Here are five tips to get school leaders to support student recruitment.
This article was written as a collaboration between myself and Chief Enrollment Officer Nick LeRoy. You can view his articles here.
There is no denying that urban schools face significant challenges.
From the poor condition of facilities to teacher shortages, learning loss from COVID, and the myriad societal challenges that urban schools are being asked to address, it is an extremely difficult time for leaders of our largest school districts.
Contributing to these challenges is an often diminishing tax base within the urban core, which decreases the amount of money that urban districts have to operate their schools.
Many districts believe that the only way to increase the budget for their district is via a referendum or through the good graces of the government officials who control the budget.
But there is another option that any urban (and really, any public school district) can take in order to increase its budget: improving enrollment through more effective student recruitment.
You Want Me to Do What?
Paradoxically, when presented with the idea of student recruitment, many school leaders recoil at the very notion of getting their hands dirty with something so business-like as marketing or recruiting.
“We are educators,” they say. “We should never have to do something as odious as marketing our school!”
Obviously, this is a bit hyperbolic — but there is an incredible resistance that traditional school leaders express when asked to do the exact same thing that their peers in private, parochial, charter, and higher education do to increase enrollment at their school.
This resistance is understandable. Many educators are drawn to traditional public schools because they feel that the mission is so important. That providing a public education is critical for society.
However, that idealism struggles to overcome the dynamics of the current educational environment.
Today’s Educational Environment Has Become a Marketplace
Today’s parents have choices. One can argue if this is what we want our education system to look like, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we think; this is the world we live in.
Most superintendents and administrators get this.
They, after all, are the ones who have to balance the budget. They are the ones who have to make the hard decisions when it comes time to close a school because of declining enrollment.
But they can’t do it by themselves.
For urban schools to reverse this student drain, everyone needs to acknowledge the problem — and take steps to improve student recruitment in their district.
Recruitment can’t be successful as a mandate from the superintendent. There must be local buy-in and support at the school level to be successful.
So how do you get faculty to support recruitment in your school?
Getting Faculty to Support Student Recruitment Tip #1: Appeal to Their Goals and Desires
It is important that your faculty not think that this is just the district trying to get more money. Help them understand how improving student recruitment benefits their school:
Taking the school off the district’s closure list
Getting money to hire new paraprofessionals
…and so on.
But if you are going to take this approach, make sure that if the school is successful in increasing enrollment that the school does see some of the benefits.
Getting Faculty to Support Student Recruitment tip #2: Demystify Enrollment
Most educators do not come from a background in marketing or recruitment. They may think that taking steps to market their school will be a huge time investment and/or will turn them into used car salesmen pitching the school at every turn.
In reality, they just need to talk about their school in a genuine and heartfelt way. That is the key to recruitment success.
Of course, there will be some work in putting that on the website and ensuring that they are following the best practices of school enrollment, but that is why you want to partner with a company like SchoolMint, who can take the heavy work off the plate of your faculty so they can instead focus on driving student outcomes.
Getting Faculty to Support Student Recruitment #3: Build a Community of Practice (COP)
Many educators understand the value of COPs as they seek to improve their instructional delivery. School recruitment is very similar. You will find that some of the best learnings will come from peers and other faculty members in your district who are trying different things around recruitment.
Establishing a recruitment COP helps to ensure that new and good ideas are being spread throughout your district.
Getting Faculty to Support Student Recruitment #4: Provide Incentives
We already mentioned that schools with strong enrollment need to see some benefit back to their school, but this also goes to the administrator and their team who pull together to deliver on their recruitment campaigns.
Recognizing them at a district level and providing monetary incentives go a long way to getting a repeat performance.
Sure, everyone does things because it is their job, but it never hurts to recognize them, and nobody will turn down a little monetary award or incentive.
Getting Faculty to Support Student Recruitment #5: Make it Part of a Job Description
For too long, enrollment at public district schools “just happened.” Nobody had to do any work, and the kids just magically showed up every year.
Those days are over.
One of the best things you can do to get faculty to support student recruitment is to ensure that their job description includes the fact they have a responsibility and accountability for enrollment numbers.
This is a bit more of a stick approach than our previous carrots, but oftentimes, just clearly telling a principal that it is their job to drive recruitment can spur action.
The need to improve recruitment at public schools is not going away no matter how much we may refuse to acknowledge how the educational landscape has changed.
Schools and districts must change their approach to student recruitment, and getting faculty on board with this change will make your efforts more successful.
If you are interested in partnering with a company that can help you with student recruitment as well as marketing efforts, let’s talk.