By Jeff Mays
HARLEM—Academic and basketball powerhouse Rice High School will shut down for good at the end of the academic year ending a long battle with budget woes.
The 73-year-old Roman Catholic prep school for boys, where enrollment has dropped in half in the past eight years, could no longer cope with a perfect storm of declining tuition income and increasing costs.
“Economic realities have forced this painful, difficult and emotional decision. Rice High School has been operating at a cumulative budget deficit of millions of dollars for over a decade. The school hung on as long as it could to continue fulfilling its core mission of educating young men," the Board of Trustees said in a statement.
Despite its fiscal problems, Rice students continued to excel in the classroom and on the basketball court.
Every student in last year's class won admission to college. The school has produced hoops stars such as the University of Connecticut's Kemba Walker who led his team to an NCAA national title this year.
Rice, located on Lenox Avenue at West 124th Street, was established by the congregation of Christian Brothers in 1938.
Enrolment has dropped 44 percent since 2003. Even though the school has a capacity of 400, only 200 boys are enrolled this year.
Declining donations to the school and the loss of revenue from tuition combined with the costs of operating and maintaining an aging building pushed the school's annual budget deficit into the millions for more than a decade, officials said.
"Without the necessary student enrollment, tuition revenue and annual donations – coupled with staggering operational costs and crippling repair expenses associated with an aging building – Rice High School no longer has the financial ability to continue operations," the board said.
The school examined options to stay open, including identifying additional revenue sources and leasing a smaller, less expensive building from the Archdiocese of New York in East Harlem.
Meetings are being held with Rice parents today to assist their children in enrolling in other schools.
Many Catholic schools are struggling financially. In January, the Archidocese announced it was shuttering 27 schools, including three in Manhattan that required subsidies to the tune of $10 million per year.