School Finance 601: Finance@SAS and the Nonprofit Tradition

School Finance 601: Finance@SAS and the Nonprofit Tradition

Welcome back from summer break, and to our new families, welcome to SAS! Finance@SAS is the school's finance column, written with the goal of enhancing our community's understanding of the financial, operations, and investment decisions made by the school administration. Every two or three weeks, SAS's Friday eNews will include a Finance@SAS article. These cover a broad range of topics, such as the annual budget, arrangements with contractors, and student and staff demographics. Some, such as last year's "Mythbusters" articles, respond directly to parents' questions and comments. The series is entering its sixth year, and so far has produced over eighty articles, all of which can be accessed at Finance at SAS on the school website.

As one of Singapore's few non-profit, community-based international schools, we feel it is incumbent upon us to be transparent about how we manage the resources entrusted to us. Sixty-one years ago, Singapore's American community and others seeking a US-style education raised the first $100,000 needed to create a brand-new school. At that time, almost all international schools were non-profits. Through six decades and several moves, the school has remained true to its origins. A registered charitable organization governed by an elected, non-remunerated school board, SAS dedicates all proceeds to its educational mission. Other non-profit schools in Singapore include the Tanglin Trust School, United World College SEA, and the German European School Singapore. Our IASAS partners—International School Bangkok, Jakarta Intercultural School, International School Kuala Lumpur, International School Manila, and Taipei American School—are also non-profits founded around the same time as SAS.

In the last two decades, the model has changed for international schools, and today most are for-profit schools. This is due partly to the steep start-up costs faced by new schools, and partly to changing philosophies about the relationship between education and business. For-profit schools seek to educate while also making profits for owners and investors. Today, many for-profit schools are run by large companies like Cognita Schools, Nord Anglia, or GEMS Education. In Singapore, for-profit schools include Stamford American International School, Australian International School, Canadian International School, GEMS World Academy, Overseas Family School, Dulwich College Singapore and ISS International School. Typically, for-profit schools do not make public their financial decisions and arrangements, because they prefer not to specify how they make their profits, which can amount to as much as twenty percent of revenues.

At SAS, we feel that our mission of providing an exemplary American educational experience with an international perspective fits our non-profit ethos. We select a diverse group of students, believing that all children have great potential, and that SAS will help them realize this potential. SAS's non-profit status fits with its many volunteer efforts, including student service projects, Parent-Teacher Association and Booster Club initiatives, donor generosity, and the ceaseless efforts of our teachers and staff to make the school truly excellent. We seek to run SAS in a cost-effective and transparent manner, creating a financially healthy school that will last long after we are gone. We are delighted that you are part of the SAS community, and honored that you have selected us to educate your children.

We hope that this introduction to the Finance@SAS series gives you more insight into the history and philosophy of SAS. We are always eager to hear any questions or comments you might have regarding the school's finances. Some of our most interesting Finance@SAS articles began as parent queries, so please send any ideas, comments, or questions to William Scarborough, Chief Financial Officer, at We look forward to hearing from you.