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Solving the Difficult Problem

Mission Enablers exists to help parochial schools solve the persistent problems that threaten the survival of the school. One common persistent problem we help schools overcome is declining enrollment or static enrollment that is below a level necessary for mission sustainability. We find that precedent and experience predispose schools to seeing the problem as:

Community Awareness – Better marketing would increase enrollment (If only people knew about our school more students would enroll. We are the best-kept secret in town.)

Unaffordable Tuition – Lowering the cost to families through increased fundraising, vouchers, and increasing congregational support will increase enrollment (If only we could lower our tuition, more students would enroll.)

All of us are consumers. We see hundreds of advertisement on a regular basis. Many Christian school board members work for large organizations whose survival depends on marketing. Therefore, experience suggests that if you want more customers you must raise community awareness through better marketing.

As consumers, we often make our final decision based upon the price of the item. However, in most cases we use price as the tiebreaker. We seldom actually purchase a cheap product. We purchase the least expensive product that meets our needs.

When families want a cheap education, they enroll their children in public schools. Unless your school can offer an education without tuition, those families will never consider your school.

When other parochial schools and private schools in your area have higher enrollment than your school, it indicates that those schools are doing a better job of meeting the needs of the families, regardless of price. Put another way, the families’ perception of what you offer is less flattering than what you believe you are offering.

In short, changing the tuition or marketing plan is very unlikely to change your enrollment. Enrollment will only increase when you change the community’s perception of the value your school offers.

Next Step:

Examine what your mission statement promises

Talk to current and past families about what you can do to increase the value of your promise

Determine how to change or add to your programming to deliver the increased value the families want

Sustainability for every organization depends on meeting the needs and desires of its clients. Clients find ways to afford the things they think are valuable. Some families have trouble paying rent but have iPhones with expensive data plans.

Give families what they want and they will give you the increased enrollment and student retention you want.

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