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Childhood Education Program Committee


A. Program structure and options

Responding to recommendations from the Childcare Study Steering Committee, the college split the Fort Hill preschool program from the kindergarten through grade six program of the Campus School to create an integrated infant through preschool program (Center for Early Childhood Education). Under this new model the Center offers a full-day full-year program with the option for families to limit their attendance to the academic year and/or to half-day or school-day durations. While Smith does not offer teacher certification in early childhood education, the Center does serve as a research laboratory for the departments of education and psychology, as well as other disciplines. The Center also serves as a feeder school for the Campus School.

The Center is operating seven classrooms for 2003-04 and plans to do the same for 2004-05.

Table 1. Classroom options

Year Schedule Day Schedule
Acad. Year Full Year Half Day School Day Full Day Max. Enroll
Preschool Group A X X 18
Preschool Group B X X 18
Preschool Group S X X 18
Infant Room X X X X 7
Multi-age Room (West) X X X X 9
Multi-Age Room (North) X X X X 9
Toddler Room X X X X 9

While offering some programmatic advantages to both the Center and the Campus School, the new structure presents some very real financial challenges by segmenting the most expensive components of the college’s children’s education efforts and limiting the cross-program subsidization that occurred when all the programs were under the Campus School umbrella. For this initial year of the split (2003-04), the college allocated a base subsidy of $241,599, including $134,093 in tuition discounts to Smith employees, to support the program. In addition, ACRA approved a one-time subsidy of $100,000 to assist in the transition of the Center program and to add both a preschool summer program and an additional (fourth) infant and toddler classroom.

B. Tuition

Setting next year’s tuition for the Center’s programs entailed a struggle to balance the need to limit the college’s subsidy of the program against already comparatively high tuition levels. The Center’s expenses were reviewed carefully to identify areas for reduction. In the end, we settled on tuition increases ranging from 9.1% to 11.0% for 2004-05, depending on the enrollment option selected. Even at that high level of increase, the college’s direct support of the program would need to increase by 15%, with one-time funding, from $241,599 to $277,908. The college’s indirect support of the program adds yet another layer of costs, as discussed below in the finances section.

Table 2. CECE Tuition Increases for 2004-05

2003-04 2004-05 Change
Academic Year Summer Session Academic Year Summer Session* Academic Year Summer Session*
8 am-12:30 pm $5,850 $6,435 10.0% N/A
8 am-3 pm $8,890 $985 $9,870 $1.085 11.0% 10.2%
8 am-5 pm $11,250 $1,250 $12,275 $1,375 9.1% 10.0%
Infant and Toddler
8 am-3 pm $11,285 $1,255 $12,525 $1,380 11.0% 10.0%
8 am-5 pm $14,285 $1,588 $15,715 $1,750 10.0% 10.2%

* Summer 2005 increases are for planning purposes only. They are preliminary and have not been announced.

At the preschool level, other local programs, including Hampshire Children’s Center, Woodside, Nonotuck, Sunnyside, and Dolphin Daycare charge between $8,250 and $9,100 for academic year coverage. By comparison, the tuition for the Center’s academic year preschool program is $12,275. At the toddler level, local programs charge between $9,350 and $11,000 during the academic year. Local programs charge between $10,400 and $10,780 for academic year infant care. By comparison, the Smith program charges $15,715 for academic year infant and toddler care. All of the charges represent full-day enrollment for ten months, although the start and end times do vary slightly program-by-program.

C. Enrollment

For 2004-05, the original revenue projection assumed a headcount enrollment of 45 preschoolers (28.4 FTE) and 34 infants and toddlers (28.9 FTE). FTE enrollment will be higher for the academic year, at 31.8 FTE and 30.7 FTE respectively, before falling off for the summer. For 2003-04, Smith-affiliated children comprise 38% of the preschool enrollment and 67% of the infant and toddler enrollment. The figures for Smith participation are consistent with, albeit slightly lower than, longer-term trends. Over the past five years, Smith children have accounted for 40% of the preschool enrollments and 73% of the infant and toddler enrollments.

D. Staffing

Early childhood education is an extremely labor-intensive enterprise. For 2004-05, the Center has budgeted for 25.6 FTE staff, with 9.0 FTE allocated to the preschool program and 16.6 FTE allocated to the infant and toddler program.

Preschool classrooms typically include a teacher and two assistants during peak enrollment periods of the day. Infant and toddler classrooms are staffed by a teacher and three assistant teachers. The administration consists of a full-time director, a three-quarters time assistant director, and an administrative assistant. In addition, the Center shares a director of admission, nurse, and librarian with the Campus School. The Center also employs fractional FTE shared with the Campus School for specialists in physical education, music, and the visual arts as well as a psychologist. The Center rounds out its staffing with two floating substitute positions, and about $40,000 in summer temps and student labor.

E. Finances

Based on the 2004-05 budget proposal submitted by the Center, we project a total subsidy of $421,853 for the program. The total subsidy is divided fairly evenly between subsides for direct operating expenses, tuition discounts for Smith employees, and indirect or overhead costs.

Direct Operating Expenses. The Center has proposed direct expenses of $1,080,272 offset by gross revenues of $944,795, for a direct operating subsidy of $135,477. There are great differences by program. The preschool program comes within $9,000 of covering its direct costs, excluding the tuition discounts, while the infant/toddler program has a direct operating deficit of $126,720 without the tuition discounts. In other words, the infant/toddler program accounts for 94% of the direct operating subsidy. The direct costs per enrolled FTE are $22,511 for the infant/toddler program and $15,118 for the preschool program. These figures compare to revenue per enrolled FTE of $18,129 for the infant/toddler program and $14,809 for the preschool program.

Indirect Costs. The college subsidizes the Center through its coverage of indirect costs, such as renovation and maintenance of facilities, utilities, custodial service, and general administrative services, including billing and human resources. In total, we estimate an indirect subsidy of $143,945 for 2004-05.

Layering on the indirect costs increases the cost per enrolled FTE to $25,291 for the infant/toddler program and $17,356 for the preschool program, suggesting a subsidy of $7,162 (28%) per enrolled FTE for the infant/toddler program and $2,547 (15%) for the preschool program before tuition discounts.

Tuition discounts. The college also subsidizes the Center’s tuition for Smith employees by 25% for the first child and 30% for additional children enrolled in either the Center or Campus School. The director projects a tuition subsidy of $142,431, or 15% of gross revenues, for 2004-05.

It is clear from the Center’s finances that the college subsidizes not only faculty and staff enrolling their children in the program, but also community children in the programs. Based on an average (as opposed to marginal) costs, community families will pay 98% of the direct operating costs for the preschool program, but will pay only 85% of the total costs if one considers the indirect costs associated with the program. By comparison, Smith families will pay approximately 64% of the preschool program costs, factoring in their tuition rebate. Community families enrolled in the infant/toddler program will pay 81% of the direct costs and 72% of the total costs of the program. Smith families will pay 54% of the real costs of the infant/toddler program, for a subsidy of nearly $12,000 per child.

In summary, the $802,364 in net tuition and fee revenue projected for 2004-05 will cover only 74% of the program’s direct costs and only 66% of the program’s total costs, including general facility and administrative charges. The direct subsidy, including tuition discounts, will be $277,908, which is $63,691 less than the 2003-04 subsidy. However, the 2003-04 subsidy includes $100,000 of one-time money, which means that the proposed 2004-05 budget will require one-time funding of $36,309, or 15%, beyond what is currently in the budget.

If we applied the subsidy just to the 32.5 FTE Smith-affiliated children, then the college’s contribution is $12,980 for each Smith child served by the program.

Overview of Current
Early Childhood
Education Program
at Smith

Committee's Charge
and Findings

and Decisions

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