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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.

6 Responses to Unquantifiable Business Decisions – Limited Enrollment Period

  1. Great topic.

    I can see why you close enrollment and doing so must boost your brand value in the local community. At my school – our solution to students joining late – they go to the lower class and tread water until the curriculum re-sets. Even in the lower level they are still picking up a lot of knowledge and study skills that will be directly applicable when they can finally join the class they are waiting for.

    Your post has given me something to think about. I don’t think we would straight up close classes after 3 months – but maybe be more vocal about how you will be stuck in a lower level for 9 months if you don’t join at the right time.

    Sean

    Happy English Club
    Hisaya International Preschool
    Nagoya

    • Avatar Ryan Hagglund

      That’s an interesting strategy, Sean. For us, that would mean having the elementary school student attend a kindergarten lesson. I wonder how they would respond to that? We have been discussing what we can do to maintain a connection with the student until they are able to join the following April. We don’t have any concrete ideas yet, but would like to get them better integrated into the school during the possible nine months they are waiting to join.

  2. In our case, the curriculum is quite continuous, from A to Z. Meaning that the youngest ones start off at A and the oldest graduate at Z. So if a 10 year old wants to join at “J” this April, if the joining is delated it means he’ll need to join at point “L” in 3 months, or alternatively at point “P” next April. There is likely no way the student will progress from J->L by next April doing something at home alone, so it’s my idea to get students “as young as possible” to join as early in the curriculum as possible. A student who cannot fit in the class this June, won’t fit next April, or the April after that….

    • Avatar Ryan Hagglund

      I should clarify that all beginner students with us start from the beginning, regardless of age. (We have mixed ages in our lessons.) Using your A to Z illustration stretched over six years, this means all students start from A in April. They will start B around the beginning of July, so we allow new beginner students to join while the class is still in A. Otherwise, we require them to wait until the next April, when they will join a beginner class starting at A then. This does mean students starting later than first grade of elementary school won’t finish to Z before graduating from elementary school, but we think that’s a worthwhile tradeoff to be sure they all start from A. I agree with you that there “is likely no way the student will progress from J->L by next April doing something at home alone.” For this reason, all of our beginner students start from A.

  3. Interesting post, Ryan.

    Sean,
    you mention holding students in a lower class awaiting the new school year. If that meant holding say a G1 student in a nencho kinder class, then would they move with the kinder children to a new G1 class as a G2 student? Or, would they skip up to the previous year’s G1 class, becoming a G2 class with experience, should one be available? I realise there may be variables to consider.
    We don’t have such a great intake so G1 & G2 beginners may go together.

    Ryan,
    How can you quantify how much income you lose by closing our enrollment period? Does your website say ‘closing enrollment 30 June’? If so, I guess people would read that and not contact you….?

    Thanks
    Paul

    • Avatar Ryan Hagglund

      Paul, I know the top question was for Sean, but we group beginner G1~G3 students together, even though we have a decent sized yearly intake, but make a separate beginner class for G4~G6. They’re all beginners, so find having G1~G3 students start together to not be a problem, and even to have some benefits.

      That’s also a good point that the knowledge that we close enrollments at the end of June might keep us from hearing from all the students who might otherwise contact us. It’s not strongly highlighted on our website, though, and we still get inquiries, so I’ve made the assumption that we know how many aren’t coming. That being said, we’ve occasionally had someone contact us in the spring saying they had wanted to join in the fall but didn’t contact us then because they heard from a friend it was too late to join.

      I guess that fits even better, then, with the theme of Unquantifiable Business Decisions. I still think we get more benefits from the policy than we lose in potential extra revenue.

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