Jun 6, 2022

Private Schools Face an New Enrollment Challenge: Managing Capacity

The decade prior to the pandemic was not kind to independent schools, or the private school industry, for that matter. If you rewind to the year 2020, most private schools were struggling to maintain enrollment and demand, especially at the primary level. A slightly longer view of history would show that most schools lost about 10% to 20% of their enrollment – and doubled financial aid in the process – during the 2008-2010 global economic crisis. The decade that followed saw private schools focus more on promotion, demand generation, and right-sizing. That was 2010 to 2020. Then came the pandemic.

As it turns out, many private schools and colleges fared very well during the pandemic. They had some resources with which to pivot online and hybrid settings, fostering economic strength and demonstrating resiliency in the delivery. Now, saddled with strong enrollments, balanced budgets, and happy students, we are seeing many schools face a new set of enrollment challenges. Their new reality is one of managing newfound demand, which may outpace capacity, and move back into a more traditional style of education.

Parents wanted safety and personal attention during the pandemic. The better private schools pivoted well and gave them what they want. Our experience tells us anecdotally about half of our industry is close to capacity, managing new demand, and has budget excess. Their new reality is not demand generation, but creatively managing new enrollment and configuring capacity. More importantly, many are busy trying to anticipate how long this moment will last, especially with economic and political uncertainty on the horizon.

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