For years private school administrators, Boards, associations, and parents have been banging the drum that our tuitions are growing at an unsustainable rate.
In my own time as a private school administrator, I sat in on many of these conversations, witnessed the hand-wringing, and (sometimes) wondered to myself whether it was actually true.
If we raise tuition 5% instead of 3%, will they come … and will they stay?
Now, as an Enrollment and Marketing Consultant for private schools, I face this question weekly from clients not just in the United States but throughout the world.
We can’t keep raising tuition, can we? Surely there’s a tipping point, isn’t there?
And I am here to emphatically say, YES, there absolutely is a tipping point.
But I’m also here to challenge that the tipping point isn’t what you think it is.
It doesn’t matter whether you price your school at $7,000, $20,000, or a once unfathomable (but now not that uncommon) $50,000.
Your tuition is NOT the tipping point.
The tipping point is value.
If the pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that families will pay for what they want and need. And undoubtedly, there is nothing parents want more than their child’s happiness, safety, and success.
During the pandemic, families came to private schools in droves seeking something they believed they could not find elsewhere. They wanted continuity of a quality education in a safe setting.
Our private schools delivered that experience and more. And the happy result for both private schools and the students is that the majority of families who never imagined paying for a private school have decided to stay, even as the pandemic subsides.
Why? Because once families witnessed first-hand the mission-centered, exceptional educational experience a private school can provide, the perceived barrier of tuition no longer seemed a mountain too high to scale.
In the end, it wasn’t the dollars and cents that kept families away. It was simply that they didn’t know the tremendous value their investment would bring.
Now I am not in any way suggesting that a private school education is attainable for all, or even most, families. I fully acknowledge the critical role that need-based aid plays not only in accessibility but also in ensuring that private schools reflect the socioeconomic makeup of the communities they serve.
But what I am suggesting is that the next time you find yourself in a discussion about whether the school can possibly raise tuition without scaring off families … flip the script.
Rather than talk about the dollars and cents, turn your attention to the experience, benefits, and outcomes of your program. As an administrator, a leadership team, or a Board of Trustees, examine whether you are truly living up to your school’s mission.
If you are, indeed, meeting and exceeding the expectations of your students and families, you need not worry about whether you increase your tuition by 2% or 10%.
In the end, families will come, and families will stay not because of the price tag but because of the value you provide – the true tipping point.