“You recently made a presentation at my school that made me uncomfortable.  How can you say that children are not our customers when they benefit from the education that they receive in our school?”

It makes me feel like I’m doing my job when I make people uncomfortable…since if you’re complacent and satisfied, you’re not very likely to change what you’re doing or, at least, change the thought processes associated with actions.

If you’re uncomfortable, there are two things that can happen – you become either energized about what you’ve experienced, or you become angered by thoughts that are different than yours or incongruous with your current mindset.  I’m thinking you’re in the latter group, so I’ll explain.

Children in our schools are receiving the gift of a Catholic school education.  You don’t give someone a gift, and then ask them to pay for it.

According to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Catholic school is a “privileged environment.”  In other words, students have a “right” to a public school education, but not a right to be educated in a Catholic school.  This argument could be applied to any private, parochial, or other faith-based school (which is why the “voucher” argument could create as many problems as it might seem to solve).  Many Dioceses have Catholic school parents complete a Memorandum of Understanding stating that they realize what their obligations are as a parent of a Catholic school student.

I’ve met many adults who say they are “a product of a Catholic school education.”  I have not met anyone who has said “I’m a customer of a Catholic school education.”

If someone is paying tuition at a PK-12 school, the person who is paying the tuition is the customer, and therefore, should be treated as such, with outstanding customer service.

That philosophy, however, changes when we begin speaking about college.  Higher education today “bills” the student, and parents have to be “authorized” to see the charges their student compiles, as well as be authorized to pay those charges.  Note that it wasn’t always thought of that way.

Colleges and universities have seen great successes in Advancement and Development efforts in the past.  However, as today’s “customers” (the students) graduate and become part of the fabric of alumni that have traditionally supported their Alma Maters, will they be as compelled to give back?  After all, they were the customers, were saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of student loans, and now they’re being asked to support the institution with more of their dollars!  If the folks being asked for support are members of Gen-X and Y, they’re going to be less likely to support the institution if they haven’t kept in touch with it, or, more correctly, if the institution hasn’t been successful in engaging their alums.