Top Trends in Finance and Enrollment during COVID-19

By: Amy Adler
KC Topics: 
Coronavirus, Affordability Other, Admissions, Retention of Existing Families, Finance & budget, Other

Prizmah has collated questions and responses from the field and is sharing them below to help us as educational leaders support one another, our staff, our students and their families

Below we share the top trends around finance and enrollment during COVID-19. We know this is an area that will need continued attention and will update this section as more information becomes available. Please be in touch with Rachel Dratch or Amy Wasser  to suggest additional resources or to pose new questions. 

Re-Enrollment and Deposits

  • Schools should require a monetary deposit but be flexible on the dollar amount;  the essential point is that schools should have families pay SOMETHING towards re-enrollment.
  • It is possible that re-enrollment contracts are coming in more slowly than usual , resulting in many open contracts and lack of clarity around class sizes and tuition revenue.  Now is a good time to  reach out to families that have not signed and push them-empathetically and sensitively.  

Tuition, Tuition Assistance and Billing

  • For the next school year, it is critical to distinguish between families that cannot pay tuition because they lost a job or are directly impacted by COVID-19  versus families that are CONCERNED that may not be able to  pay tuition fearing the potential loss of a job.  Ultimately, your school should work with these families and strive to keep enrollment at the same level it was for this school year.    
  • Schools are not the only organization sending bills and contracts to customers. Be proactive with your communication and messaging, conveying a sense of “We at [the school] are going to work with you.” Show that the school cares. Emphasize that in this new virtual platform, the school is providing both community and resources.  Emphasize that your school is continuing to plan for next year and is considering several scenarios of how the school year will look.  Encourage parents to reach out if they have a financial issue. 
  • Strongly consider rolling back any planned tuition increase to the 2019-20 tuition rates.

Budget and Costs

  • Scenario Planning – model out three different enrollment assumptions (best case, base case, worst case) and, under each,  an assumption that net tuition as a percentage of gross tuition declines between 5% and 10%. This decline in net tuition percentage generally equates to an increase in scholarship of approximately 20-40%
  • Look to reduce next year’s school budget by 10% or more through reduction of non-essential staff, a reduced administrative structure, and/or modest salary reductions. Ask landlords for a rent reduction and try to renegotiate lower rates with vendors.

Faculty and Staff Contracts

  • While some lawyers in some states have advised schools that all employees are “employees at will”, consider inserting additional language in any employee contracts allowing for termination of employment with 30 or 60 days notice.

Communication

  • Think through and design a communication plan to navigate this crisis and communication for the remainder of the school year. If you have not put together a plan, now is the time! Bring together your team, build out a plan, develop expectations not only for your internal staff, but for parents, community members and students so they know what to expect.
  • The way you communicate in a crisis reflects your school’s brand, personality, community, and so much more. For that reason, it is important to have a plan in place with clear and transparent messaging.
  • Consider surveying constituency groups (parents and older students) to get  feedback about how you’re doing.  
  • Review all communications from your school that have gone out in the past few weeks to analyze the number of touchpoints, click throughs on your website (compare to previous month), and emerging patterns.  Are you communicating too much to one group? How many communications are parents receiving?  Are there ways to streamline the process?.

New Student Engagement

  • Look for ways to include any  new families in your current school activities and events.
  • Consider adding new families to the mailing list (notify them in a personal communication before adding them to the mailing list).
  • Set up virtual playdates so new students can connect with kids in their class for the fall.  
  • Consider holding an art or STEAM class for the new students and future classmates.

Retention

  • Key things for planning and communication:
    • Families remember how they are treated, so treat them well.
    • Demonstrate that you care about them, but more importantly their child/ren.  This is the time to go the extra mile with activities and content that are personal and high touch.
    • A good customer experience is a great word-of-mouth marketing tool.
    • Parents will share the good and the bad, so be transparent about what you know and what you do not know.  It is ok to say you do not know the answer to a question so long as you get back to the family.

Curated Resources on Finance and Enrollment