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Director's Dispatch: Putting Your Tuition Dollars to Work

The International School of Dakar is a non-profit, private, independent school governed by nine ISD parents. Ninety-eight percent of the school funds come from fees paid by our parents. Being a non-profit school means that all the funds received by the school are invested in the school program plus having adequate reserve funds to deal with unexpected events that could affect school enrollment. The largest cost of a school is the professional staff.

The quality of a school is dependent upon the quality of the teachers. To have a great school you need to have a veteran teaching faculty with experience in the programs offered by the school. To keep costs low, the school attempts to recruit qualified teachers in Dakar, but the supply of veteran English-speaking teachers with international curriculum experience is low, as a result, the school has to recruit a significant amount of our teachers from abroad. Eighty-five percent of the teachers next year will be overseas hires with the additional costs normally associated with sponsored teachers including housing. Experienced teachers have opportunities to work all around the world and competition is tough for the most talented. Our salary is very competitive within Africa and higher than many South American schools, but is lower than teachers can make in most of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. ISD is an outstanding school due to our high-quality teachers - 80% have graduate degrees and over 70% have more than ten years of teaching experience.

Another factor in the cost of ISD is the low staff-to-student ratio. Our school offers a robust program of co-curricular classes including art, drama, music, and physical education that some schools do not. We also provide a range of support services including mental health counseling, students with learning differences, and students who are learning English as another language. In addition, all of our elementary classrooms have teaching assistants to provide additional instruction and care for our younger students.

Operating Budget

The school develops two different budgets to fund the school. The Operating Budget covers the following expenses.

  • Salaries and Benefits: teacher, administrator, and staff salaries and benefits

  • Educational Programs and Materials: educational materials, after school activities, sports, school trips like Week Without Walls

  • Administrative: Campus maintenance and repair, electricity, insurance, and recruiting new teachers

The chart below shows what percentage of the budget is spent for each area.

The tuition for grades Kindergarten to Grade 12 will increase 2.9% for next year. The increase is needed to maintain a competitive compensation package for our teachers, additional staff to support students, and increased costs due to Covid, which we will continue to incur next year. The Board did not increase tuition this year and was able to absorb the increases in staffing needed from Covid and inflation due to the elimination of student athletics and field trips. As we expect these activities to return next year, we will need to add revenue to support our health and safety guidelines.

The Board increased the tuition for Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 by $1,400. This increase was needed as the revenue collected from tuition was not covering the expenses for running the program. The Board has set an expectation that all divisions cover the cost of the educational program.

Capital Budget

The Capital Budget provides funding for ongoing Capital projects and items as well as long-term construction projects. The Capital Budget is funded in two ways. Students in their first year at ISD pay a Capital Fee of $6,500. The Board increased this fee by $1,000 this year to bring it closer in line with other international schools. Even with this increase, our New Student Capital Fee is well below the average for international schools in Africa, which is $8,800.

The Board of Trustees did not charge the Returning Student Capital Fee of $1,000 this year due to Covid. As a result, the school had to pause a number of projects. The returning student fee funds capital projects that benefit all students. Next year, this fee will fund laptop computers, new textbooks, campus repairs, musical instruments, and painting of the school buildings. The New Student Capital Fee is designated to support new construction including the Performing Arts Center and Athletic Complex.

The chart below shows what percentage of the budget is spent for each area.

The Board decided to pay for the PAC and the new gym with a combination of cash from the Capital Reserve and Capital Fees as well as loans. The loan will allow future ISD families to contribute to the cost of the facilities. Also, by borrowing a portion of the construction cost, we were able to construct both buildings over a three-year period without having to raise the Returning Student Capital Fee. The loan will be repaid out of the annual Capital Budget over the next three years.

The Board and Administration realize that many of our parents pay all or part of the school fees themselves. Our goal is to provide the best educational experience at the lowest fees possible. The Administration works hard to be as efficient as possible to maintain costs and use internal controls to make sure the funds are used as they are intended. The tuition of ISD is higher than the other schools in Dakar due to the cost of having a significant number of overseas-hire teachers combined with the low staff-to-student ratio needed to provide a range of courses and services to our students. Based on the recent parent surveys, an overwhelming majority of our parents find the quality of our program is worth the cost.

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