Research shows that companies offering consumers free samples of their product have a very high chance of attracting new customers. Some of you may have even known that, either from reading the research, or from your own personal experience.
So how does that affect faith-based schools? This may be the most overlooked way of increasing your enrollment. To use the words of the Paul McCartney song, “Let ‘Em In.”
This article is being posted in February, and timing is essential. Catholic Schools Week is history, and budgets are being formulated for the coming school year. Perhaps you’ve toured many families through your school, but here comes a parent who really wants to enroll their child in your school NOW! Here’s your chance to give them a “Free Sample.” In other words, let the child enroll. If the parent wants to pay ANYTHING, accept it. As long as there is an empty desk in the classroom for the child, it’s costing you nothing to add one more student.
Combine this with the power of word of mouth, and you may find your enrollment increasing by several students during the late winter and early spring. Just be sure that these parents understand that they will be a part of the financial aid process for the coming school year (you can even have parents apply for financial aid at this time for the upcoming school year, especially if funds are a concern to the parent). Then, be sure the student has such an excellent learning experience, the parents will see the value of their decision.
Remember that increasing enrollment is just one of the five elements of advancement, but is even more important than fund development work. A school can have all the spiritual, parent, and even financial support it can handle – but if there are no children in the school, it will close. The decision to merge or close a school begins with an examination of the enrollment, the enrollment potential and the enrollment pattern.
The way to keep a school’s tuition from spiraling out of control is to increase enrollment, even more importantly than increasing development efforts. If your school charges tuition, it’s actually the 4th of the 5 elements of the pyramid (You’ll see that graphic emerging in a few months, as the DREAM Framework shifts to ARMED). Here’s why: Just five more students in a school where the average tuition paid per student is $2,000 results in a $10,000 increase in revenue. It takes quite a bit of effort and a lot of people working together to conduct an event that raises that much, and a long history of successful events to bring in more than that in operating expenses. Just one new child in every grade in a K-8 school will generate $18,000 with quite possibly no increase in costs.
In schools with a cost-based tuition/needs-based aid structure, an increase in enrollment is even a way for tuition to DECREASE over time.
The Gospel tells us, “Knock, and the door shall be opened to you.” Hearing the word is Marketing. This is the time to open the door. THAT’s Enrollment. Interestingly, the same Gospel passage says “Ask, and it shall be given to you” – THAT‘s Development.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2017 (Original Publication Date: 20070212)