Palmer Ball, assistant to the head for finance at St. Joseph’s Catholic School and executive director of the Palmetto Association of Independent Schools, shared vital financial planning tools all schools should have during the 2021 SAIS Annual Conference in October.

Palmer recommends the use of NAIS’ DASL (Data Analysis for School Leadership) and NBOA’s BIIS (Business Intelligence for Independent Schools) to collect data on five to ten year trends for the school and comparative data with local, regional, and aspirational benchmark schools. Getting the most from these tools requires membership in the respective organizations, but Palmer also provides dashboards, models, and templates that any school can use if they are willing to put in the time to collect and maintain the data.

Palmer suggests that it is not enough to simply collect the data, but it should be regularly reviewed for trends to understand what the numbers are saying. Discussion points could include:

  • How has tuition changed over the last five years considering inflation and compared with benchmark schools?
  • How do faculty salaries compare with public and benchmark schools?
  • Is employee headcount appropriate?
  • How has the cost per division changed over the past five years?

After data collection and discussion, school leaders will need to identify contributing factors, draw conclusions from the data, and develop strategic plans.

Palmer provides several sample templates to help schools collect important data and answer these questions.

By creating a “toolbox” of organized and useable information, schools can make data informed decisions and strategic plans.