CEO Notebook |
Independent school business officers tend to be hard on themselves when it comes to determining optimal pricing models for their schools. You often ask, with a critical tone in your voice, "Why haven't we figured out the best model yet? Why are our pricing and aid practices all over the map? Why is this always so hard?"
After attending the NACUBO (National Association of College and University Business Officer) Annual Meeting in Montreal last week, I can say with confidence that you're not alone in these struggles. Colleges and universities, which have far greater resources than K-12 private schools, also have far more collective time and experience searching for "the best" tuition pricing and financial aid models. Their practices are all over the map. It's clear no one has a silver bullet. So go a little easier on yourselves.
That's not to say we can't learn from the higher-ed bellwether and strive to develop best practices that will attract and serve a robust, diverse student body. Among the many compelling speakers at NACUBO was a session on NACUBO's Economic Models Project and another led by Craig Goebel, principal at the consulting firm Art & Science Group regarding tuition price and financial aid and how best to leverage them to increase your educational institution's net revenue.
In NACUBO's preliminary work to identify a more sustainable economic model for higher education, the staff project leaders identified five of the most pressing issues for small colleges and universities today: strategic finance allocation, faculty workload, value proposition, public trust and survival. Sound familiar? Four of the five — all but public trust — are key issues for independent schools as well, and current ideas in higher ed can feed our thinking.
In Goebel's session, for instance, he suggests that K-12 schools would do well to change how they think about their financial allocation and their value proposition. Each year, business officers tend to ask how their schools can keep tuition as low as possible while serving a mission and meeting the needs of students, faculty and staff. Goebel's advice: Stop asking "How little can we increase our tuition?" Instead, ask "What is this education worth?" A school's perceived value, he added, impacts net tuition revenue more than financial aid and tuition prices.
Your task, then, becomes to persuade families of the true value of the educational experience your school provides.
On his website, Goebel provides a hands-on tool that school leadership teams and boards can use to assess the real reasons parents should value their school, address key challenges in their strategic plan and strengthen their market awareness, value proposition and financial position. At NBOA, we too will continue to develop programs, education and content (like this article) that will help your school win over families with compelling evidence that it is well-worth every penny — and then some.
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