Driven by Data

Integrate Your Finance & Student Data Teams During the Enrollment Process

Revenue from annual student enrollment typically makes up 75% to 95% of a school’s budget, so hitting enrollment targets each year is critical. To ensure all parties are able to make key decisions and help the school stay on track, it is important to maintain an open and clear line of communication between Executive, Finance, Student Data, and Operational personnel.

Below are a few critical tips for effective cross-functional collaboration around student enrollment.   

Share your budgeted enrollment targets across functions early.

To hit the goal, clarity and visibility of the desired outcome is critical. During the enrollment process, your broader school leadership should share campus and grade level targets as early as late Winter or Spring. Sharing these targets with a larger group will provide student data and/or operations staff with clarity in recruiting, and serve as an early benchmark for evaluating applications and student enrollment throughout the spring until the first day of school. Additionally, the finance team will have clear expectations on anticipated revenue to aid in budgeting.

Provide a weekly update on enrollment count. Track. Track. Track.  

A best practice of high functioning schools is to share weekly enrollment counts with Executive and Finance leadership. Ideally, this communication is a dashboard distributed weekly leading up to the first or annual enrollment count day. If a dashboard is beyond current capacity, a simple email sent weekly is sufficient. The goal of this communication is to make it easier for leadership to make decisions by providing a comprehensive breakdown of student count, special designated student counts, and any challenges or errors that need to be corrected prior to a formal count period. See below for screenshots from a dashboard template. 

Involve specialized staff in thorough validation of special designations.  

In many jurisdictions, designations such as Special Education, English Language Learner, At-Risk, or Federal Meals Status have far-reaching financial impacts. These designations often have funding weights assigned to a student’s count and are also used in formulas that determine federal funding for the next school year. Therefore, schools need to dedicate time to getting those validations right. Schools should ensure their special services coordinators and meals program leadership have done a thorough review of designated students at least two weeks in advance of a formal student count for accuracy. Getting this right or wrong can have a material impact on a school’s current and future budget. 

Making sure that everyone who plays a role in student recruitment and retention is aware of the school’s enrollment goals and status is critical. Frequent communication and attention to details will not only help your school have a better understanding of the likely final enrollment numbers for this year but also create documentation that can lead to further insights to improve recruitment and retention policies for next year.    

[This post contributed by John Roussel, National Data Team Director.]