This week, independent school educators and leaders from around the country will gather in Long Beach, California for the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) Annual Conference. The theme, “Reimagining Independent Schools, Tearing Down Walls, Building Capacity and Designing Our Future” should offer the 4,500 plus educators an interesting array of topics to discuss and absorb.
Since last year’s NAIS Annual Conference in Atlanta, I’ve spoken with heads of schools, directors of admissions and communications from around the country. These conversations, time and again, focus on three areas of concern as these leaders work to design the future of their schools.
- How do schools manage the rising cost of tuition? No matter the type of school or where it is, every school faces the challenges of tuition and the annual cost increases that schools feel they have to pass onto parents.
- Does our value proposition resonate with our target audience? The quest to clearly articulate a school’s value proposition is an ongoing challenge and is often interrelated with the rising cost of tuition.
- How do we talk to millennial parents? They don’t seem to be engaged by our traditional communications, and we have to figure it out now.
Is one of these areas more important than the other? The greatest existential threat (and, yes, it is a threat to the very being of a tuition-based educational institution) has to do with the rising cost of tuition. Several years ago, Kalix was part of a group of market research consultants engaged by a large suburban school to explore the question of value when it came to the choice between strong suburban public schools and this independent school.
The research results surprised and perplexed the head of school. The majority of parents made no distinction between the value of the education their children were receiving in the public schools vs. this strong and well-thought-of independent school. They felt they had moved to these “upscale” suburban neighborhoods where they paid taxes for “good” public schools. They saw little, to no, reason to even consider the investment of an independent school.
Over and over again, the “hefty” tuition price of the independent school was such a large negative in their minds, that they would not even be open to visiting the school. Have you found this to be the case with your school? If so, how will you address this from a strategic marketing perspective? How will your messaging need to be changed to address this challenge directly?
I look forward to conversations around this challenge and other topics at the 2019 NAIS Annual Conference, as we reimagine independent schools, tear down walls, build capacity and design our future.
As a proud NAIS Corporate Supporter, Kalix is exhibiting at the Annual Conference. Please join me at booth #361 to pick up copies of our latest ebook, Refresh vs. Rebrand and to continue the conversation.
See you in Long Beach!
Jonathan Oleisky is the President of Kalix Marketing