How can schools communicate with families more effectively on the topic of affordability?
The cost of tuition is one of the primary reasons why families do not consider sending their children to independent school. While affordability is an obstacle for parents, one of the biggest challenges for admission professionals is getting families to take that first step through the front doors of their school. Families often do not consider that most Jewish day schools and yeshivas offer tuition assistance. Surprisingly, families are often unaware of the following:
- They could be eligible to receive assistance.
- Tuition assistance programs or tuition affordability models exist.
- Schools consider factors besides income levels to make it possible for families to qualify, such as regional cost of living, tuition paid for siblings, debt and medical expenses.
Admission professionals frequently express that once an inquiring family visits their school, hears the value proposition, and sees the students and faculty in action, the majority will convert to applications. Yet when there is an absence of transparency around tuition affordability and the tuition assistance process, many parents will not move on to the application process.
If schools can, early in the inquiry process, transparently message tuition affordability and tuition assistance, schools can impact their recruitment and retention efforts. Here are a number of ways a school, and specifically admission professionals, can accomplish this.
Develop Your School Messaging
The admission and leadership team should meet early in the year to agree on and refine the school’s value proposition and key messages around affordability. Administrators across the school should feel confident and consistent with the language used to communicate with families.
Clearly message in conversations and provide a statement on your website about strict confidentiality regarding the tuition assistance process. Families should be aware that their financial information is shared only with the tuition assistance committee and admission professional.
Have Open Conversations
Engage families in meaningful conversations infused with honor, inclusivity and respect about the school’s commitment to affordability. Proactively guide families through the process while creating a space for confidential conversations about affordability. This works toward dispelling stigma around applying for tuition assistance and any questions around the process.
Be clear with families the school’s admission process and tuition assistance process are separate. Update your messaging on both the tuition assistance materials and admission materials to reflect that a family’s ability to pay is not considered in admission decisions.
A tuition assistance committee and the admission committee are separate and each have their own application and review process.
Tuition Assistance Application Process
Information about the tuition assistance program, including the application itself and deadlines, should be clearly outlined both in conversations and on the school’s website. Consider automatically sending application links/forms to all prospective (and current) parents so that parents do not have to ask for them in your follow-up materials.
Use your website as a marketing tool to provide clear messaging on the admission page about the school’s path to affordability and the tuition assistance application process. Ensure consistent messaging across communications channels, including the website, the admission team and business office.
Interview new parents who have recently gone through the tuition assistance process to hear about their experience. Meet with your committee and share the information gathered to reflect and strengthen the process and experience of families.
As the upcoming season of tuition assistance begins, schools have the opportunity to reflect on the process of how affordability is communicated to the community. Offering strong, transparent communication in outreach to families is now more important than ever and will translate into a stronger recruitment, admission and enrollment process for Jewish day schools and yeshivas.