Retention: Responsibility of All

Dependency on tuition revenue guarantees that enrollment will always be an important concern for independent schools.  Obviously, the admissions process is very important for recruiting and admitting qualified students.  However, the admissions process is only one part of the enrollment equation.  The admissions part of the enrollment equation is often the most difficult and costly of the equation yet in most schools not enough attention is given to the second part of the equation, retention.

Retaining current students yields the same tuition revenue yet is usually much less expensive than recruiting a new student.  Additionally, the school community already knows the students you retain.  The cost of recruiting and admitting a new student can be substantial.  This cost can be determined by dividing the total cost of the admissions process by the number of new students.  For example, if a school admits one-hundred new students and the total costs of operating the admissions/recruitment process is $500,000, the cost of recruiting a new student is $5,000.  On the other hand, the cost of retaining current students is most often considerably less or at no-cost.

Recruitment and admissions are very important at the entry level of an independent school.  For a Pre-k – 12th school, it will be necessary to focus on admissions at the pre-k level.  Additionally, for pre-k – 12 schools that intentionally have other entry points such as sixth grade, there will necessarily be admissions/recruitment costs associated with this.  However, all schools should pay special attention to stopping the attrition of students who are in good standing and leave prior to completing the final grade offered.   For many schools, it is here where the most significant impact can be made on the school’s overall enrollment.

Some SAIS schools enjoy such demand that the admissions office largely manages the demand.  However, for most independent schools a comprehensive management of the enrollment is important for financial sustainability.  For these schools it is essential to communicate the imperative of retaining students who are appropriate for the school.  Within this imperative is a truth that is often lost or overlooked, the truth that retention is everyone’s responsibility.  Although an appointed staff member should be responsible for managing a retention effort, it is important to remind the entire staff that retention occurs based on the efforts of all.

Retaining one additional student can be significant for independent schools and schools will be able to maximize student retention as all staff understand that retention is everyone’s responsibility.  For a student whose family has already made a commitment by enrolling in your school, there is reason to believe that efforts in the area of retention will be a good investment.  Retention efforts should be as important for independent schools as admissions efforts.  Enrollment management builds on both admitting new students and retaining current students.  Both result in student enrollments essential for sustaining revenue.

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