BSM Boasts Record Enrollment

Rachel Kaplan

Unexpected Numbers
Last September, the Benilde-St. Margaret’s administration planned a conservative budget for the 2009-2010 school year, aiming to keep on eye on the down-turned economic climate and how that might affect enrollment and tuition income. However, it seems that their fears were almost completely unwarranted, as this year marks the highest number of students in BSM history, reaching a staggering 1,203 in both the junior and senior high.

“A main part of our vision is to be the school of choice. And I feel like we are…people are choosing BSM,” said Dr. Sue Skinner, principal of Benilde-St. Margaret’s and a key part of the admissions committee. This is certainly true: with 31 more high school students than last year, BSM has seen an increase of 3.5 percent and an even bigger 5.3 percent increase from 2006, just three years ago.

Part of this expansion is due to the small graduating class of 2009. While BSM only graduated 199 students, 238 were admitted as part of the freshman class. Dr. Skinner attributes this increase to better marketing through the school itself. “Current students are telling people about BSM,” she said, “exciting things are happening here.”

In addition, more students decided to come to BSM from public middle schools and a large number of students enrolled late in July and August–possibly due to parents watching their finances. “It’s a real testament to the teachers,” said Ms. Kate Leahy, Director of Enrollment Management, “Also, more 8th graders are staying for ninth grade, [resulting in] better retention rates.”

Where the Money Goes
Though the unexpected extra students definitely bring in more tuition income, it seems as though the school isn’t benefiting financially much from it. “It’s not like we have a ton of extra money from tuition,” said Dr. Skinner. According to the administration, the extra funds have gone towards supplies, text books, bills, and operating expenses.

Luckily, the extra tuition does help balance the lowered investment income due to the struggling economy. “We’re just breaking even,” said Dr. Skinner, “We’re also still keeping our eyes on the economy to remain fiscally responsible.”  Even with the faculty and staff agreeing to take a salary freeze for the first time last year, salaries and benefits still make up about 70 percent of the school’s expenses. Money has also gone into paying teachers more for teaching extra students in more sections.

Effects on the School
Though there are now 919 high school students roaming the halls, the administration is doing its best to minimize any negative effects on students. The main priority is to keep class sizes minimal. “We want to offer the best Catholic education possible,’ said Dr. Skinner, “we need to make sure class sizes stay small.”  To ensure this, students were not admitted late if their schedules made potential classes too full.

Also, more sections of popular classes were added–some even as the school year began. Ms. Amy Weisgram was asked the first day of school by Dr. Skinner to take on a sixth class in addition to her 4 AP U.S. Government & Politics classes because U.S. History sections were too crowded. “Picking up a new class for the 2nd day of school was a bit of a surprise,” said Ms. Weisgram, “but it will surely keep me more organized.”

Another problem with increased enrollment is lack of lockers. In fact, twelve seniors (all male) are sharing six lockers to accommodate the extra students. “We asked them ahead of time, and tried to find people that wouldn’t mind,” said Ms. Andersen,Assistant Principal.

While lockers proved to be somewhat of an issue, tuition assistance did not; BSM actually increased the amount of money awarded to incoming and returning students. “Having record enrollment in a time of economic uncertainty is a testament to how BSM is an incredible, amazing school,” said Ms. Weisgram.

Plans for the Future
As far as next year is concerned, the administration is already planning enrollment and taking a “conservative approach to budgeting” to deal with the ever-changing economy. It is likely that the school will fill up faster and earlier in the summer. However, according to both Ms. Leahy and Dr. Skinner, 1,200 is the maximum number of students that will be allowed to enroll, even though the graduating class includes only 211 students.

For now, though, the school is extremely pleased to remain a number one choice among prospective students. “We’re not happy because of the extra money,” said Dr. Skinner, “But that more students can take part in the BSM experience.”