Finance at SAS 909: The 2020–21 Budget

With the 2020–21 budget adopted by the school board on Monday, this week we explain our priorities in managing the funds entrusted to us by our students' families. To see the budget and read more about its background and specifics, please click here, or read our Budget FAQs.

Our goal when deciding how to allocate the school's money is straightforward: to achieve our mission, an exemplary American educational experience with an international perspective, without letting our expenses exceed our revenue. This means that, on the one hand, our educational programs must deliver the skills, knowledge, and character development necessary for students to thrive in the twenty-first century, while on the other hand, we must ensure the financial health of the school and keep our fees competitive with those of other premium international schools.

Revenues and expenses

Like any budget, the SAS budget can be divided into revenues and expenses. Our revenues come primarily from student fees: the tuition, facility, and re-enrollment or application fees, and, for new students, the registration fee. Other income includes summer semester fees, EAA fees, earnings on invested working capital, and donations. For the fourth consecutive year, we are able to budget $1 million from earnings on our reserves to help cover 2020–21 operating expenses.

2020–21 Budget: Revenues

Turning to expenses, faculty and staff salaries and benefits (S&B) always make up the largest category. To provide an excellent education, we must hire outstanding teachers, and this requires competitive S&B packages. We benchmark our compensation packages against those of similar schools in the region and worldwide. In the 2020–21 budget, the cost of salaries and benefits for all employees at SAS represents 68.8% of all expenses. Read more about our teachers here.

Besides excellent teachers, SAS offers students high-quality programs, facilities, and resources, and we plan carefully to meet the school's evolving needs in these areas. The second largest single expense category is campus operations, which includes facilities costs (buildings and grounds) and day-to-day operating costs. Our multi-year asset management plan helps us manage these expenses by controlling maintenance and construction costs, setting renewal cycles, and avoiding major fluctuations in project workload or financing.

This budget does not include a major campus upgrade, as this matter is not being addressed by the Board until March; should the campus upgrade plan be approved by the Board, requiring further financial investment in 2020-21, a revised budget will be put forward for board approval.

Other expenses include classroom and technology resources; administration, communications, and admissions needs; and innovation costs. Requests for classroom materials and other program needs are carefully reviewed and prioritized by divisional administrators. Major costs such as large-scale program upgrades or school-wide purchases are thoroughly examined by the leadership team as we seek to balance short-term needs with long-term goals.

2020–21 Budget: Expenses

Understanding the fee increase

The 2020–21 budget includes an overall fee increase of 3.5% for returning students, which matches last year's increase. Parents sometimes ask why fees must rise by more than Singapore's inflation rate. First, we note that our fee increases are in line with inflation in the education sector in Singapore, which is higher than in other sectors of the economy. Of more relevance are the S&B packages offered by comparable international schools worldwide and the facilities costs of maintaining and improving our aging campus. In Singapore's competitive international-school setting, we must hire excellent teachers and offer excellent facilities to maintain our position as one of the most desirable schools for families. By doing so, we will continue to operate at full enrollment, attract strong new students, and keep fee increases moderate and predictable.

We recognize that our fees must remain competitive with those of other international schools. Each year, we determine our average cost of attendance and benchmark this against comparable schools' fees, as seen below. Bear in mind that most of Singapore's international schools bill parents separately for each field trip and overnight trip in all grades, while SAS includes such charges in the tuition fee, except for Interim Semester costs.

Singapore international school fees (SGD, GST included), 2019–20

The following chart shows the rate of increase in our tuition and fees over the last decade, as compared to other premium schools' rates of increase. We have worked deliberately to keep our increases to less than 4% per year in this time.

Singapore international school fees' rates of increase since 2011–12

We also want our fees to be competitive with respected international schools outside of Singapore, so we benchmark them against those of comparable schools in Asia and worldwide. In the comparisons below, we exclude GST and similar taxes.

Asian international school fees (SGD), 2019–20

Worldwide international school fees (SGD), 2019–20

We hope that this article helps readers understand the school's priorities in determining the 2020–21 budget. Questions or comments about the new budget or ideas for future finance articles are very welcome at We look forward to hearing from you.