In faith-based and private schools today, it seems that there are three primary “excuses” for school shrinkage, merger and closures:  shifting demographics, rising costs, and difficult economic times.  If too much time is spent analyzing birth rates and blaming demographics, the assumption is made there is nothing that can be done about the situations school administrators find themselves in.

I’ll then ask a school if they have an admissions director and/or a development director, and many times, the answer is, “Oh no.  We can’t afford those positions.  We have trouble just paying the teachers we have.”

And there’s the real problem. Enrollment and Development are both positions that are “centered” outside of the walls of the school.  That is, enrollment directors are dealing with parents that are not yet officially part of the school community, and development directors are dealing with alumni, businesses and community members.  School administrators and teachers primarily deal with people “inside” the school community, and those who are “outside” are seen as very difficult to reach, since principals and teachers spend most of their days traditionally within the confines of the school’s walls.  While this past school year, and perhaps the school year on the horizon, will have significantly different educational realities due to the coronavirus pandemic, principals are former teachers, and teachers are very comfortable with the educational process.  The good news is that the same principles that apply to the business practice of marketing are the same that apply to creating a lesson plan, so education professionals can apply their skills to create successful marketing strategies.

The bad news is that enrollment and development personnel are somewhat more difficult to supervise since, if they’re doing their jobs, most of their time will be spent outside the walls of the school.  It’s not so much that their results can’t be measured, it’s that other individuals associated with the school may not be cognizant of the importance their roles, and have a tendency to ask, “What do they do all day?”

Both development and admissions professionals need to have familiarity with the processes of deepening relationships, riquiring them to spend time with families, donors, businesses, community members and alumni.  Both of these positions also require a familiarity with “funnels,” as funnels track the relationship stages in each process.  When prospective families get to the end of the funnel, they are “asked” to apply to enroll their children in the school.  Similarly, when prospective donors get to the end of the funnel, they are “asked” to make a contribution to the school, sizable enough to have a most significant impact on the greatest number of students possible.

The other occupation that deals with funnels is that of the sales professional.  They track potential customers from lead (or inquiry) to prospect, and through the presentation and demonstration processes to the financial consultation, verbal commitment, and signed contract stages.  Therefore, while education = marketing, enrollment = sales.

But while funnels are still utilized, some organizations call them “pipelines,” while others, like Brendan Schneider of SchneiderB.com, likes to use “The Enrollment Rings.” Personally, I like this approach. While one can think of it as looking inside the funnel to see the different sections of the funnel, it can also be seen as a target, where traditional “suspects” or “prospects” could enter the mechanism at any point. Besides, funnels are also vortexes (or vortices), which are also physical structures present in our schools. There are upward and downward ones, both driven by your school’s enrollment successes, or lack thereof.

If you want to increase enrollment in your school, know that it’s a long-term strategy for continued success, since a quick and significant influx of students can also be as harmful to the school’s well-being as a drought of students.  “Increasing consistency,” could be a way to describe the desired result to allow for a school’s sustainability.

Because enrollment/admission directors primarily focus their efforts on the entry grade level of the school, consider increasing the enrollment in your higher grades by allowing new students to the school to enroll at no cost up to the class limit size after your school’s enrollment deadline has passed.  It’s the “sales” strategy equivalent of a “free sample” to a consumer who’s now thinking about trying a new product or service.

But there is a warning.  If your school is still operating on a “subsidized” or “investment” tuition model, this strategy may not work well.  However, it works wonderfully with a cost-based tuition/need-based aid strategy, since the cost of education decreases as the amount of students in the school increases.

For more details on how you may consider converting your school to a cost-based tuition/need-based aid structure, send an email to staffadvancement@gmail.com, with CBT-NBA in the subject line.