5 Ways to Break Through the Cost Barrier in Private Schools

It’s the same issue in most every school.

Regardless of the tuition rate, the cost always seems to be the greatest barrier to enrolling. I’ve worked with schools with low tuition rates of $5,000 to those that are more than $40,000 annually and the issue is the same in both extremes.

The sticker price can be shocking. It can also be a deterrent to taking another look or visiting campus.

If a parent never gets beyond the tuition rates, then you don’t have the opportunity to sell them on the value of your school.

Are parents willing to sacrifice their hard-earned dollars to enroll their child in your school?

Paying tuition is an investment.

It first comes down to understanding and conveying the value to the parent. If the parent doesn’t understand the value of your school, then it will be almost impossible to discuss price.

Do parents understand the value for their investment in your school? What is the return that they will receive and what difference will your school make in their child’s education?

This topic of communicating value deserves a blog post on its own so I won’t focus on it here.

One of the issues that I have seen over and over again is that most schools don’t market their tuition and financial aid programs very well.

Some schools don’t even communicate their tuition cost on their website based on the advice of some consultants. The goal is to get the parent to call to find out the cost instead of seeing it online and never calling. However, this approach backfires as parents expect to find this information online. If you don’t publish the price it seems like the school is hiding something.

Most schools list their tuition rates, fees and financial aid process. However, nothing more is provided to sell the parent on how they can actually make tuition affordable to their family.

I find that school leaders rarely have a strategy to communicate how tuition can be affordable.

Five Ways to Break Through the Cost Barrier

Let me share with you five ways how you can better communicate affordability and break through the cost barrier:

  1. Value for the Investment Video – Linfield Christian School uses the power of video and the testimony from a parent to communicate the value for the investment. The reality is that paying for your child’s tuition is an investment. There is nothing more powerful than hearing and seeing powerful testimonials from parents. Check out the video from Linfield Christian, especially at the two minute mark when this parent gets emotional about the investment she is making. This is an example of a highly effective video to reach parents with this key message.
  2. Affording “Your School” Webinar or Video – Most schools communicate the tuition numbers and financial aid process in a standard way. What if you put together a webinar to communicate how your school works to make tuition affordable to families? This webinar could be scheduled and delivered to parents attending live as well as recorded and added to your website. You could also take the same approach in producing a video to communicate this same content. This could be added to your website’s tuition and financial aid section and the link could be sent to prospective parents in your lead nurturing email messages.
  3. Case Studies – Financial aid can be a difficult process to understand. In order to help families better see how this works, you may want to consider showcasing some hypothetical case studies based on characteristics of real families. While we know that financial aid has many variables, families want to understand if their situation is similar to others that receive aid. Highlighting some case studies can give parents the perspective that the tuition can be affordable.
  4. Focus Your Tuition Page on Value and Affordability – In a blog post written by Mia Major in the Finalsite blog, she showcases “4 Strategies to Create Independent School Tuition Pages that Convert.” Mia gives some excellent advice that you should follow. You may also want to check out Tim McDonough’s podcast on “Creating Tuition Pages that Work.” Tim also provides some excellent examples of tuition pages that work well to communicate value and affordability.
  5. Consider Variable Tuition – One of the most effective strategies that helps to break through the cost barrier is Variable Tuition. If you have followed my blog, I have written on this topic several times: “Is Variable Tuition Right for your School?” and “An Innovative Tuition and Financial Aid Strategy for Private Schools.” Variable Tuition is a shift in the marketing message to focus on communicating that tuition is a range based on the families’ financial situation. I have partnered with many schools to implement this strategy with great success. This has been a key strategy that has led to the enrollment turnaround in many schools including Eastern Christian School. You can listen to the recorded webinar that highlights this as one of seven key strategies leading to their growth.

What are you doing to communicate how your school is affordable to parents?

Are you breaking through the cost barrier by using one of these strategies or something else that works at your school?