What are the real reasons people send their children to your school? Do you truly know? If you did know, how would that change your programming?
There is a parochial school in Chicago that says the reason parents send their children to the school is, “Superior academic education, safe learning environment, caring teachers, and religious education.” Are those the reasons your parents send their children to your school? How similar is that to what the parents say?
We interviewed a couple whose son recently graduated from the school mentioned above (eighth grade). We asked them if they were satisfied with the educational experience? With great enthusiasm, the parents told us that their son took the public high school placement tests. He placed in AP sophomore math and English. He skipped the freshman classes.
They felt the school provided a superior academic education just as it said it would. They also mentioned the caring teachers and the safe learning environment. Perhaps they mentioned the other things because of the importance the school places on them.
When asked if they would send there daughter to the school, their response was, “Heavens no! She doesn’t need it. For her it would be a waste of money.”
Their daughter is two years younger than their son. She is a top student in the Chicago public schools. She has caring teachers. She is in a safe learning environment. The parents are ordained ministers in a different denomination than their son’s school. They prefer the religious education the children receive at home.
When the family moved to Chicago 4 years ago, their son had special needs. They thought their son needed help with socialization, confidence, disciple (structure and organization rather than behavior), and focus. They choose the school because parents in the neighborhood said the school could provide what was needed.
The family was thrilled with the results. They feel it was worth every penny of the $5,500 per year for the tuition. They have many indicators that their son has improved in all of the areas they were concerned about.
Most of what the school said it was providing was necessary for this family (religious education is the exception). However, those necessary items were unable to justify the tuition for their daughter. The school never claimed to be able to help with the items that really mattered to the son and justified the tuition.
The fact that the family sent one child, rather than both, says the family is discerning. Many families are less discerning. They make the decision to send neither child because they are unable to understand the value to the second child.
How much better could the parochial Chicago school have done if it had been intentional about meeting the needs of that boy? How many other children could they enroll if they were intentional and collected evidence of their success? Would the family mentioned above have sent the second child if the school was more intentional and aware of its value to the community?
Do you really know why parents send their children to your school?
Determine why parents think your school is worth the tuition
Determine how to provide greater value through intentionally providing the services that justify the tuition
Collect evidence that the school does change lives in important ways
It is important to remember that what parents want today is different from what they wanted 10 years ago or will want 10 years from now. Providing value for tuition is a constantly moving target.
The schools that are able to make annual adjustments are the ones that are prospering and have sustainable programs. For others, sometimes the adjustment process starts too late and they close. Every school is either prospering or at risk. Where is your school?
How well aligned is what you say your school does with what parents want and what they are willing to for pay? Sustainability increases as the alignment increases.
Do you know how to check the alignment?