Even though some communities of our country are experiencing a tremendous cold wave, this has been a time of celebration!  Friday the 14th was Valentine’s Day; Today is Presidents’ Day, Next week is Mardi Gras, and on the 26th, the season of Lent will once again be upon us.

After all that celebrating, Lent is an excellent time to examine who we are and what we’re doing.  The Church invites us to change our hearts, and you know that marketing and development are all about change!

It’s interesting.  The word “repent” comes from the Latin root which means “to think” (like the word “pensive”)…not to apologize and be sorry for…although that comes only after rethinking. Therefore, this is a time to re-think, or think differently, about what we’re doing, who we are, and what needs to be done.  And when it comes to our schools, that’s some great advice.  Not only think differently, but do things differently, since doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Perhaps this would be a good time to “talk” a little differently too…and here’s why:

I keep hearing phrases from parents, pastors, principals and professionals in the business world that send the wrong message. Phrases like “lowering tuition,” “reducing tuition,” and, yes, our beloved “providing assistance” all connote the feeling that the cost of faith-based and private schooling is too high, and we need to apologize for those rising costs.

If you’re looking for something to “give up,” this Lent, may I encourage you to no longer use phrases such as this.

This Lent, let’s examine our lexicon and expand our vocabulary to include phrases like “manage” tuition rather than lower it; offer “financial aid” rather than tuition assistance; and offer “options” to parents in order to make our schools “affordable” for their budgets.

Here’s a little more re-thinking, too.  Consider eliminating the word “discount.”   In our current economic climate, the only companies offering substantial discounts are the ones with surplus inventory (and we certainly don’t have that), those that sell somewhat flawed merchandise (and we certainly don’t do that), or those that are going out of business (and we certainly don’t want to do that).

By the way, if you’re still speaking in 4 or 5 digit numbers regarding your tuition, that’s difficult to comprehend, and the first though to today’s young parents is “I can’t afford that.”  To that end, if your school’s Web site has a tuition schedule posted there, take. it. down. now – unless you want to keep turning young parents away.  Want know why?  Send an email to schooladvancement@gmail.com with the words “Tuition on Our Website” in the subject line.

Instead, talk differently.  Find out what these young parents pay for child care.  I’ve heard $5 to $7 per hour.  If that sounds right to you, check it out.  Do your research.  Then, do the math.  Here in Pennsylvania, everyone knows that there are 180 days in the official school year.  But that also equates to 990 hours.  So, let’s say that couple that just walked into your office is paying $6 an hour for child care.  990 x $6 = $5,940.  If you lead an elementary school, that may be right around what your cost of education is, before trying to set tuition, and then offering financial aid on top of that.

Can you still offer a reduced tuition?  ABSOLUTELY!  It’s not a “discount;” it’s an “incentive.”  Here’s an example: “If you’re thinking about paying the full amount of tuition before the school year starts, we can offer you a 2% incentive to do so.”  Same effect, yet different, and more positive, language.

As our mothers would say, “Watch your language!”  And while you’re doing some re-thinking this Lent, it might even be a great time to “Think Fast.”

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20050216)