5 Reasons Why a School Declines in Enrollment

5 Reasons Why a School Declines in Enrollment


School leaders typically call me for several reasons.

The head of school wants to put together an enrollment and marketing plan.

The head of school wants me to provide coaching, direction and accountability for the enrollment and marketing team.


The school is facing an enrollment problem. One of the most common problems is declining enrollment.

I have helped school leaders in many situations and contexts all with a focused effort of growing the enrollment.

Thankfully, I have had many opportunities to help a school leadership team turn around their declining enrollment. On Thursday, May 12, at 2pm EDT, I will present a webinar with Rudi Gesch, director of marketing and enrollment at Eastern Christian School, to discuss seven strategies that made a difference in their enrollment turnaround. As I write this blog post, there are over 350 school leaders that have registered for this webinar. If you haven’t registered, there is still time (Click to Register).

In my experience partnering with school leaders, I believe there are several issues that contribute to a school’s enrollment decline.

  1. Ineffective Leadership – I believe that enrollment can rise or fall based on the school’s leadership. I have seen situations in schools where the head of school lacks the ability to provide visionary and inspirational leadership. Ineffective leadership will almost always result in enrollment decline. If the parents, faculty and staff do not believe in the leadership of the school, it will be difficult to grow the enrollment without vision and direction. In addition, the school’s leadership must intentionally focus on leading the enrollment effort. It starts from the top and should permeate every area of the school.
  1. Staffing Issues – I’ve seen situations where the personnel in the enrollment and marketing positions aren’t the best fit. I’ve also seen school leaders that haven’t committed resources to these critical positions. In order for a school to grow, leads must be generated and nurtured. The story of the school must be told in a compelling and effective way. This takes intentional and proactive work and it must include the right staff. Believe it or not, there are still schools that haven’t put in place a full-time enrollment or marketing director. The right staff must do the right things at the right time in order to move the enrollment in the right direction.
  1. Quality and Satisfaction Issues – This is probably the most significant reason for decline. I always begin my process by conducting focus groups and a parent survey to assess the quality of the school and the satisfaction level of the parents, faculty and staff. If the school has sacrificed quality in any area (e.g. programs, teachers, etc.), then this will lead to dissatisfaction. This combination is lethal and will lead to decline. A school that lacks quality will decline. A school with dissatisfied parents will decline. No marketing and enrollment plan can solve this issue.
  1. Environmental Issues – Issues that are outside of the school can affect the enrollment. These environmental issues can be related to the economy or significant events in the world (e.g. war, 9/11, natural disaster, etc.). It can also be related to changes in your local community. With changes in the community surrounding a school, the local environment can change and negatively impact the school’s enrollment. Obviously, these environmental issues are outside of your control but are nonetheless a key factor that can lead to enrollment decline.
  1. Enrollment and Marketing Plan – Finally, one of the issues that I often see in a school experiencing declining enrollment is the lack of a plan. Every school should have an enrollment and marketing plan. It is important for this plan to be specific but yet fluid. In other words, a good plan is one that can always be adjusted depending on the trends and results along the way.

While there may be other reasons that contribute to enrollment decline, these are the most significant. In addition, it is usually a combination of these reasons that contribute to a decline.

The good news is that it is possible to turnaround a declining enrollment. This turnaround will take work and you will have to be intentional and proactive.

Eastern Christian School is a prime example of a school with declining enrollment that experienced a turnaround. In their case, they lacked the right staff and an enrollment and marketing plan. With these two key ingredients in place, the enrollment grew by 8% this past year and another year of significant growth is projected.

If you haven’t registered for the free webinar on Thursday, May 12, at 2pm EDT, there is still time. You don’t want to miss this case study of Eastern Christian’s Enrollment Turnaround and the seven strategies that made the difference. Click now to register.