Effective Practices : Enrollment
Enrollment Section 9
1. Which person or group is responsible for managing the re-enrollment process? What are the primary expectations of the school in the execution of this responsibility?
2. Describe briefly the tasks involved in each step of the re-enrollment process. Attach a calendar that illustrates when each of these steps is scheduled for completion.
3. Do student disciplinary issues and difficulties with delinquent accounts get addressed through the re-enrollment process, or are these matters handled as separate issues? Describe your school’s thinking behind this part of the re-enrollment process.
4. What type of management information/reports are generated during the re-enrollment period? Who receives this information and why?
5. Describe your school’s practices in the area of re-enrollment fees and down payments. What is particularly effective in this approach and what aspects if any would you like to change?
6. Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of re-enrollment.
7. What is particularly effective in your re-enrollment work?
8. If you could change some aspect of your school’s work in relation to re-enrollment, what would you change and why?
Which person or group is responsible for managing the re-enrollment process? What are the primary expectations of the school in the execution of this responsibility?
In most schools it is the task of the Enrollment Director (See: Position description - Enrollment Director) to manage the re-enrollment process. Schools often have an Administrative Assistant or school secretary who works in partnership with the Enrollment Director, following up on much of the detail that this process entails. Many schools have now created a position called Registrar. In these schools it is the responsibility of the Registrar (See: Position description - Registrar) to manage the re-enrollment process as well as maintaining all other student records.
The primary tasks involved in re-enrollment include ensuring that all needed updates are made to the forms included in the re-enrollment packet, mailing or otherwise delivering the packets to families, tracking returned packets and following up on missing forms or information, updating the re-enrollment tracking reports, and interfacing with the business manager on all deposit checks received.
It is interesting to note that some schools consider re-enrollment to be primarily a billing function, with correspondence being initiated first by the Business Office. In these schools the Enrollment Director follows up with non-responders and ensures that regular reminders of the re-enrollment deadline are run in the weekly school bulletin.
Describe briefly the tasks involved in each step of the re-enrollment process. Attach a calendar that illustrates when each of these steps is scheduled for completion.
The re-enrollment process typically begins in January soon after students return from their winter recess. A key to being able to begin the re-enrollment process at this time is the ability of the Board of Trustees to finalize tuition amounts for the coming year so that contracts and other related forms can be printed and packets prepared for mailing. Most Boards try to set tuition at their November meeting so that printing can take place in December and packets readied for mailing the first week in January.
Schools typically give families about a month to return the completed re-enrollment packets to the school. It is typical for the great majority of these packets to be returned the last day or two before the re-enrollment deadline. Schools work diligently to review each re-enrollment packet when the parent arrives to submit it. The packets often contain a great deal of paperwork and it is far easier to get the parent to fill in missing information or signatures at this time rather than making phone calls and asking families to return. One school has actually formalized this process, mailing packets out and then setting up two days for re-enrollment packet submission. These days are set up about two weeks after the packets are distributed. The school conference room is turned into a registration office, and many members of the administration pitch in to staff the room. Coffee and snacks are served and a festive party atmosphere is created while people wait to have their forms reviewed, submit their checks and receive tuition assistance applications. (See: Re-enrollment Schedule)
Knowing re-enrollment levels early in the spring aids a school in several ways. Most importantly it allows more detailed budgeting to take place and hiring decisions to be made with the confidence that enrollment levels will support all planned positions. Supply orders, especially those with a very long lead time, can be placed with confidence. Early re-enrollment also allows schools to identify any problem in a class that is affecting parents’ willingness to recommit for another year, and allows work to go forward with the class parents while school is still in session. Nothing is worse than discovering a high level of parent discontent just a few weeks before school is out as there is little time to identify and heal the situation, and very little energy for this kind of work in the final weeks of a school year (and no energy at all once summer vacation has arrived!)
Tuition assistance is an area that is directly intertwined with re-enrollment, and schools have created a number of ways to address this situation. Some schools try to separate the two processes, having the Business Office coordinate the mailing and processing of tuition assistance applications while the Enrollment Director or Registrar coordinates the re-enrollment issues. Others give out assistance applications only to families that have turned in a completed re-enrollment packet. However all schools, regardless of approach, encourage everyone to re-enroll with the assumption that an affordable tuition level will be set. Re-enrollment is never delayed until assistance grants are determined and in those rare cases where a mutually agreeable tuition level cannot be found re-enrollment fees are typically refunded when a family decides to withdraw.
Following the re-enrollment period the Registrar, Enrollment Director, school secretary and other personnel update the school database with new information gleaned in the re-enrollment process and place the paperwork in the students’ files. The Business Office works with the Tuition Assistance Committee to get grants finalized and begins the process of billing families. Then just before school begins the Registrar or school secretary creates rosters for each class and emergency contact lists for the office, after school care personnel, and the classroom emergency supply backpacks.
Do student disciplinary issues and difficulties with delinquent accounts get addressed through the re-enrollment process, or are these matters handled as separate issues? Describe your school’s thinking behind this part of the re-enrollment process.
Generally speaking the schools surveyed handle any disciplinary issues separately from the re-enrollment process, and expect the faculty to manage this part of the school’s relationship with a family.
There is a greater variety in approach on the subject of account delinquency. Some schools will not allow a family to re-enroll if the tuition account is delinquent, and all funds received are put toward the delinquent account rather than toward re-enrollment fees. These schools then work closely with affected families and try to make a reasonable assessment as to whether the account will be returned to a current basis before a student’s place in the class is offered to another applicant. Other schools allow delinquent families to re-enroll, but will not allow a student to start class in the fall if a delinquent balance remains.
On a related note, most schools report that they will not process tuition assistance applications until an account has been brought current.
What type of management information/reports are generated during the re-enrollment period? Who receives this information and why?
All schools surveyed have reports that track re-enrollment levels by student and by class. Typically each class teacher or high school sponsor will receive the report for his/her class so the teacher can coordinate follow up efforts with the Enrollment Director or Registrar. Administrative staff members typically receive a copy of the full report, or have access to this information on a shared database. Members of the Board and College also receive summary reports on re-enrollment for the whole school.
The information typically included in a re-enrollment report includes the number of students currently enrolled; the number who are leaving (moving, financial issues, etc.); the number re-enrolled; and the number still available to re-enroll. The more detailed versions of this report also include information about missing paperwork or fees, facilitating the work of office personnel as they follow up on re-enrollment processing.
Re-enrollment reports are typically published just prior to the end of the re-enrollment period and again once the deadline for re-enrolling has passed. Some schools then continue to publish the report, adding a column that shows the number of new students enrolled for the fall, the number of students on the waiting list for each class, and the total committed enrollment for September.
Describe your school’s practices in the area of re-enrollment fees and down payments. What is particularly effective in this approach and what aspects if any would you like to change?
School policies in the area of re-enrollment fees and deposits vary widely, and are an ongoing topic of conversation and change at schools. The purpose of re-enrollment fees and deposits is to encourage families to recommit in a timely way so that necessary planning and preparation can be done, but schools are sensitive to the financial impact paying a large fee can have on a family that is struggling just to pay its tuition each month. The variety of approaches and their effect on re-enrollment follows. Please note that in this section the word deposit means a payment that is credited toward tuition; the word fee is an amount that is charged in addition to tuition.
One school charges a $300 registration fee per child in addition to tuition. The school does not charge a penalty for late re-enrollment, but as the school is full with waiting lists re-enrollment happens on a very timely basis.
A second school charges a place holding deposit of $350 early on, and then an additional deposit of $350 when the enrollment paperwork is submitted a few months later. These deposits are credited toward tuition but are non-refundable if a family changes its mind and withdraws. All applicants for financial aid must pay the $350 place holding deposit; no financial aid application is considered until this year’s account is current and the place holding fee is paid. The school reports that splitting the enrollment deposit in this way makes it more affordable for many families.
A third school reports that in the past they charged a $500 fee per family to re-enroll. This fee has now been changed to $225 for students in K-5, $475 in grades 6-8, and $1125 in grades 9-12. The $225 consists of $200 in tuition insurance (a self insured pool), a $10 accident insurance fee, and a $15 Parent Association fee. A $250 sports program fee is added for students in grades 6-8. In the high school the tuition insurance is increased to $300 and the sports fee is $500. There is also a $300 textbook and supply fee, the $10 accident insurance and the $15 PA fee, to total $1125. This is the first year of the new fee structure so the school does not yet have a perspective on its effectiveness. One question is whether the $225 fee in the kindergarten and lower grades is large enough to be meaningful to parents. There is a concern that for many of the school’s wealthier families the fee is inadequate to ensure strong reliance on re-enrollment numbers. The school does not have a financial incentive to support timely re-enrollment.
A fourth school reported another recent change in its approach. In the past the school charged a $1000 deposit per family to re-enroll. Families that re-enrolled after the deadline were treated like new families, paying the $1000 deposit and a $750 per child enrollment fee. In the last year this policy was changed so that the $750 per child enrollment fee was eliminated for re-enrollments after the deadline. Instead parents were asked only to pay a larger deposit of $2000. This change in approach eliminated most of the financial incentive to re-enroll on time, and the school’s on-time re-enrollment percentage dropped dramatically. The school is re-examining its approach and may return to its previous policy.
Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of re-enrollment.
Having re-enrollment done in a timely way allows good budget planning, allows teachers to begin their planning, and classes that are experiencing wide spread difficulty that affects re-enrollment can be addressed. The school is better all the way around if this information is known early.
Start the process as soon as possible. This allows sound budgeting and timely enrollment of new students. It also supports good program planning and sound hiring decisions due to timely management information on the next year’s enrollment.
Re-enrollment happens as part of a larger picture. The Board must do its work on time to set tuition and fees, and the faculty must work with families during the January parent-teacher conferences to identify problems that can be corrected during the school year.
Policies are designed to support retention. There is a goal to make re-enrollment simple and straightforward.
Stick to your financial policies. If a school doesn’t treat its policies as if they are meaningful, then families won’t either.
Although many families are clearly committed to the school, the deposit/fee structure can encourage them to recommit in a timely way.
Re-enrollment is an education process. It is vital that parents be informed about the positive impact that timely re-enrollment has on the school’s ability to plan for the coming school year and to deliver the quality education that parents expect for their children. Help parents be your partner in supporting the school through their timely recommitment.
Assume that your school is the first choice for your families, and build a calendar that reflects this belief.
Person to person contact is especially nice. Coffee and fruit are provided during the re-enrollment days, creating a very social environment. It’s really fun to see everyone, and for families to leave feeling that their decision to re-enroll is an important one.
Spend the time and money to track your families and their paperwork and fees carefully.
Don’t worry about delinquent accounts. This is a separate issue that is best handled by the Business Office, and doesn’t need to muddy the waters of re-enrollment.
What is particularly effective in your re-enrollment work?
Having a clear calendar for all re-enrollment related activities is very helpful.
Doing all the tracking and honoring your school’s deadlines makes the budgeting process for the new year as realistic as possible.
The re-enrollment tracking report is very effective.
Asking the teachers to consciously incorporate the family’s re-enrollment intentions into their January parent-teacher conferences has given the school a good early indication of what to expect and why.
The teachers are very involved during the two day re-enrollment period. They pop in regularly to see how things are going, and often get on the phone to follow up with families if papers have not come in.
Reminder telephone calls are very effective in getting paperwork turned in.
The late fee is highly effective in terms of getting people to re-enroll on time. (It’s not popular, but it is effective.)
The re-enrollment process takes place in January. This allows for good planning and preparation on many fronts.
Our school uses a relatively late date for re-enrollment (mid-April). This allows the school to welcome everyone, including the families with incoming first graders and students that are moving from pre-K to kindergarten. Everyone is more settled and confident in terms of what is in store for them. This also allows families to complete their Tuition Adjustment packages promptly as the income tax filing deadline is past. (Note: This comment comes from a school that is full with waiting lists in all grades.)
If you could change some aspect of your school’s work in relation to re-enrollment, what would you change and why?
It would be great to have tuition set much earlier so that the recruitment of new students and re-enrollment of current students can proceed at an easier pace. The ideal is for tuition to be set in November, contracts to be mailed right after the winter recess, with contracts due back by the first week in February.
It would be helpful to change the tuition and fee schedule to allow the re-enrollment fee to be credited toward tuition if the re-enrollment happens on time.
It would be better to send the tuition increase letter and the re-enrollment form together. This year some families sent checks as a result of the first letter before the re-enrollment paperwork had been issued, making it hard to control the paper flow.
It is important to make acceptance decisions for the K to 1 transition and from 8th to 9th in a timely manner that is well coordinated with the re-enrollment process.
The re-enrollment fees should be assessed as a per-family charge. The fees should be large enough that parents feel they are making a true commitment to the school.
The deposit/late fee structure will be revised with a real financial incentive created for families that re-enroll on time.
The fee structure should provide an incentive for timely re-enrollment.
Currently the school allows families about 3 weeks to turn in their re-enrollment papers. This creates a sense that the work can be postponed, and then leads to missing and forgotten re-enrollment forms. Putting more hours into the enrollment coordinator position would be great at this time of year.
It would be great to find another way to deal with the deposit for families on tuition assistance.
We continue to search for ways to be as warm and human as possible - anything that can be done in this area will serve our families and the school well.