Student Attrition Matters: Expert Advice for Independent and Private Schools

With the end of another school year, it’s a smart time to address student attrition. Many enrollment managers are focused on recruitment plans for the fall, but equal effort should be made with retention. Keeping your families and learning more about the families who have chosen not to re-enroll is key to sustaining the school’s enrollment and ultimately budget – and to planning the most strategic marketing plan.

Attention to student attrition begins with knowing your school community. Directors of enrollment and admissions must have their ears to the ground. As with all things enrollment management, admissions teams must have good relationships with school  constituents, from leadership to guidance counselors to faculty to parents. These are your partners who should be sharing what they are hearing from parents and students and the reasons they are not re-enrolling.

Create Effective Parent Satisfaction Surveys

Parent satisfaction surveys should be part of the attrition/retention program of your school. I recommend these be done each quarter or each semester. 

A good survey will include asking questions that they can rank on a scale of 1-5 while also offering them open-ended questions to share their feedback and impressions. You want both quantitative and qualitative data.

Consider including these questions:

  • On a scale of 1-5, 5 being most favorable, rank your student’s academic experience.
  • On a scale of 1-5, 5 being most favorable, rank your student’s social experience.
  • On a scale of 1-5, 5 being most favorable, rank your family’s overall experience with the school.
  • Open-Ended Question for the end of the survey: Please share any additional comments/feedback regarding your family’s decision to not re-enroll at the school.

These are just sample questions. There are more in-depth questions I recommend asking in a survey that drill down deeper into the scaled experience of the student/family. Reach out to me at if you are looking for more guidance on surveys.

Share Survey Results

Once you have the results, this is important data to be shared with members of your enrollment management team and school leadership. Your school’s director of communications, head of school/principal, director of counseling, and others who play a role in communication with families need to see the data. These survey results will allow school leadership to keep their fingers on the pulse of the school environment.

Share the information in a system where you can easily track the student considering leaving and outreach plans, such as a shareable spreadsheet. It’s important to review this frequently throughout the year.

Developing a Student Attrition Program

Schools need a strong attrition program. If your school doesn’t have one, consider using these simple recommendations to assist you in creating one.

Create an Enrollment Management/Retention team of key school leaders, as referenced above. This group, led by the director of enrollment management/admissions, should create a process for school community to share information with the enrollment management office

Create your outreach plan. Members of the enrollment management team should personally reach out to the parents of those students considering leaving for a more in-depth, exploratory call. A phone call should always be your first point of communication followed by a follow-up thank you email. Track your outreach efforts on a spreadsheet so you know who contacted them, how and what the result was.

Determine if the family can be swayed to stay/reenroll. If not, proceed with an attrition survey.  

Share the survey information with the members of the Enrollment Management/Retention Team and use it to adjust any marketing and messaging, as needed. More likely than not, you will learn more about families’ “pain points” with your school. This is critical intel for future strategic marketing.

School’s cannot afford to overlook managing their attrition numbers and sustaining enrollment. It is a key component to enrollment management. It also provides critical feedback from the families and other key school constituents so an enrollment office is alway current on issues facing their families, students and school community.

How may Kalix Marketing help you address your student attrition issues? Contact us here.

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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