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Unquantifiable Business Decisions – Limited Enrollment Period

I found that some of the most heated debates I have had with other school owners—in a good way—revolve around what I would describe as unquantifiable business decisions.


I would define unquantifiable business decisions as those that are believed to make a difference but are difficult to gather specific, quantifiable, and testable data on their specific effectiveness. Two examples of decisions we’ve made at MY English School but drawn heated discussions are:
1) Not accepting new elementary school students into lessons after June 30 (or three months have passed since the start of classes).
2) Not offering campaign promotions during student recruitment season.
3) Closing ten days per year for all-school teacher and staff training.


At MY we have an open enrollment period for elementary-school-aged students of only three months. If a class begins in April, as most of ours do, we only allow new beginner students to join through June 30. If they come to us after that, we take their information and ask them to join us the coming April. We’ve been doing this since we took over our school in 2008 with fewer than 100 students.


We do this because our students progress too far in those three months for a new beginner student to consistently join successfully. It also sends a tangible message that we care about quality. It does sometimes, however, mean we turn away students.


This has been a challenge this year, as due to being online we had no incoming students between the second week of April and the end of May. We had several students join in June, but not enough to make up for April and May. We’ve also had some students inquire about lessons since the beginning of July. Still, I believe it’s worthwhile sticking to our standards.


Does limiting our enrollment period get us more in the long term than we lose tuition revenue? I believe so. The boost it gives to our reputation allows us to charge more than average for our area. It also demonstrates we have standards. We tell prospective parents that if beginner students can join a class after a significant amount of time has passed, it is a sign that students likely don’t progress at that school. I think it also helps our reputation to turn away potential students every once in a while.


Additionally, it also helps us attract and keep teachers. One complaint we’ve heard from teachers who have come to us from other schools is that it is difficult for them when a new beginner student joins a class that has been studying English for a long period of time together. It is demotivating when the whole class slows down to accommodate the new student.


Although we can quantify how much income we lose by closing our enrollment period, it’s difficult to specifically quantify the benefits. Our experience leads us to believe, however, that it is well worthwhile.


I’ll write about campaign promotions and teacher training days in following blog posts.

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