“The current model is not sustainable,” he said. “Other schools are going to have to address this same issue of rising tuition in the years to come. Middle income families are behind in a way. They can’t afford this stuff. It’s one of the things we wanted to address.
“Our biggest problem was, we couldn’t even have a conversation with parents because of the sticker shock. They would see tuition starting at over $60,000 and wouldn’t even ask about financial aid. They would automatically just tap out.”
Brueningsen, who has served as Kiski’s headmaster for 18 years, said over the past decade, the average tuition at boarding schools across the country has increased more than 50 percent while median household income, adjusted for inflation, has increased only 4 percent.
“I started teaching here in 1990 and tuition was a little more than $12,000 and it has gone up 500 percent since then,” Brueningsen said. “It has gone up 50 percent in the last decade. There are just a small sector of families that can afford $60,000. It’s a crazy number.
“We were looking at projections, and if we increased our tuition by 3 percent a year over the next nine or 10 years, we’d have been over 80-grand,” he said. “It was just not feasible.”
Despite the price reduction, Brueningsen said elements of Kiski’s educational structure will remain strong, with outstanding academic and athletic programs, excellent college placements, small class sizes, boys-centric teaching methods and exceptional facilities.
Kiski, founded in 1888, serves grades 9-12 and post-graduates.
“I know $48,500 still is a big number, but we’ve had a longtime commitment to a strong financial aid program and that will continue,” Brueningsen said. “We’ve always been between 190 and 200 students. We’ll forfeit some income by reducing tuition, but if we can get 10 or 12 kids over the next three years, it will help offset some of the income we’re losing by reducing tuition.
“Our recently completed $35 million capital campaign together with ongoing fundraising efforts for scholarship support puts Kiski in a strong position to implement this new initiative. Coupled with our continued commitment to need-based financial aid, we’ll be able to offer real affordability for our families and more transparency in our pricing.”
The tuition reset was approved by the school’s board of trustees.
“As an alumnus and current parent, I greatly appreciate the life-changing impact Kiski has on its students,” said John Jacobs, board chairman. “The new pricing model means that more young men of all socioeconomic backgrounds can benefit from a Kiski education.”