Donald Trump’s former prep school is desperately trying to attract Chinese students at $52,000 a year

Back to school for Trump.
Back to school for Trump.
Image: REUTERS/Mike Segar
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s alma mater, New York Military Academy (NYMA), which was sold to Chinese buyers last year, started this school year with a large deficit, dilapidated school facilities, and a new Chinese principal. It’s looking to foreign students, particularly from China, to help revive its fortunes.

The financially troubled prep school, located in Cornwall in New York state’s Hudson Valley, had asked Trump for a donation of $7 million dollars to keep it afloat before the sale, but he turned them down. Trump said to CNN in 2004 and 2015 that attending NYMA was one of the greatest choices he ever made.

The school, which had debts of up to $12 million, eventually filed for bankruptcy in March 2015, and was sold for $15.8 million in Sept. 2015 to a non-profit group called The Research Center on Natural Conservation. The NGO is backed by Vincent Mo, a Chinese businessman who also chairs SouFun, a New York-listed, China-based real estate company. Mo himself personally donated $1 million to upgrade the school’s facilities, whose dormitories were in need of a massive renovation, said Jie Zhang, was appointed as head of NYMA in June. Jie was formerly the principal of New York City’s Stuyvesant High School.

“I think Trump has no interest in operating a school as a real estate developer, so as a business person,” and didn’t see the value of making an investment, Zhang told Quartz in a telephone interview this month. The 56-year-old principal and superintendent said the school is not advertising that the real estate mogul once studied at NYMA, nor does she believe that it would affect parents’ decisions. “After all, Trump was a student here 40 years ago.”

Zhang, who presided over 3,000 students at Stuyvesant, now runs a school with just 31 students, or cadets as they are known. She is expecting to run at a deficit of two to three million dollars in the next two years. NYMA’s enrollment fell from more than 500 in the 1960s to less than 100 in 2014, according to Reuters.

Part of Zhang’s financial plan involves recruiting more international students, who pay $52,000 in tuition and fees—including a $3,724 “English as a Second Language Fee”—compared to $44,700 for domestic boarding students. There is also a $200 haircut charge for male cadets, a $310 Commencement Fee and a $200 Parent Auxiliary Fee. Textbooks are not included in the fees.

Zhang said that seven of the school’s students now are Chinese and two came from China after their families’ visit to the school in August. The school also now offers Mandarin classes, which Zhang said are in high demand. The Mandarin teacher also teaches mathematics and does administrative work.

Zhang hopes to recruit 200 to 300 students in the next five years, but she added,  ”I don’t think that within my time the school will be profitable.”