In many ways, the competition between NYC’s hautest prep schools has become a sort of luxury arms race. New York’s wealthy elite want to send their mini-one percenters to the schools with the cushiest amenities, meaning private schools are having to stretch their budgets past the breaking point to compete.
With interest rates poised to rise, prep schools are selling tax-exempt debt at the fastest pace in 10 years in order to develop new projects and keep apace with other top schools. Elite prep schools like Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn and La Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi in Manhattan plan to sell $150 million of bonds to pay for new projects, including pools and ensemble rooms. Schools are feeling the pressure to renovate or replace fading buildings with state-of-the-art facilities.
“It exactly parallels what is happening with colleges,” said Emily Glickman, a New York City-based private school admissions consultant. “If you have to pay a boatload of money, you want to get the most that you can. It’s hard to claim to be a really prestigious private school if your facility looks old.”
Private and public universities have also borrowed high sums of money over the past decade to build features like rock-climbing walls, dormitories, pools, gyms and other features that haven’t traditionally been associated with higher learning.
As of today, nearly one-fifth of NYC students attend private schools, and rates can reach as high as $45,000 a year at the city’s best institutions.