elite education

The Boarding School Shakeout

Boarding school Nik Hunger Für Handelsblatt
Stucco and students at St. Blasien boarding school.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Many German boarding schools are struggling to fill their classrooms in what they hope is a blip rather than an ongoing trend.

  • Facts


    • Boarding schools in Germany cost between €6,000 and €36,000 per year.
    • Boarding student numbers are dwindling, and two to three institutions close down per year.
    • Attracting students from abroad is one of the most promising strategies for many boarding schools.
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An old monastery in the Black Forest with high stucco ceilings, creaking wooden floors, antique furnishings, and a tight-knit clique of elite youngsters. St. Blasien in southwestern Germany radiates much of the charm that boarding schools have in bestsellers like Harry Potter or The Twins at St. Clare’s: Living among like-minded teenagers, far away from it all, with ordinary day-to-day life curtained off by impressive, historic walls.

But one look at the students’ domiciles and romantic notions wither away. What St. Blasien offers for €2,000 per month in lodging costs is not exactly luxurious. The rooms are more reminiscent of frugal youth hostels than high-society living. The single-occupancy lodgings of the seniors sport a simple bed, desk, drawer chest and cupboard. Middle school students have to share: two bunk beds per room don’t promise much privacy.

And yet there’s more and more privacy recently – involuntarily, as Father Klaus Mertes, headmaster of St. Blasien, admits. There are more beds than boarding students, and that could turn into a real problem for the renowned institution. While the high school admits both boarders and day students, the boarding school is the main source of income for the institution.

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