In hopes of attracting as broad a cross-section of the city’s families as possible, the New Orleans College Prep charter network has released the new income-based sliding scale for tuition at the expanded preschool site officials intend to launch at the Hoffman site next year.
College Prep — which also operates Sylvanie Williams, Crocker and Cohen High School campuses — opened a HeadStart program at the John W. Hoffman school site on South Prieur Street in the fall of 2015, and now in its second year has nearly 50 children ages 3 and 4. Next year, College Prep is planning to expand the program to ages 0 though 4, and seat tuition-paying students alongside those from the HeadStart and state-funded preschool programs in an effort both to raise student achievement and create a diverse student body that will also feed into its elementary schools.
Other charters have tried to create preschools for their employees, but those have failed because they had too few students to be economically viable, said Co-CEO Natalie Kaharick at a meeting of the charter network’s governing board last week. College Prep hopes to grow the Hoffman site to 230 students eventually, but only 159 next year — half of which would be from state-funded programs for low-income families, and the other half from tuition-paying families.
The primary audience for those tuition-paying students, school officials have said, is from the families of other educators at College Prep and other schools around the city. A handful of New Orleans charters have now signed up to incentivize their employees to send children to the College Prep Hoffman program, including KIPP, Collegiate Academies, Crescent City and Bricolage.
More of the young teachers in New Orleans are having children, and having childcare available to them in an environment that caters to educators’ unusual work schedules becomes a tangible benefit, Kaharick said.
“It’s something that really sets us apart as a network,” Kaharick says.
College Prep has already surveyed the educators at some of those schools, and had 90 people tell them they would send their children to Hoffman, Kaharick said, so they conservatively expect to enroll about 50 of them. That would only about 30 other tuition-based seats they need to recruit for, and they already have an email list of families with older siblings at College Prep and others who have expressed interest to draw from, said Development Director Vanessa Douyon.
College Prep has initially set tuition at $1,000 per month, roughly in the middle of the $600 to $1,400 per month at the city’s least and most expensive preschool programs. But, in a relatively unique move, they will adjust that tuition along a sliding scale to account for a family’s income.
“Not everybody can afford to pay the same thing,” Douyon says.
So, a household earning $40,000 annually will pay $550 per month, Douyon said. Families with $60,000 in annual income pay $650 per month; those with $80,000 pay $750 per month, and those who make $100,000 pay $850 per month.
Many families and education experts see racial diversity in a school as a benefit to students, and Douyon said striving for economic diversity has a tendency to lead to racial diversity.
“Racial diversity sort of follows socioeconomic diversity, so I think some of that will happen naturally,” Douyon said.
If they don’t make those tuition-based goals, however, they can also open those unfilled seats to more HeadStart families. The HeadStart program pays slightly more for each student than NOCP expects to receive from average tuition-paying families (based on the economic profile of the 110 families already expressing interest), officials noted, so such a change won’t hurt the budget.
College Prep finance officials expect the Hoffman project to operate with a $1.4 million funding gap over its first five years, primarily related to the costs of setting up new buildings. By its sixth year, however, they expect to begin breaking even.
To read our live coverage from last week’s meeting, see below.