Beth Rivkind Headshot

Beth is Prizmah's Director, Enrollment Growth. Learn more about her here.

The Continuous Enrollment Advantage


As a previous admission professional, I vividly recall returning to school post-Passover break, with the reenrollment deadline behind us, dedicating hours to contacting current parents who had not yet reenrolled their children. Armed with my list of families, I made countless calls and sent emails in the hopes to reenroll all students. Typically, these were not parents who were considering other school options; they were the persistently busy people, struggling with yet another task of completing the reenrollment process amid life’s demanding to-do list.

The exercise of calling these parents, often interrupting their workdays, became a nuanced dance of encouragement and, eventually, desperation. “Your child has been such an integral part of the 7th-grade community; would you please complete reenrollment for 8th grade?” I would cheerfully request. However, as the weeks went by, my tone became more desperate. “Administration is fine-tuning class sections and elective choices; please reenroll to secure your spot for next year.” This was not an enrollment strategy that was yielding success.

Instead of focusing on other important tasks, I found myself constantly chasing families for reenrollment. Until we could accurately project enrollment numbers, the school was in a holding pattern, unable to proactively and strategically plan for the upcoming school year. Instead of welcoming new families or working on admission planning for the upcoming year, I was caught up in the frantic pursuit of families working to get them to complete reenrollment. It’s a scenario many school professionals face annually. Is there a better way?

In a world where schools and businesses share common ground, the answer seems obvious. Why not automate the process, simplify the customer experience, build a more efficient system for the school, and offer less stress to everyone involved?

We are all too familiar with agreements or subscriptions that effortlessly roll over each year. Business contracts, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, leases, membership clubs, and insurance policies all follow this model. So why not apply it to enrollment? Many independent schools, including Jewish day schools (more than you might think) have implemented a system most commonly called continuous enrollment.

What are the Benefits of Continuous Enrollment

Continuous enrollment, widely used in colleges and increasingly in independent schools, is a process that shifts from opt-in to opt-out, where current students are automatically reenrolled for each school year, either until the student graduates or the family provides a written notice of opting out of the enrollment contract. The process removes the annual reenrollment, and assumes that families are returning unless they inform the school before a specific deadline and lends numerous benefits, including:

Higher Retention Rates

Continuous enrollment encourages families to stay committed to the school by automatically reenrolling students, leading to higher retention rates.

Streamlined Processes

Once in place, continuous enrollment reduces administrative tasks for the admissions and business offices, relieving the burden on staff and creating efficiencies and time for other projects.

Proactive Budgeting and Forecasting

Schools are able to forecast enrollment numbers for the following year earlier and more accurately, enabling practice budgeting and strategic decision making about faculty hiring, class sectioning, program expansions, and more.

Reduced Effort and Stress for Parents

Families benefit from the reduced effort and stress required for reenrollment. They only need to sign a contract once, eliminating the need for repetitive paperwork and guaranteeing a smoother and less time consuming process each year.

Flexible Payment Options

When schools know in advance how many students will be returning, they can offer more flexible payment deadlines or even incentives to accommodates the financial needs of families.

What Does a Continuous Enrollment Contract Look Like

A continuous enrollment contract simply outlines what parents are committing to by signing on the dotted line. It’s a mutual agreement that ensures clarity and transparency in the enrollment process.

Implementing this type of contract may seem daunting at first, as it requires careful planning and strategic execution. Don’t be afraid to start a new process; take it step by step, research and be sure to have your school team on board. The following are some of the most important components to consider:

Research Other Schools

Start by researching other schools that have successfully implemented continuous enrollment. Learn from their experiences, gather insights, and identify best practices that align with your school’s mission and values.

Check Legal Requirements

Be sure to determine if continuous enrollment is permitted in your state or province, and understand any legal considerations that could affect the process. Make sure to consult with your school’s attorney to ensure the contract language aligns with your state’s regulations and the specifics that your school put in place within the contract.

Secure Support and Form your Team

Within the school, you need allies to make the case for the switch to continuous enrollment. Gain support from the head of school and the business office by showing them the benefits of continuous enrollment and address any concerns. Then, put together a team from the admission, business, marketing/communication, and IT departments. Working collaboratively will help make the change smoother and more successful.

Examine Tuition Setting, Tuition Assistance and Admission Process Timelines

Review your school’s current tuition setting timeline to ensure that any changes in tuition are communicated in advance of opt-in deadlines. Be sure your admission and tuition assistance timelines are closely audited to understand the necessary adjustments required for continuous enrollment. Identify any shifts in processes or deadlines that need to be made and be sure to include them in all communications to families.

Define a New Continuous Enrollment Timeline

Define a new timeline for continuous enrollment that aligns with your school’s existing timelines and processes including tuition setting, tuition assistance, planning for development efforts, budgeting, and forecasting staffing needs.

Integrate with Current Platforms

Asses how continuous enrollment will integrate with your school’s current platforms, such as enrollment management systems, financial software, and communication tools. Ensure that systems are in place to support the new enrollment process seamlessly.

Communication is Key

Once all components are in place, strong and transparent communication is paramount. Develop a comprehensive communication strategy and plan to educate both internal stakeholders and external audiences, including current families, about the transition to continuous enrollment. Ensure clarity by outlining the benefits, timeline, and steps involved in the transition. Proactively communicate deadlines and new procedures through various channels, such as a question and answer guide and an informal informational video, to provide clear instructions on the changes ahead.

Ultimately, transitioning to continuous enrollment proves to be worthwhile if you seek to streamline administrative processes, enhance retention rates, and improve overall parent satisfaction. To implement the process successfully, a school should prioritize thorough research, gain support from key stakeholders, establish clear communication channels, and make necessary adjustments based on feedback and lessons learned during the initial implementation phase.

With continuous enrollment, families and schools benefit from prioritizing what truly matters: their child’s education.

If your school is considering a move to continuous enrollment and would like to discuss, contract Prizmah’s Director, Enrollment Growth for more information.