Driven by Data

How should I choose a student recruitment budget?

As many school administrators and staff already know, approximately 90% of funding received by schools is driven by enrollment. Student recruitment can drive enrollment, and thus has a significant impact on the financial stability of your school.

Deciding the appropriate amount of funding to dedicate to student recruitment can be a challenge because the level of spending is not necessarily proportionate to the overall budget. Further, measuring the return on your student recruitment spending can be difficult.

In order to be effective, student recruitment spending does not need to break the bank, but it does need to be well thought out to address the specific and unique position of your school.

Three things to consider when determining your student recruitment budget:

  1. Student recruitment does not have to be a large portion of the budget to be successful.

As an example, D.C. schools spent an average of 0.3% of revenue on student recruiting in FY18. This spending largely went toward marketing materials, advertisements in public transportation, and smaller amounts toward merchandise and gift cards. This spending benchmark does not include the cost of staff time which is often significant.

  1. Your school’s academic rating will likely influence the amount of funding put toward student recruiting.

In D.C., schools with more favorable academic ratings spent below average on student recruitment, while schools with less favorable ratings spent well above the average (see graph below). The Tier 1 schools typically spent less than their lower-ranked peers. More notably, Tier 2 and Tier 3 schools that were able to meet their enrollment targets spent twice the average. While the correlation between school rating and student recruitment expenditures will not be the same for every school, it is important to recognize that your school’s academic rating will have an impact on the number of resources your school will need to dedicate to student recruitment. 

Source: EdOps Research FY18

  1. Create a mechanism to measure the return on your recruiting expenditure.

We know that most schools concentrate spending in marketing materials and public transportation advertisements, but many schools are not able to determine which method of recruitment actually brought students to enroll at the school. Taking measures to identify what student recruitment methods reached your prospective students allows you to better focus efforts and improve in future years.

[This post contributed by Michael Watts, Senior Finance Specialist.]