If your school doesn’t have one, it’s no wonder your school may be losing enrollment. When there’s someone responsible for managing a particular function, there’s a much better chance for improvement than if it’s simply an “other duty as assigned.” As Jim Collins wrote in his landmark text, “Good to Great,” “People play differently when they’re keeping score.”
A number of years ago, the high schools of a Diocese were directed to hire an enrollment director. Schools wondered where the money to fund the positions would come from, especially since the budgets were already set for the coming year. Since it was a directive, however, compliance was necessary. The result? A news headline in the local newspaper proclaimed aggregate enrollment in the high schools increased significantly! Interestingly, there was a sidebar article with a much smaller headline announcing the elementary school statistics, where the news wasn’t so positive. Those elementary schools didn’t have enrollment directors because their boards and pastors either didn’t think one was necessary or because they didn’t want to fund the essential position.
Over the last two months, these articles about enrollment discussed the necessity of a tool to track progress, and a follow-up process that must be in place to engage families new to the school. This month, the Enrollment Director is the focus of the three remaining necessities:
- A way to determine realistic enrollment goals;
- An enrollment committee; and
- Someone to coordinate enrollment responsibilities.
A Way to Determine Realistic Enrollment Goals
Too often, schools “hope” to increase enrollment, or, they set a goal of 200 new students over the next 10 years. That’s 20 students per year. Based on a school’s current and recent past enrollment statistics, is that really realistic? I mean, really, realistic? Really?
The thing about trend analysis is that it relies on data from past years. If enrollment has been declining, the data will predict further declines. You need something to plan for stabilizing the erosion, and then plan for growth. Hope is important, but it’s not a strategy.
If you’d like to test a tool designed to show your projected enrollment over the next 5 years, send an email to [email protected] with the words 5 Year Enrollment Projector in the subject line, along with your school’s name, location, and grade levels in the body of the email.
Why is this step included under “Your School’s Enrollment Director?” Because just as a school’s Development Director is responsible for determining development goals and achieving them, and a school’s principal is responsible for determining educational goals and achieving them, someone needs to be responsible for determining enrollment goals and achieving them.
There is currently a free tool available in BASIQS as a part of this Web site to help set your enrollment goal for next year, but for a strategic planning process, a five-year outlook is necessary. As a warning, the results you see from the tool may be sobering, and could provide support for bringing on an enrollment director for your school. They could also be confusing as well, especially if you’ve seen some modest increases over the past few years…especially with some schools experiencing significant enrollment growth due to the pandemic. If you’re on a path toward growth, you need to realize that growth will get to a point where it needs to be sustainable. Otherwise, if your current enrollment increases exponentially, you’ll have some other issues you need to deal with, from adding an additional kindergarten classroom (and a teacher’s salary and benefits) to adding a new wing to your facility.
An Enrollment Committee
What does an enrollment committee do, and why do you need one if you have an Enrollment Director? Let me answer that question with a question: Why does your school have a finance council if you have a business manager? Why do you have a development committee if you have a development director? It also needs to be understood that these committees are advisory, not governing. They assist, provide input and insight, and members give of their time, talent and treasure. Committee meetings are not the place for the enrollment director to be provided assignments, but rather, they’re the extension of the enrollment director.
For instance, if your Catholic school is supported by several parishes, then there could be one member from each parish that is the enrollment liaison with the parish’s religious education director. The enrollment director could set up information nights or “after Mass” tables at a parish with assistance from the liaison, and the liaison could be instrumental in obtaining the names of families that had children baptized at those parishes.
The worst thing you could have is a member of an enrollment committee telling the enrollment director what they think the director should do, and then expect them to do it. Indeed, ideas are important, but the role of the committee member is to help with the work that needs to be done. It’s in this respect that an “advisory” role of the board is incorrectly named. It’s a working board, not one that provides “oversight.”
If your school is parochial in nature, and the committee members are all from the same parish since most of the students are, these could be the folks that are the key evangelists for your school, taking on the role of “prayer partners” or “mentor families” for those families that have expressed an interest in enrolling their children in your school.
Someone to Coordinate Enrollment Responsibilities
This is, of course, your school’s enrollment director. But what type of qualities do they need? If marketing is education, then enrollment is sales. I know several enrollment directors at elementary schools, and if I was in a position to hire a salesperson, these would be the first people I would approach, since their abilities are congruent with those of a successful sales professional:
- Excellent product knowledge
- Able to overcome objections
- Competitive awareness
- Have supreme confidence, to the point of being passionate about the company they work for.
Take a close look at those qualities, and you’ll notice the first letters of each line spell a familiar word. While your teachers do that inside the school building to the students enrolled there, the Enrollment Director does that to the parents interested in enrolling their children in your school and becoming an engaged and enthusiastic addition to your school’s community.