Previously, we’ve written about improving enrollment in private schools, but this advice is futile without efforts towards retention. Accordingly, school leaders and those involved in marketing must understand the importance of student retention strategies: If a private school’s student body is a revolving door, where enrollees are only replacing or failing to replace those who leave, then the institution’s ability to stay operational is at risk.
Student retention strategies must take into account different types of student enrollment losses. Once these types of losses are identified, school leaders can develop strategies for how to retain students, considering factors such as the school environment, community management, and marketing techniques.
We’ve put together this guide to assist primary and secondary private institutions in the implementation of student retention strategies. Leaders and marketing professionals in the education field can learn how to retain students using retention theories. Further, they’ll find opportunities for building student loyalty.
The Problem of Student Retention
Student retention is a prevailing concern for primary and secondary schools. To keep students enrolled, an institution must deliver on the promises that it made during lead nurturing and enrollments. In addition, the school must continue to impress the community with its academics, intracurriculars, and extracurriculars throughout the student journey.
Unfortunately, schools are finding it difficult to solve the issue of student retention, struggling to pinpoint the cause.
For the purposes of this guide, we will focus on a loss of enrollment through transfers, arguing that the pivotal issues are whether the new families are the right fit for the school. Additionally, we will examine how the state of the school’s reputation considerably affects retention. Finally, we’ll provide ways to retain students using outreach opportunities.
Ineffective Marketing Attracts the Wrong Families
Marketing experts explain that in order to effectively market an organization, you need to target the correct audience. Mistakes such as speaking to the wrong audience or too broad an audience can cause campaigns to fail. In addition, they can attract people who aren’t the right fit, resulting in a lack of loyalty.
In the case of private schools, targeting the wrong audience for enrollment means attracting families who don’t necessarily fit the institution’s values, services, or goals. Consequently, they might receive the wrong impression of the school, realizing too late that the school is not the right fit.
In conclusion, ineffective marketing could originally improve enrollment but will result in poor retention rates.
School Reputation Impacts Retention
School reputation relies on both the students’ and parents’ views of the school. These views can spread quickly, starting from one poor experience, then tainting the opinions of other community members. In consequence, the institution might suffer poor retention rates as issues fester without recognition or attempts to find solutions.
Long-term retention problems can originate from a combination of tarnished school reputation and effective marketing, such as social media content, from the competition. As the competing schools’ reputations improve, they’ll convince students from failing institutions to transfer. One way to ensure your school doesn’t fall victim to competitor’s social media strategies might involve the implementation of an Instagram for Schools campaign.
Why Are Students Departing From Their Schools?
If the main issue is school reputation, then what are the key factors that can change a school’s reputation? To begin, these factors can be funneled into two categories: student experience and parent satisfaction.
While the experiences that students and parents have regarding an institution are different, they are permanently intertwined. In other words, parent satisfaction can heavily rely on their student’s experience at the school. On the other hand, a parent’s opinion of a school can factor into a student’s decision to stay or transfer.
As a result, it is extremely important for private institutions to prioritize improving both the parent’s opinion of a school and the student’s experience at the school. As both the students’ and parents’ opinions of the school improve, so do those of the general community.
Let’s take a closer look at which factors are the most common complaints by families. In addition, we’ll talk about how to fix them.
Many times, private schools fall into the trap of using broad terms to describe their offerings. Their values are vague, they advertise to anyone in the area, and they don’t specifically express their programs.
Families might at first be dazzled by the general marketing, choosing to enroll. Over a period of time, however, they might realize that the student isn’t getting the education they hoped for or the atmosphere doesn’t fit well for them.
Of all the problems a school could have with a family, an improper fit is the one you can’t solve. Instead of solving this problem, you must prevent it.
As a preventative measure, use an effective marketing strategy that targets the correct families. For example, ensure the video marketing campaigns express unique programs that certain families would be very interested in. Further, clearly express the school’s values and goals.
By expressing exactly what the school offers, you can ensure that the right students will enroll. In consequence, retention rates will greatly improve.
Safety Concerns and Bullying
When it comes to bullying, an institution should have a strict policy to handle incidents. Private schools should have a channel of communication to report incidents, offering proper reporting procedures to students and their families.
How can schools improve retention by addressing safety concerns? Private institutions have an obligation to ensure families feel safe traveling to and attending school. Effective marketing and public relations tactics should assist in these efforts.
Unsustainable Costs and Diversity
Private schools are often seen as expensive due to their tuition in comparison to free public schools. Sometimes, families are excited to begin a new journey at a private institution, but unforeseen expenses and changing financial situations can intervene. As a result, students might need to discontinue their educational journey at the school.
School reputation can be further hurt by a lack of effort to help with financial needs. For example, private schools often have lower minority attendance than public schools due to expense and neglect of minority concerns.
To combat families’ hesitation to invest, institutions must communicate value for money. It is the job of the marketing team to project this value through marketing materials and content.
Further, the administration should ensure there are financial aid opportunities available for families in need of help. Efforts must be made to involve and welcome minority communities, especially when it comes to reviewing school policies that could be considered oppressive and reviewing whether faculty represents diversity.
Quality of Academics
Marketing teams can promote a private school vigorously, but families will inevitably transfer out of the school if the academics do not meet expectations. Private schools are expensive investments, so families will expect value for their money.
In turn, private schools must communicate the type and quality of their academic programs and faculty honestly. Be transparent about the level of education that the teachers hold and highlight the educational programs that are the most successful. Ensure that marketing campaigns are drawing in families who are interested in what the school does best.
How Schools Can Combat Retention Problems
Students and parents take into account the above standards for their experience at the school when they consider discontinuing their enrollment. If safety concerns, low quality of education, financial difficulties, and more outweigh the benefits of enrollment, retention will suffer.
To offer the school’s voice in this decision-making, provide sturdy enrollment management. Enrollment management starts with nurturing leads for enrollment via the school website and follows through to graduation. These efforts include marketing to the right families, gathering data on the student experience, offering aid for financial difficulties, and more.
Aside from enrollment management, take advantage of knowledge about what encourages the school’s students to be loyal. Then, apply this knowledge to opportunities for building loyalty.
What Encourages Student Loyalty?
When it comes to encouraging student loyalty, communication is key. From the beginning to the end of a family’s experience with the institution, there should be constant communication from the school. Each point of contact should ensure that the family is welcomed, informed, and valued.
For parents, offer opportunities to be involved in their student’s education. Provide a parent ambassador program for them to have a voice at the school, or throw social events for parents to interact.
Further, ensure students feel valued by improving the relationship between faculty and students. Ensure that faculty meet with students one-on-one, know their names, and provide opportunities where students can meet teachers before they take their classes.
Moreover, the administration should start a task force dedicated to retention. Conduct exit interviews, intervention counseling for students thinking about transferring, and formal data collection about where the school can improve.
Overall, ensure families are informed about their school. Communicate effectively that they are getting their money’s worth. By investing effort in family satisfaction, you can greatly improve retention.
Student Retention Strategies for Private Schools
School reputation among the community is the most important thing to uphold when it comes to improving retention. The administration should ensure that faculty, students, and parents are properly involved, informed, and valued. Everyone should feel they have a voice and an important role in the school and community.
Vujaday Creative Digital Agency has been successfully working with private schools to implement the best student retention strategies involving marketing. Improve student retention and enrollment by contacting us!