Student enrollment is on everyone’s mind today, whether it is attracting more or sustaining what we have. And in most schools where we develop an enrollment management plan or a comprehensive strategic plan, I find the emphasis is on marketing and recruitment resources, techniques, and timelines. While essential in building enrollment, there is another aspect that is equally important and often overlooked – knowing child-age population trends. Schools need to know who’s in the child pool, how many there are, and where they are.
There are two recent trends in the U.S. that are important to keep in mind, especially for elementary schools in many parts of the country. In 2006, our country experienced the largest surge of births in more than four decades. Some demographers attribute this increase to the rise in births among the growing Hispanic population; however, this doesn’t fully explain the fact that there was a dramatic increase among all races and ethnic groups. Implied in this piece of data is the potential for increased enrollment which would have started in 2011-12 as this age group entered Kindergarten. Catholic elementary schools everywhere should be researching the birth rates in their geographic area to determine where and how they should be increasing market share if possible.
A second trend, in contrast to the 2006 birth surge, is a recent article in USA Today that headlined, “US Birthrate Plunges to Lowest Rate Ever Recorded” which took place in 2011. Citing data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the analysis of the Pew Research Center, the article noted that the number of births in 2011 was the lowest since at least 1920. And I note that this follows a birthrate decline of 8% from 2007 to 2010. Granted, the 2008 – 2009 economic recession played a role in this trend and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The data simply tells us to be ready to be flexible and adapt.
My point is that schools need to be very aware of and know their markets in terms of child-age data as well as they know to market. Watching the various population trends on a regular basis can only strengthen the best marketing and recruitment initiatives.