Ten Enrollment Strategies to Grow the Lower Grades

One of the trends I have seen in the private schools I have talked to in the last several months is stagnate or declining enrollment in the lower grades. For some schools experiencing an increase in enrollment, this has mainly occurred in the middle and upper school grades.

I would like to ask two questions about this issue: 

1.  Why are some private schools facing an issue with declining or stagnate enrollment in the lower grades?

Yesterday I conducted a focus group at a large faith-based school in Florida and asked the parents this question. Their response echoed my theory.  

Because of the uncertainty in the economy and the financial issues facing families today, I believe that some parents are forced to make a choice today. If a parent can’t afford to send their child to a private school for their entire experience from pre-K to 12th grade, they will likely choose to send their child to a public or charter school for elementary and then to a private school for the middle and upper school years.  

The lower school years can be controlled by the parent, the environment is adequately safe, and the cost is not an issue in a public or charter school. The middle and upper school years are more important for some parents to enroll their child in a private school because of the environmental issues students face in public schools as well as the opportunities provided for older students. 

2.  What are some strategies that can be implemented to address declining enrollment in the lower grades?

The following are ten strategies to consider implementing to address this issue:

  • Communicate the value and benefit of your lower school experience as the foundation for the future years. What is the opportunity-benefit of attending your school in the lower school years? Why is the cost worth the investment?
  • Meet with your new lower school families to understand their school decision process and the factors that influenced their choice.
  • Tell stories of your high school students or alumni looking back on the importance of their foundation in the lower school years. These stories should be shared on all of your web and social media channels.
  • Tell stories of why your new families enrolled their child in your school.
  • Consider new tuition models that will encourage a family to enroll in the lower school grades.
  • Network with new families enrolled this year in the lower grades to encourage them to spread word-of-mouth to their friends. This is the group that is most likely to have contacts with families who will be a good fit for your school.
  • Ask new parents to help you reach parents with young children in their former school or Church group. These new parents give you the best opportunity for reaching your target group.
  • Launch a Google AdWords pay-per-click campaign to target those that are searching on preschools in your city.
  • Launch a Facebook pay-per-click campaign to reach friends of your fans and to target your demographics in your local community.
  • Offer events and parenting seminars at your school to attract parents with young children.

Is lower school enrollment an issue at your school and, if so, what are you doing to grow your lower school?

What strategies can you add to this list?