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Increase Your Charter School's Enrollment and Recruitment

Improve Your Charter School’s Enrollment and Recruitment

Improve Your Charter School’s Enrollment and Recruitment

If you are new to enrollment marketing for your charter school, or just looking to improve the effectiveness of your use of data and marketing approaches, here are five ways that you can successfully improve your school’s enrollment and recruitment within your area.

  1. Develop your overall data strategy

Understand what your data is telling you, understand what your retention is, understand your customer satisfaction rates, and understand what school is your biggest “feeder”/source of students. It is important to know what will driving your marketing and recruitment efforts.

Analyze the data that you have access to, understand your customers, and use this information to create a strategy for improving enrollment. Hopefully, you will be spending more time analyzing the data than collecting it.

2. Establish your foundational metric #1: Enrollment and Recruitment Trends

Enrollment should never be used as a snapshot. Gather enrollment trends from inception. See how the enrollment is growing, chart the enrollment growth for the past five years to see the fluctuations.

Now, add to this, your total new students per year and break out which grade level they enrolled in with an emphasis on your entry grade (K if you are a K-8 school or 9 if you are a high school). By charting this information you have identified where your school’s enrollment challenge is.

3. Establish your foundational metric #2: Retention Trends

For retention, there is a similar process. Track the five-year retention rate for your school and then repeat the process by grade. Understanding retention data can be tricky. Do you analyze if a student came back after the summer, or if they left in the middle of the year? When you are starting out, I suggest that you look at students who started on day 1 in year 1 and were they enrolled on day 1, year 2? Then, understand each individual grade's retention rate. In this small exercise, it allows the school to identify the need to drive retention programs for those grades that are struggling, since they represent the biggest opportunity.

4. Know Your School’s Closure Rate

The next most critical piece to track is your school’s closure or yield rate. This is the number of families who engaged with your school via a school tour or shadow day, divided by the ones that ultimately enrolled in your school.

This is one of the most critical metrics to track and one of the most critical to do correctly. The negative and con, to tracking the yield or closure rate, is it does not answer the question “Why?”. This is where it may be good to engage in a “secret shopper” to identify why your tour is not getting parents to convert by enrolling their children.

5. Try to track the effectiveness of your outbound marketing efforts

Tracking your specific enrollment marketing efforts is the hardest metric to get right. There is an old line in consumer marketing, “I waste 50 percent of my advertising dollars, but I don’t know which 50 percent”. It is often hard to know what specific thing drove enrollment. For example, most schools use yard signs to raise awareness for their upcoming open houses. Does a yard sign make a parent engage with you? It is hard to say, but this is a good example of a cost-effective way to raise awareness.

For a small-budget item like a yard sign, it is ok if you don’t know the direct effects. But if you are planning on spending more money on radio, TV or billboards, having a way to track the effectiveness of those campaigns is critical.

Because it is so important to track your marketing program’s effectiveness, I tend to recommend to clients that they shift more of their marketing dollars to digital, or online advertising. Digital advertising allows you to track engagement and, most importantly, if the customer acted as a result of your marketing efforts. You know if somebody clicked on a Facebook Ad. If you are running a digital campaign and all your “calls-to-action” lead the parent back to a custom landing page to sign up for your open house, you are easily able to track which one worked and led to the highest engagement. You don’t get that same proof of engagement with a billboard. Digital ads can also be very targeted. You can ensure that only parents within your designated age range and zip codes see your ads. This is not really something you can do with broader consumer-based ads like magazines, radio, or billboards.

It can be hard to start the process of using data-driven practices for your charter school enrollment strategy. However, understanding your data allows you to make better decisions, and ultimately, it pays off by improving your school’s numbers.

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