Education Marketing and Advancement

Objectivity, transparency, and a collaborative spirit

Marketing Therapy

with Mike Connor

The Fourth Dimension of Value: Cost-consciousness and Stewardship (Series 7 of 9)

The fourth dimension of a value proposition has to do with finance.  Prove your school is cost-conscious. Demonstrate that you are a good steward--that your parents' and friends' tuition and philanthropic investments in your mission will be put to great good.

And once again, as an admission officer, you may find yourself stuck in the middle, literally surrounded by the Board, the CFO, the Head of School, and the Advancement/Development Director.  But you should lead from the middle on this one, too. 


Your success in enrollment management depends on your ability to speak the language of finance.

Here’s the checklist:

1. Are you capable of telling your Head right this minute where you are in meeting your actual tuition budget goal?  Can you talk about “probable” enrollments?  Distinguish those from “possible” enrollments?  Factor in “summer melt?”  And translate those numbers into real time tuition dollars — the preferred language of the board to whom your Head reports?

2. How do you show your school is deliberate about controlling tuition increases?

3. Can you show that your annual operations budget reflects your mission?   Can you demonstrate how your operations budget is the quantification of your mission statement?

4. How are you helping to create additional revenue streams beyond tuition – so your school becomes less tuition dependent?

5. How are you doing on that important question about value v. cost?  Doesn’t it help to first know how your school defines value?   Then how your parents define it?  Your alumni?   

If you’re doing your job as the guardian of the school's quality, insist on institutional research to determine this, and then base your branding and messaging and social media communications on your findings. 

When it comes to institutional research, it’s best to have assessments and perceptual studies done by someone with no horse in your race.  If you find yourself thinking that it might cost too much, it helps to speak the language of finance and reflect the wisdom of the most innovative businesses out there:

Research is an investment in future revenue.

Don’t let your school off the hook when you hear, “We know who we are.” On its face that may indicate confidence, but that assertion sometimes masks arrogance--and fear of change. I’ve often conducted confidential discussions with community influencers whom school leaders claim know them well, and too often those outside supporters haven’t a clue about the school’s current identity, mission, or strategic goals.  Same with those in your admission funnel. 

You can’t see the label from inside the bottle.

If you can’t get a financial commitment to objective institutional identity / perceptual research, your school may be unintentionally sabotaging your ability to do your job well. Not to mention that the program itself stands to benefit from the external scrutiny of those you seek to serve. Inviting their perceptions says you are self-assessing, and that act in itself telegraphs institutional confidence and raises their esteem for you.  It's a win-win.


So there you have it.  The Four Dimensions of Value as it applies to private schools.

To recap, you have to prove and objectively demonstrate:

1.    Return on Investment – ROI.  Outcomes -- not just the noble intentions of your mission and your philosophy of education.

2.    Transformational teaching and learning. Families enroll based on evidence that your teaching methods are cutting-edge and that your teachers’ skills are far beyond competent. They expect and are paying for not only individualized but transformational teaching and learning.

3.    Constituent orientationAlways thinking of the personal needs of those you serve.  The student’s needs come first. And the family needs the salve of customer convenience, connection, and community to justify the high cost.  In business, it’s called knowing and soothing their pain points.

4.    Cost-consciousness and stewardship. Show how your budget is the quantification of your mission statement. Show how you are wisely investing and holding down expenses.  Direct funding in ways that respects the concerns of those we serve and those we seek to serve, so that they will continue to invest in our mission.

If you continually hit on all four of these cylinders — these 4 elements — you literally drive value for your school. If you use these as a personal and professional blueprint for your career, you can drive home your own value to your school as an enrollment management professional.

Next:  The 6Ws of Great Branding

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