In this Sunday’s Metropolitan cover story, I chronicle the effort by the educational entrepreneur Chris Whittle to create Avenues, a new for-profit private school in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. An internationally focused school with a bilingual bent, it eventually plans to enroll about 1600 students in nursery through 12th grades.
Mr. Whittle’s timing couldn’t be better. Enrollment at New York City private schools is rising , according to the National Association of Independent Schools (recession? What recession?), and tuition at city schools is rising faster than tuition at private schools everywhere else, as the accompanying charts from the NAIS make clear.
Here in the city, enrollment rose by about 3 percent between the 2007-2008 school year and 2010-2011 (though it grew at a slower pace every year). Nationally, enrollment dipped 1 percent from 2008-2009 and 2010-2011.
In 2005-2006, tuition at city schools was about 58 percent higher than at schools elsewhere. By 2010-2011, New York was 63 percent higher.
Mr. Whittle and his partners are confident they can succeed, in part because of the imbalance between the number of children applying to New York’s top private schools and the number of seats available. Getting into Horace Mann, one of New York City’s most elite private schools, is about as hard as getting into Columbia University, says Amanda Uhry, president of Manhattan Private School Advisors, which consults with families about private school admissions: Each institution takes about 6 percent of applicants, she says.
Ms. Uhry says that the estimate of Horace Mann’s acceptance rate is based only on her own data (she advises about 1,500 families a year). Horace Mann does not disclose that information.
But it’s that level of competition that creates ample opportunities for consultants like Ms. Uhry – and also for entrepreneurs like Mr. Whittle. Read the article and let us know what you think.