Build and Sustain Through Change

Heather Hoerle


on February 14, 2018

Build and Sustain Through Change

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” ― Heraclitus

Change is inevitable. It can create growth and inspire innovation. Much like colleges and universities over the past few decades, independent schools are experiencing significant changes in the enrollment landscape. For the foreseeable future, sustainable enrollment remains the number one issue facing independent schools. To survive and thrive, we must evolve from the old view of admission to an enhanced long-term strategy for enrollment management.

Whether you see this change as exciting, unsettling, or both, The Enrollment Management Association is here to help you successfully navigate it. Our special report, What Every Head Needs to Know about Enrollment Management, is a must read that provides you with both a high-level overview of enrollment management and some specific examples of its practice in schools. It offers advice and insight to all school leaders, so distribute it far beyond the head's office to trustees and senior administrators. Creating a shared understanding will boost your efforts throughout the school community.

As I’ve discussed in earlier blogs, leaders must continually challenge the status quo to ensure their organizations are making progress. Leaders must be future-focused; rely on this mindset as your leadership team crafts a new strategy that starts in the admission office and moves beyond to include all areas of your school. Remember, enrollment management is a systemic practice that includes all of the functions necessary to attract — and retain — students. You’re building an ongoing, sustainable community, rather than simply reaching this year’s target.

Today, strategic enrollment management hinges on your school’s ability to integrate through data, construct predictive models for enrollment, and create varied pathways to enrollment success. As you can imagine, it involves more than just the admission staff. It takes a team to tackle the myriad forces impacting your admission funnel (including the economy, demographics, shifting education options, technology, consumer behavior, assessment, and fit, among others). Obviously, some of these factors are beyond your control, but you can prepare a solid plan and vision to address them.

Use our report to examine how the traditional admission funnel has changed in recent years — and find out how to leverage these shifts to your school’s advantage. As we all know, admission and financial aid strategy are the most powerful levers available to schools for enrollment management and planning.

Keep in mind that independent schools already engage in all the elements of strategic enrollment management. These include market research and strategy; educational program and school brand; recruitment and selection of new students; tuition and financial aid strategy; school culture and community; retention of current students; and student educational outcomes. To achieve success, we simply need to take a more centralized view of these essential elements.

Put simply, we must make the admission and enrollment process as easy as possible for both new and traditional families. Yes, the customer has changed. Yes, shifting demographics across the country necessitate we adjust our approach. So let’s use strategic enrollment management as the lens that allows us to see the big picture for our schools. As the elements change each year, we can simply adjust the focus.

We hope that this report provokes dialogue and new thinking about the changing conditions of and expectations for enrollment management. Please use the comments field below to share your ideas and experience with our community!