What Makes Webb Go Round: Understanding Webb’s Tuition and Budget


Terrance Wu

A slab of engraved granite proudly displays the names of the many contributors who have donated to The Webb Schools in the past decades. With an endowment of $50 million as of 2023 and the recent recipient of a $100 million “historic estate gift,” donations have shaped the school into what it is today. “As a non-profit organization, we often have to rely on the generosity of others,” said Janet Peddy, Chief Financial Officer.

One In-N-Out Double-Double burger every day for over two hundred and twenty-three years. Over seventy-five times the average monthly expenditure of a person living in California according to the BEA (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). More than two hundred and seventy-five iPhone 14s with 128 GB of storage. Almost six hundred and six days at the local Hilton Doubletree Hotel in Claremont. Out of all these options, some two hundred families instead chose to send their kids to attend The Webb Schools of California’s boarding program.  

With a tuition fee of $73,320 and $52,145 per year for Webb’s boarding and day students respectively, going to Webb is a serious financial investment even for the wealthiest of families. But where does this money actually go, how does it compare to other schools, and just what does this mean for the Webb community? 

The tuition fees of over 400 students compose of 78% of Webb’s total revenue, a very high proportion. In comparison, nearby private boarding schools such as Thacher and Cate have tuition levels similar to Webb’s, with an annual cost of around $70,000 for boarding students and $55,000 for day students. However, whereas Cate and Thacher received $11 million and $21 million in donations respectively in the 2020 fiscal year, Webb only received 5 million dollars in contributions, making up 16% of 2020’s revenue. As a result, Webb has a smaller total revenue even with a bigger student population. 

“Webb is a scrappy school,” said Janet Peddy, Chief Financial Officer. “We do many things that these bigger schools with more endowment do by working with what we have.”  

But where does the $23.7 million in revenue go? For starters, a significant proportion goes to fund students who otherwise would have difficulty affording Webb. Currently, a policy of reserving 23 cents for financial aid per every dollar of tuition paid provided $5.9 million back to the students of Webb in 2022.  

With 61% of Webb’s budget listed as compensation, a large amount is spent on the salaries of the many faculty and staff that are necessary to keep the school running. In addition to an annual median salary of $74,000 according to Ms. Peddy, Webb also offers a variety of valuable amenities such as free on-campus housing for many teachers. 

15% of the spending is then used for student programs, including everything from academics and athletics to residential life. For students, this slice of the budget is often most noticeable in the form of extracurricular programs and campus life. From advisory dinners to the biannual Unbounded Days, all these activities use portions of the three-and-a-half million-dollar budget.  

Finally, an additional 15% of the money goes into what is known as physical plant. This money is necessary to keep the facilities within the school operational and is spent on sources like groundskeeping, maintenance, and repair. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a major portion of these expenses over the last few years, with the vast number of masks and covid tests totaling a significantly higher running cost.  

Depreciation also accounts for a significant portion of the money listed as physical plant. Although an asset like a building or a van may not necessarily require repair or maintenance every year, they lose monetary value as they age. For example, if the Chandler field classrooms were built at a cost of one hundred thousand dollars and intended to be used for fifty years, depreciation means they theoretically lose two thousand dollars in value annually even though in reality they may need a varied amount of money to maintain.  

One additional expense certainly appears often in student discussions regarding Webb’s spending: executive compensation. According to the official 990 tax filings of Webb in 2020, Taylor Stockdale, Head of Schools, received a total of $746,555 in compensation. This, of course, stands out as a high number, in comparison to the median salary of a Head of Schools being just under $250,000 per year in Californian private schools.  

Once again using Thacher and Cate as a comparison, Cate’s Headmaster Benjamin D Williams received a compensation of $443,000 in 2020, having served as Head of Schools since 1997. Thacher’s Blossom Beatty Pidduck received $332,012 as of 2020 but had only served as Head of School since 2019. Of course, there are many complex reasons behind one’s compensation, but one primary explanation is the retirement plan of Mr. Stockdale. 

“Highly compensated executives often have a different kind of retirement plan, which tends to build over time and is paid out towards the end of someone’s tenure,” Ms. Peddy said. “What is displayed on the 990 is not always going to be reflective of someone’s base salary.” 

A peek into the past 990 forms supports this, with Mr. Stockdale’s salary sitting at $364,649 in 2017, after serving as Head of Schools for 7 years, mainly increasing in the more recent years.  

Ultimately, this article seeks to provide a brief overview of how money flows behind the many pipes in Webb’s machinery to keep it running. If one wishes to delve further into the financial spending and breakdowns of The Webb Schools, its tax filings of previous years are all publicly available on websites like ProPublica. Speaking with school administrators like Ms. Peddy will also better provide adequate, in-depth answers to any other questions.