A STUDY OF MARKETING STRATEGIES UTILIZED
BY SELECT INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS
Kelly D. Cawman
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
0829.60/Specialization Seminar in Public Relations for
the Master of Arts Degree in the Graduate Division
of Rowan College of New Jersey
Approved by i"d, d,
DaLe Approved M1w t ) ' /
Kelly D. Cawman A Study of Marketing Strategies
Utilized by Select Independent
Schools, 1994, Thesis Advisor:
Dr. Don Bagin, Educational Public
This study focused on the marketing strategies of
selected independent schools and the different effects
marketing has on the independent school environment.
Studies show that parents select independent schools
because they value the quality programs and services made
available to them. Research shows that all marketing
strategies come back to one main objective---getting the
prospects on campus.
Kelly D. Cawman, A Study of Marketing Strategies
utilized by Select Independent
Schools, 1994, Thesis Advisor:
Dr. Don Bagin, Educational Public
A wide variety of factors now influence parents no
take a long hard look at independent schools and at what
those schools have to offer. Historically, almost all
independent schools have relied on social prestige
ensure student enrollment and sponsors' gift giving;
is no longer the Case. Independent schools are now
presenting and positioning themselves in more traditional
ways. They are now highlighting the educational and social
advantages of attending an independent school.
The independent schools studied utilized specific
enrollment and fundraising strategies geared toward
enrollees and their families. The study focused
reasons independent schools need to concentrate on
children and families unaware of the benefits of an
Nationally, approximately 1% of school age children
attend indpendent schools. The findings supported
hypothesis that independent schools are using families.
alumni, faculty, and administrators to reach out
who remain oblivious to independent school education.
The author reviewed highlights of research available
on the subject of marketing strategies of
The study Contains information on four
enrollment, finance, curriculum, and diversity; the author
found that marketing strategies of independent
loosely constructed around one or all of
Marketi.ng an independent education, in the
necessary. Major stumbling blocks for enrollees, such as
finances and educational aptitude, hinder
from considering independent schools.
Independent schools are advertising Whe benefits
rewards of such an education by showcasing
and successful graduates.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract , .....................
Table of Contents ...............
Preface ......... ................. vi
Introduction ......................... .
Need for the study........................ ... 2
Related Literature. ........ 7
Curriculum ........... ....... 12
F"nancp ............... ........ ...... 1L
Diversity .......... ............. 16
Procedures, , 02C
Literature Search ..................... 20
InLerviews ....... 2...1
Findings ... .... ......................... 24
''.,...... . . . . ....... . _...-
· . .
Diversity.... ...... ...... ...... ...... 33
Finance ................. ..... .......
Chapter 5 . ...... ..... 38
Summar;y ....... ....-.-... . ......... 38
The motivation behind this thesis was due in part by
the author's love of education and the deep admiration for
those people who instill the love of learning in children
each year. Mainly, though, this thesis came to fruition
because the author felt educators need to market and herald
wham's happening in their classrooms and schools On a daily
One of the hottest topics in education today is
independent (private) versus public schooling. Our President
and his family sparked a debate that is still being discussed
when they chose private institution for their daughter's
With a leader such as Bill Clinton choosing a private
school for his daughter to attend, the author felt that the
marketers of education, be they private or public, would be
scrambling to find out what the deciding factor was that led
the Clintons to choose The Friends School. This factor would
be significant since the Clintons announced that they had
visited and reviewed public and private schools and that
their decision was based upon where their daughter would
receive the best education available in the Washington, DC
A wide variety of factors now influence parents to take
a long hard look at independent schools and what those
schools have to offer. In the old days, before multicultural
education and the recession, most independent schools
positioned themselves so that they were available only to the
rich, Almost all independent schools relied on social
prestige to insure enrollment and gift giving. This is not
so anymore, and independent schools are now positioning
themselves in more serviceable ways. Among the factors that
initiated change are, "The meritocratic effect of
standardized aptitude testing as required by selective
colleges, the expanding diversity of America's population,
the increasing availability of financial aid, and the growth
in the numbers of students who make or influence the decision
on where they will go to school+,"
Lest we forget that prestige still dominates che
independent market. many schools are having to find more
creative ways to reach the public who may not know about
independent education or who have never thought it
[independent education] was for them. Independent school
marketers find that all families involved with independent
education are the untapped reserves that will insure that
their school continues successfully.
NEED FOR THE STUDY
The need for this study evolves if the assumption is
valid that the independent schools researched and utilized
specific enrollment and fund-raising strategies geared toward
enrollees and their families. Dr. Rich Cowan, a member of
the National Association of Independent Schools and author of
1 Rick Cowan, The Next Marketing Handbook (Boston: National
Association of Independent Schools, 19911 p. 4
The Next Marketing Handook of Independent Schools,
Those who have experienced the value of any service and
are willing to talk to others about it are the most
convincing marketers...the most successful independent school
marketers are always figuring out ways to connect satisfied
current students and their parents with prospective students
and their parents. 2
Faculty members, alumni, and fellow administrators are
also key communicators. They can be the basis for a
successful enrollment campaign. Empowerment is the best
possible description of independent schools' marketing
strategy. The students, faculty, and administrators are
emnowered to share the unique qualities that make up the
independent school environment. "Goods are produced,
services are performed. "3
To reemphasize the author's assumption that independent
schools have specific techniques for marketing and fund
raising, one must understand the public's opinions and views
on independent educat on. "Nationally, independent schools
enroll less than 1% of the school-age population."4 This can
present a huge problem for the independent school with a
marketing budget of zero to none. TO clarify the author's
Rick Cowan, The Next Marketing Handbook NAIS, 1991)
National Association of Independent Schools, .rinfinas.
Briefing NO. 2 (BoStOn: NAIS) p. 2.
4 Margaret Goldsborough, director of public information, NAIS,
phone conversation, 1-15-94.
position, Cowan says,"Critical to the marketing success of
independent schools will be their ability to
"advertise" their educational quality to a broader
marketplace." 5 Therefore, the independent school must reach a
public that has deep-rooted loyalties to public education and
NAIS noted that, "Educational quality is the single most
important factor that parents consider in weighing the
educational options open to their child"6
NAIS also cited significant considerations made by
prospective parents when trying to choose their child's
educational setting. The significant considerations are
tthe quality of the faculty
*the academic standards of the school
*small class Size
*the valve placed on college preparation
*close contact with faculty
The concrete outcomes of a child's educational
experience may include admission to college, successful
improvement skills or overall moral and ethical development.
5 Rick Cowan, The Next Marketina Handbook (Boston: NATS, 1991!
6NATS, Briefings. vol, #2 (Boston: NAIS, 1990) p. 2&3
NAIS stated that, "The intangible aspects of education,
quality relationships and the dynamics of community, are
often invisible to the general public." 7 Research indicated
that those very qualities that the public cannot "see," are
the very cualities that independent schools need to market.
To first understand why only 1% of the school-aged
children enroll in private schools, one must note that
parents will make no movement to inquire about alternative
educational situations if the public education they are
receiving is viewed as satisfactory. Cost. loyalty,
dislocation, the label "independent," as well as those
families that ask "what are the benefits?" are all factors
that contribute to the public's opinion of independent
This multi-purposed study was designed to help those
schools labeled as independent utilize the marketing
strategies that other independent schools are using. It
targeted the strategies that were most effective in obtaining
enrollees and in keeping students and their families happy,
7 NAIS, Briefinas , Vol #2 (Boston: NAIS, 1990) p. 3
This study was limited to published articles found in
the ERIC documents, January 1980 through October 1993.
Opinions and answers were from the selected headmasters,
chosen randomly, from independent schools in the Delaware
Valley. Also included were articles, surveys, and critiques
supplied by the National Association of Independent Schools
and Independent School Managers.
A review of previous marketing strategies of independent
schools was conducted using the DelCat Computer System.
Titles of related topics were searched to find specific
topics that would enhance the author's research. The author
reviewed only those topics, she felt contained valid
information pertaining to the topic.
Within chapter two the author reviewed highlights of
research available on the subject of marketing strategies of
independent schools. in The NeMarketino Ha0rdook, Rick
Cowan wrote, " In the bad old days, most independent schools
were positioned along a very few dimensions."8 The dimensions
of social prestige and financial stability were the common
links between independent schools and prospective families.
Cowan noted that marketing was basically nonexistent.
with that thought in mind, the author contacted Sheryl
Seiber, head of the lower school at Woodland Country Day
School, Bridgeton, New Jersey, and a former colleague. The
author discussed ideas on marketing with Seiber, specifically
that Woodland had hired a director of pubic relations 1993
94. When the author asked the reasoning behind this move,
Seiber replied, "The decline in enrollment prompted the Board
of Directors to take a closer look at ways to draw new
students and families into the independent
climate. . marketing seemed to be an area we were lacking,'
Seiber provided the author with addresses and phone
numbers for two independent school associations: National
Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) of Washington,
Rick Cawan, The New MJarkl^tfin Hlok (foston: NAIS, 1991) p. 1
9Sheryl Seiber, head of lwer school, Woodland Country Day School,
Bridgeton, NJ, phone converse ion, 10-25-93
D.C., and Independent School Managers (ISMI of Wilmington,
The author then contacted NAIS and was referred to
Heather Smith, director of marketing. SmiLh provide the
author with pamphlets, brochures, listings of publications,
and a summary of market research themes.
Smith also provided the author with a listing of 30
related books and reports on independent schools. These
books and reports are published by NAIS and were made
available to the author. The Next Marketing Handbook and
ghajing Strateav. Indenendent Schono Planning in the 90s,
yielded information applicable to this research paper.
A second call was placed to Independent School Managers
in Wilmington, Delaware. ISM referred the author to Kelly
Rawlins. director of public information. Rawlins provided
the author with annotated listings of all articles published
by ISM from 1975 through 1993. The author reviewed ninety-
six summaries of articles listed under the titles of
"marketing," "marketing and promotion," "opinion," "relations
with publics. "'management style and practices," and
"planning and analysis." From the ninety-six articles
reviewed, the author evaluated eighteen that related
information on the research topic. The author selected eight
articles that contained the most pertinent information on the
The author conducted a search on the nel Cat Cn-Line
Database system at the University of Delaware's Hugh M.
Morris Library, Newark, Delaware. This search yielded
articles on microfiche only.
Within uel Cat, the ERIC database was accessed. The
author specifically researched articles, periodicals and
books published between January 1980 and October 1993. This
search yielded one thousand three hundred and fifty related
articles. The author used the following key words, "public
relations of independent schools," "marketing strategies of
private school," "fund raising," "private schools,"
"independent schools," and "private school public
relations." The author previewed 100 summariese those
100, only six were applicable to the research topic.
Also located within the Del-Cat system was the
ABI/Inform database. The author found five related articles;
two contained information pertaining to the study.
Another database within Del Cat was the Infotrac System.
This search yielded several articles that overlapped the ERIC
The final search was a dissertation search. This
search, also conducted ac the University of Delaware's
library, was done by the author on the PROQUEST system of
Dissertation Abstracts. The author used the following key
words: "marketing and education," "private schools," "public
relations," "educational public relations," "independent
education," and "private schools and marketing." The
PROQUEST system had three time frames from which the author
could choose. The author conducted a search pertaining to
the years 1992-93, 1988 92, and 1982-87. The author felt
that anything prior to 1982 could be outdated. The
dissertation search yielded 300 dissertations, using the key
words described above. The author previewed summaries on
those dissertations and found that five contained bits and
piGces of the author's topic, but none contained the author's
The following information contains related findings on
the four topics to be covered in the author's research:
enrollment, finance, curriculum and diversity. The copics
were chosen because the author found, through researcn and in
discussions with NAIS and ISM representatives. that marketing
strategies of independent schools are loosely constructed
around one or all of those topics.
In 1991 the NAIS published a Summary of market research
themes to help independent schools combat the rising side of
low enrollment, inflation, curriculum challenges and so
forth. In this book, author Meg Moulton and a team of
researchers surveyed schools only to identify current themes
and patterns in independent school marketing All schools
participated anonymously. None of the schools interviewed
for :his research paper participated in the study, although
all are members of the NAIS.
Moulton stated, "Academic quality, positive educational
outcomes, an emphasis on the individual and high standards
(academic and personal) all shine through research as
Consistently distinctive attributes of an independent
Margaret Goldsborough, the director of public
information for NAI$, spoke with the author on the telephone
stating, "The bottom-line for enrolling a student in an
independent school is the educational suality. "
Moulton stated, ,The reputation of independent schools
for educational excellence appears to be well grounded in the
quality of its academic programs. "12
Rick Cowan, author of The Next. Marketing Handbook, had
this to say about enrollment, "The object of the game
(enrollment marketing), is to find your corner of the
consumer's consciousenss (sometimes referred to as a "niche")
and then exploit it, expand it, and defend it." 1 3 He also
10 Meg Moulton, Summary of Market RefSroh Themes (Boston:
NAIS, 1991) p. 4,
11 Margare: Goldsborough, director of public information,
NAIS, phone conversation,l-15-94.
12 Meg Moulton, Summary of Market Research ..Theres (Boston:
NAIS, 1991) p+ 4
13 Rick Cowen, The Next Marketing Hnrdboook (Boston: NAIS,
1991) p, 4
noted that, "If you don't bother to position yourself, your
customers and competitors will do it for you. "14
NAIS cites in its newsletter, Briefings, that, "76% of
the parents in one market study cited "quality Curriculum" as
an important characteristic entering into their decision-
making on enrollment."'
NAIS goes on to say, "That the concrete outcomes of the
child's educational experience may include admission to
college, successful improvement in the child's skills or
overall moral and ethical development." 6
Rick Cowan suggests that a large percentage of inquirers
of independent education "Clutch at what can be touched,
seen, and shown."17
Research has shown the author that curriculum issues are
the most widely discussed, evaluated and reviewed by
inquiring parents, faculty, boards of trustees, current
students, and alumni,
Cowan found that parents already satisfied with their
child's current educational setting will make no move toward
finding alternative educational options. He stated,
"Critical to the marketing success of independent schools
14 Cowen, p, 4
15 NAIS, Briefing , Briefing 02 (Boston: NAIS) p.2
16 Briefings, p. 2
17 Rick Cowen, The Next Marketing Handbook (Boston: NAIS,
1991) p. 5
will be their ability to 'advertise' their educational
quality to a broader marketplace."l
Meg Moulton of NAIS noted that academic quality is
mentioned repeatedly by prospect, inquirer, and current
The author found through research and related articles
that, "A desire for a better education for their child
appears to prompt many parents to consider another
educational setting." 19
W. Rodman Snelling, editor of Tdeas_ &PernSeetv s_, a
newsletter published by ISM, states, "A renewed concern for
'basics' has had a direct influence on the increased interest
in non-public educaeion."20
Snelling notes, "Independent and other private schools
are viewed by many as representing tradition and tradition
implies 'basics. ' "21
ISM listed reasons that alternative educational
settings are sought by the public, and ISM found that they
usually center on:
'Increased orientation to college preparation.
*Young people marrying older...after a nest egg has
been earmarked for education.
18 Cowen, p. 20
19 Meg Moulton, S mary of Market ResearcThemes. (Boston:
NAIS, 1991) p.4.
20 ISM, Ideas & Persnectives, Vol. 1 #9(ISM: Wilm.,DE: 1976G
21 ISM, p. 38
Without a doubt, the biggest competitor
independent school is the public
school, Cost puts
independent schools at a distinct
disadvantage when compared
to the perceived-to-be "no cost'
NAIS notes that, "the deep seated
loyalty to the public
education system is hard to crack.
"' NAYS conducted a market
research study in 1991. In this study, ninety-seven percent
of parents questioned rated "good
preparation for college" as
either very Or extremely important.
NAIS advises the
marketers of independent schools
to emphasize the independent
school commitment to higher education
in all publications and
contacts with the public.
Although all findings, discussions
emphasized academic quality,
a recurring undertone was the
cost of independent education.
-The cost of an independent education and the lack of
awareness of the availability
of financial aid appear to have
significant impact on the ability
of many schools to broaden
their inquiry and applicant pool." 21
Two articles provided by NAIS,_inaci
ffalit Educ.tion fr our . and Pri.Cn__n
22 NAIS, Bs
ji A, Briefing #2 (Boston: NAI$,
23 Meg Moulton, S-mamo 19901p. 3
o farkeah he (Boston:
NATS, 1990) p. 4
ALforahil i, BiSin. Volume 4,
May 19911), contained
excellent references on
pricing and affordability.
found that, "Cost appears
to be a major stumbling block
many families considering
an independent education.",2
often many families that
lived in high-income communities
meaning public schools of
low or perceived "no cost."
"Day and boarding schools
have far outpaced rhe consumer
price index, especially
since 1980," reports NAIS.
rapid rise of tuitions since the early
1980s is almost
certainly related to schools'
increased Commitment to
salaries. " 2
NAIS explains that independent
schools have expensive
commitments, "They have
traditionally believed in
strong academics and extracurricular
activities, small school
size and excellent facilities,
the development of the whole
child. 27 The pricing of
independent schools narrows
their market, and defines
kinds of institutions they
How then do high tuition
independent schools market
financial options? NAIS
found that, kAn extended trend in
tuition and fee increases
exoeeding the rates of
the consumer price index
and other measures of peoples
5 Meg Moulton, m t Rh (stont
NAIS. 1991) p. 30
26 NAIS, Briefinp, Briefing t4,
27r----Q, (Boston: NAIS, 1991) p. 3
ability to pay for independent education,' has stemmed
Several pertinent ideas on increasing enrollment
providing more creative financing was found by this
all research. MAZS provides its members with a list of
financial advisors that will help interested families
out financial difficulties.
Diversity is important to the major theme of independent
school marketing because many independent schools
rise above social and economic exclusiveness.
"Minority birthrates in the united States has
outstripped those of whites. a'
ISM also states. "The effects of social diversification
have already begun to appear in schools. Averaging
1987 88, minority enrollment in NAIS schools
has risen over
20% this decade."30
ISM found that Asian students form the majority
grades of Celifornia independent schools, ISM
independent schools in major trade centers, such
as New York
29 NAIS, Brzifinfi. Brieting # 4 (Boston: NAIS,
ISM, Ideas PIersectMiy "Emerging Markets for Private-
Independent Schools."(TISM Wilm., DE, 1989) p.
3O Ideas_.d Persnecri v__ p. 62
and Los Angeles, found, "foreign executives children
10-25% of independent school enrollment.'
The United States is just beginning
to realize it has
resources found in no other
nation on earth. Ethnic ties to
virtually every race and religion
on this planet enables the
United States educational
system to have a slight edge
other countries' educational
This realization will push
United States business
leaders to promote education
in and for diversity. ISM
notes, "BusineSs leaders
will need managers who can
an increasingly diverse work
force."'2 ISM feels that a
managed independent school
with a diverse student body
appropriate programs can provide
The author found in all the
research that diversity
among races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds
independent schools needs
to heralded. Many schools must get
beyond the social,"highclasst
exclusive name tag that often
precedes people's thinking
about independent school
Often independent schools
are viewed as, "inclusive,
diverse communiies ... homogenous
and apart from the "real
world. " 33
"1 ISM, 'I
Independent Schools" (Wilm., DE: Markets for Private
32 de&s. ISM, 1989) pG 62.
ereti, p. 63
33 Meg Moulton. urnmmw nf MrLae
NAI$, 1991) p. 15 (Boston-
Many studies pointed out that independent schools need
to "Work toward heterogenously grouping or risk becoming
Diversity doesn't just mean mixing people of race or
color. Diversity includes marketing toward learning disabled
and students from poor economic backgrounds.
"Opportunities for personal growth" was mentioned most
frequently in the research findings. Many parents value
camaraderie/friendships as the second most important thing
about attending an independent school, the first being
educational value. 3
William Weary stares, "Even with a considerably broader
mix of backgrounds, a broader mix from which we all benefit,
a school can in some ways still be homogenous."zb
weary points out that the different perspectives of the
child of a foreign
iawyer, undeniably important, may be the
only diversity an independent school seeks.
Unfortunately, many parents are not tuned in to the
diversity present in most independent schools. Cowan stated,
"Non-traditional parents have a greater difficulty
appreciating the intangible benefits of an independent school
34 NAIS, Briefings, Volume 5, (Boston: NAIS, 1992) p. 1
35 Meg Moulton, Summary of Mrket Research Themes, (Boston:
NAIS, 1991) p. 13
'6 ISM, Ideas & PerqsDetive "Paying Attention to Diversity
Today," Vol. 14, #12 (Wilm.,DE:; SM, 1990) p. 47.
37 Rick Cowen, The NexL Marketinn Hnrlnlok. (BoStLn: AISZ, 1991) p. 20
Although the author's resources were limited, the author
found valuable information in the reSearch. Due to the
limited information on marketing strategies of independent
schools, the author will attempt to provide, in the ensuing
chapters, some enlightening information on marketing
strategies that are currently successful.
THE LITERATURE SEARCH
TO define the reason for the author's thesis topic,
several avenues of information were researched. This insured
that the topic was feasible and had never been done before.
To begin the research, the author contacted Sheryl
Seiber, a former colleague from the woodland Country Day
School, Bridgeton, New Jersey. Seiber provided the author
with addresses of two independent school organizations.
These organizations or associations are groups much like the
AMA, AARP, NEA, etc. All members of NAIS receive support,
resources, and occasionally financial assistance information.
The National Association of Independent Schools, NAIS,
referred the author to Heather Smith, director of marketing
for NAIS. Smith sent brochures, dies, pamphlets and
listings of publications, as wel as a summary of market
research themes. Smith was extremely helpful in sending
on the targeted areas of finance, enrollment,
market research and curriculum. The market study done by
NAIS is the most current study available. It was published
A call to the Independent School Managers, ISM, in
Wilmington, DE, provided the author with an opportunity to
discuss marketing strategies with Kelly Rawlins, director of
public information. Rawlins also sent brochures, news
articles, and related pamphlets on independent schools.
Next, a computer search was conducted at the University
of Delaware's Hugh M. Morris Library. This search was
conducted to find the most relevant and Current information
available. The author reviewed materials from three
Research for the study was conducted on the DelCat
System. Within DelCat, ERIC Databases were accessed using
the key words, "public relations of independent schools,"
"marketing strategies of private schools," "private schools,"
"independent schools<" "fund raising," cnd "private school
public relations." This search yielded one thousand three
hundred and tifty titles. The author previewed 100 topics;
only six were applicable to the author's topic. The author
was able to use three of the applicable six.
The study also accessed the AB3/Inform Database. This
search yielded two topics that were acceptable. Key words in
this search were, "PR in private schools," "fund raising,
and "independent school marketing
The last search conducted on database was on the
Infotrak System. This system yielded several articles that
overlapped the DelCat output.
This study interviewed seven independent schools from
from New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
the author with a listing of all schools
organization. This list came complete with addresses,
numbers, and names of headmasters.
The author sent
introduction letters, with a return
postcard, to each school
in Delaware, Southern New Jersey,
Pennsylvania. Seven independent schools. out of 15,
postcards back acknowledging that they
would consent to be
personally interviewed by telephone
by the author. Each
school shared similar characteristics
Each school was a
pre-school to grade nine or grade 12.
Each school was
coeducational. Each school was a
day school, and each was
independent, not affiliated with any
To ensure response, a cover letter
explaining the study
and a self addressed postcard for
response were mailed to
each school. If the headmaster or director agreed
to a ten
minute telephone interview. the postcard
was to be mailed
back to the author. This allowed
the author to then set up
appointments with the interested parties
All of the
questions for the interview were asked
of each school.
regardless of possible economic and
The questions were pretested on
the Serminar I public
relations class at Rowan College of
New Jersey. Copies were
distributed and the class discussed
and fine tuned rhe
author's questions. This helped the
author to make certain
the questions were specific, unbiased,
and pertained to the
topic. Dr. Den Bagin, seminar advisor, also assisted in
supplying some "hot" topics in independent eaucation.
This study concentrated on the marketing strategies of
independent schools. II centered on the specific topics:
finance, curriculum, ethnic diversity, and enrollment
strategies. The information was correlated and presented to
provide the reader with a clear understanding of the most-
used marketing strategies of independent schools today.
A copy of the sample questionnaire is provided in
This chapter reports the findings obtained from
telephone interviews with seven headmasters of independent
schools. Their responses further support the author's
research on the marketing of independent schools. Until the
late 1980's. marketing was largely ignored or seen as not
needed by the independent school environment.
To summarize, all seven headmasters agreed that
marketing the benefits of an independent school education is
necessary in the 1990s. All respondents agreed that the cost
of an independenn education is the major stumbling block for
the enrollees of the 1990s. Basically all stated that the
majority of parents inquire because they are dissatisfied
with their son's or daughter's current educational setting
and are looking for alternative solutions.
LaStly, the author found that the research supported her
hypothesis that independent schools are advertising the
benefits and rewards of such an education by showcasing happy
parents and successful graduates.
Each school received a cover letter and response
postcard from the author. Each school in Southern New
Jersey. Southeastern Pennsylvania. and Delaware received the
letter. Of the schools that returned the postcard, one was
located in New Jersey, two in Pennsylvania and four in
Delaware. One school was pre kindergarten to sixth grade,
one was pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade, one was pre-
kindergarten to ninth grade, and four were pre-kindergarten
to eighth grade. Enrollment ranged from 150 students to 700
students. Of the headmasters interviewed, four were men and
three were women.
INDEPENDENT SLC.OL EDUCATION
Studies show that parents select independent schools
because they want their children treated as individuals and
because of the quality programs and services made available
to them. To define the differences between independent
schools and public schools, and to share why parents might
Choose one over the other may seem a formidable task. Yet
research shows that all recruitment strategies come back to
one main objective---getting the prospects on campus. The
author found that the more people talked and communicated,
conveying the community and educational atmosphere, the more
exposure in the community an independent school receives.
Enrollment literally begins not with the enrollment
officer or headmaster, but within the core of the
school...the students. If the student is happy and excited
about education, then Mom and Dad are sati.sfied with the
money being spent on this education. iT the whole family is
happy, they tell friends, who tell friends, etc. It's the
admissions director, marketing director, or headmaster's job
to make sure than families remain satisfied. One hundred
percent of those questioned stated word of mouth was their
most effective motivator in prompting families with no
interest to inquire. The Tatnall School, Wilmington,
Delaware, reported that parents were their most compelling
spokespersons. All schools use current parent and student
testimonials in school publications such as brochures,
advertisements, newsletters, and enrollment campaign
All schools questioned use parents and students at Open
Houses. Most Open Houses are held in the Fall and the
Spring. At Open Houses parents and students give tours,
greet guests, staff booths, and give speecnes.
At the Tatnall School, parents conduct the initial tour
of the campus. The Chestnut Hill Academy, Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania, uses student tour guides. The Independence
School, Newark, Delaware, uses the headmaster's secretary to
conduct tours. The remaining four schools' initial visit is
conducted with the headmaster or the director of admissions.
The Upland School, Kenuett Square, Pennsylvania.
conducts the initial visit with the parents only This was
the only school interviewed that does the initial visit this
way, Upland feels it's much less of a disappointment if the
family decides the environment is not what they expecred, or
perhaps it's beyond their means. Upland feels that parents
are usually more blunt and up front with
when the children are not present.
When asked what forms of marketing are used to encourage
inquiry, one hundred percent responded
"print media." All
schools advertised minimally in educational
local newspapers, and on local radio.
All schools stated
lack of funding as the major stumbling
block to marketing
their school. The Tatnall School conducted one
campaign in 1992; it resulted in a substantial increase
(over 50%), in inquiries. Tatnall's budget, for marketing,
is better than most independent schools
in the Delaware
Valley, but marketing stills ranks
low compared to other
demands on Tatnall's budget. Even though the direct mail
Campaign generated a 2% increase in
enrollment, its budget
doesn't allow for another campaign
in the near future.
Tatnall is completing a public service announcement
radio, a venture very new to their
woodland Country Day School, Bridgeton,
New Jersey, is
pursuing advertising on cable as a means
awareness and inquiries.
All schools distribute materials in
a brochure. These
brochures have information on the
history of the school, the
mission statement, goals, financial
options and curriculum.
The Independence School sends a "Welcome Wagon Kit of
Goodies" to anyone who inquires.
It Contains aill of the
aforementioned paperwork, but it
also contains pencils, pens.
a hat, a school calendar, and a pennant, all with the
Independence name and logo on them.
All schools have "Buddy Days." These are days when
students can bring interested friends to school to spend the
day, "soaking up the atmosphere." Chestnut Hill Academy
feels that these days are usually the "clincher" for the
family that's undecided. Many students enter undecided and
by the end of the day are ready to attend full time.
When the author asked each school representative what he
or she felt was the strongest selling point, two
representatives responded, "The quality of the staff members
and their dedication to quality education." One school
responded, "size." This school felt that its small size
contributed to its family atmosphere One school felt
confident in all categories, from academic to campus
appearance. The last three schools reported "quality
curriculum" as their selling point. Their opinions were that
families base enrollment decisions on how each school values
All schools felt that first impressions were lasting, so
a full maintenance staff is hired to maintain appearances.
All schools rated appearance a six or higher, with a ten as
most important and a zero as not important at all.
All schools have extensive grounds to maintain, Tatnall
is situated on over 100 acres and employs a large
groundskeeping crew full time. Upland stated that if the
environment looks safe and inviting, the parents and students
feel safe, so maintenance is extremely important.
Independence School stated, "Shabby and genteel might appeal
to monied people, but new buildings, clean grounds, and an
environment immersed in education looks good."
When the author asked each school to discuss what
competitive strengths each had to offer versus the public
schools, all schools felt very strong in all areas of
academics, especially in the arts, morals and ethics part of
Two schools, upland and Chestnut Hill Academy, reported
that they do cater to the brightest kids. Successful
educational outcomes, i.e. college, are most important to
these students. All schools group homogeneously.
Lastly, the author questioned why a family should
Consider an independent school. Independence School stated
the traditional reasons, something Headmaster Kenneth Weinig
called, "the three P's---purpose, personalization, and
push(expectation).. Woodland and Pilot feel that many
parents are unhappy with current situations or they are
hoping to lay a strong foundation for successful later years.
Tatnall doesn't feel that everybody should consider
independent education. Tatnall feels that a family really
needs to want it to make it happen. Nontessori and Upland
don't think there is any one reason. They both felt that
environment is usually a deciding factor. Finally there's
Chestnut Hill Academy. CHA felt that generalizations are
dangerous, but basically public schools can't hold a candle
to independent schools. Most families are looking for
educational expansion and the best place to find it is in an
"The middle of the road is where the white line is
and that's the worst place to be."
In this competitive world, taking the middle road and
being everything to everyone is not as successful as really
focusing on several things and doing those several really
Support for public education continues to be very strong
in the United States. Therefore, independent schools need to
capitalize on and market their strong points. What sets them
apart? What makes them unique? Independent schools, because
of their independent nature and size, can offer
individualized attention. a challenging curriculum, and a
more nurturing atmosphere. Public schools are often able to
offer broader curriculum choices, but independent schools are
free to offer individualized curriculums in advanced
sciences, mathematics. languages, and literature.
When the author asked the school representatives
their strongest curriculum area was, four
that they were strong in all Curriculum areas.
responded that they were strongest in Language
The independence School requires students
to take two English
courses in the seventh and eighth grades.
Each school was asked if any learning links
nearby schools, be they public or private.
All schools have
"feeder schools. "These schools are pre-schools and high
schools, in the area, that "feed" students
independent environment. Independent and Woodland maintain
strong relationships with all local high
school counselors in
the public and private schools. The author found only two
schools that experience a sense of competition
public schools. The remaining five expressed a desire to
work as closely with the local public
schools to create an
atmosphere that nurtures education and
Woodland continually strives to do more
with the local public
schools because of its rural location.
Another question pertained to the moral
development of the student. All schools
felt strong in their
commitment to teaching a basic code of
ethics and values.
Woodland teaches a values course in its
upper grades, and
Upland has an honor system and a moral
code that all students
are expected to uphold.
On the subject of curriculum development, all schools
responded that their teachers write, evaluate, and refine the
curriculum. Chestnut Hill called its curriculum
development, "quite a democracy." upland recently completed
a three-year evaluation of its curriculum by the teachers.
Oddly enough. Independence School reported that they are
under pressure to review the curriculum because of
"overlaps." Independence offers a varied selection of
accelerated courses that are conflicting with the local high
schools' curriculum, and when students from Independence
enter area public high schools, they are experiencing overlap
in some subjects.
Independent schools are not under state regulations, so
teaching certificates are not required by law. However,
Independence, Woodland, Pilot, Montessori, and Tatnall
require BAs of all new teachers, while Chestnut Hill and
upland do not. chestnut Hill stated that a teaching
certificate is not an issue, when 66% of their professional
staff enter with masters' degrees Of Tatnall'sr staff, 50%
have masters' degrees and eight to ten percent have Ph.D.s.
Of the Independence staff, 35% have their masters' degrees.
All but one school provides assistance for professional
development. Independence feels this is its weakest area and
in need of serious review, but states a low budget as the
reason. They do fund seminars, workshops, and lectures to
enhance staff development. Woodland is continually trying to
encourage its staff members to grow professionally by
offering salary advancements and title changes.
All schools stated that a large part of their success
due to the fine teaching staff they employ. Thomas
Woodland Country Day School's Headmaster, quotes
commitment, dedication. and caring of these particular
professionals are superb." Upland commented that outstanding
teachers create satisfied students and satisfied students
tell others. upland continued with, "Teachers hold down the
attrition rate, they create the atmosphere, and they're
basically the glue that holds a school together."
This section proved to be the smallest section
author's questionnaire, but one that the author
felt was important.
All schools, whether they be independent or
strive to be diverse. The author had hoped to hear some
exciting ways that independent schools market
many different students. unfortunately, all schools are
"gung-hoe to be multi-cultural, but not diverse, in their
makeup. Only Pilot School, Wilmington, Delaware, strives
be diverse, and that's because they are required
is a school that deals with students who are
disabled and socially disabled. Pilot has an enrollment of
150 students, ages five through fourteen, who have
of learning problems. The school has no need to market
itself, families seek them out. Doris LeStourgeon commented,
"Families that do come co us are just as committed to
education as the families enrolled in other private schools "
The author found that all but Pilot do discriminate
against learning disabled students and Some discriminate
against children who are termed below average. Independence
wants only gifted students, Woodland felt that it didn't
discriminate per se, but accepted only those students who
could pass its tests and pay its tuition. Tatnall is the
only school that felt it looked for a "real Cross section' of
when the author questioned each school on filling ethnic
quotas, all schools responded that they re under strains
create diversity for fear they might become labeled
"elitists." Each school sees the Hispanic community as the
ethnic group on the rise in independent education.
stated that professional minorities, those minorities who
hold degrees and good jobs, are now discovering the benetirs
of an independent education. Almost all schools stressed the
fact that reaching out no more and more ethnic groups comes
out of practical purposes; in Other words, it's the old
All parents involved in their child's education
understand the benefits of any education. Where independent
schooling is concerned, parents especially understand the
Costs. Understandably so. many parents are concerned about
affording private SChool.
In these changing economic times, independent schools
must strive to offer parents different ways to finance their
children's education. Tuitions of the schools interviewed
ranged from $5.000 to 11,000 a year. All schools admitted
that cost is the leading factor that affects enrollment. All
schools are trying very hard not to be elitists, but
independent education continues to get more and more
Once tuition rises, the people able to afford
independent education are the elite, especially since very
few scholarships are offered. Independence School believes
that it can be academically challenging and relatively
inexpensive. woodland, on the other hand. feels that costs
affect its enrollment patterns as much as 80%; they're
located in a very poor, rural area and tuition is
approximately $S6000. Upland believes finances have dampened
interest in independent education. Tatnall and Chestnut Hill
believe that tuition for an independent education isn't the
issue with most families that apply. These families have
already decided that this educational lifestyle is worth any
sacrifices. What hurts most schools is the lack of aid, and
very few schools can offer full aid.
When asked how each felt about the proposed voucher
system, most didn't think about it at all. As one headmaster
reminded me, what's $2,000 when tuition is at $11,000. and
that doesn't include uniforms, books, and supplies. All felt
that parochial schools would benefit the most from the
All schools furnish financial aid information at the
initial visit or inquiry. All schools set up appointments
with their financial aid officers once an initial interest is
shown. Upland was the only school that offered alternative
payment plans in the form of sliding scale and alumni child
discounts, All schools are flexible and will set up
financing and payment plans for a 12-month period. Also,
almost every school shows favoritism toward an alumnus' child
requiring assistance and in some cases, that child will
"bump" other applicants.
The author ended the interviews on a general note,
asking all schools to relate their best fundraising projects.
All schools have at least one auction per year, dinner
dances, costume balls, Grandparents Day (a BIG fund-raiser),
donations, covered dish dinners, honor society dinners, and
family visitation days. One unique idea the author found was
used by four independent schools from Delaware+
supermarkets offer $100 coupons to the schools,
Sell these coupons to family and friends for the
of the coupon. In return, the school gets back
of the face value of the coupon.
The author found through these conversations that
independent educators are basically still concentrating
providing a sound, well-rounded education. All schools are
genuinely concerned with enrollment and the continuation
their environment. Each school sees the vital role
marketing plays in its continuance.
All schools realize the need to preach, praise,
their assets, be it on local radio or cable, or
Finally, each will endeavor to sharpen its skills
on an ever
changing population in hopes of attracting potential
Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations
The issues facing this nation change almost daily. AS
the nation faces and deals with economic, political and
social upheaval, the schools are facing these very same
problems. Surveys have shown that the "baby-boomers'
children are marrying later, saving more money, and getting
better paying jobs. These same people are looking for
alternative educational settings to provide their children
with as many advantages in life as possible.
Many parents, all over the country, are faced with
making educational decisions that could ultimately influence
how successful their sons or daughters will be in adulthood.
Violence, poor test scores, low self-esteem, a devalued
curriculum, and the crumbling of the family unit have all
combined to disintegrate our public school systems.
what happens to the families and students who do choose
to value education and the only public school available to
them has a history of violence, poor test scores, a devalued
curriculum, etc.? They choose an independent school.
Regardless of popularity, many independent schools are having
to use creative ways to reach a public that may not know
about independent education, or who have never thought it was
for them. Therefore, the independent school must reach a
public that has deep-rooted loyalties to public education and
Marketers of independent schools must continually strive
to attract a wide variety of students. Independent school
strengths lie in a deep commitment to continuing education, a
moral and ethics code, and a commitment to offer the best
education "money can buy" through small student:te&cher
ratios, advanced curriculum, and small class size.
Perhaps public schools could learn from the attitudes
and ideas that seem so family oriented. But nevertheless,
the author experienced great joy in discussing education and
educational goals with people who seem to be genuinely
interested in producing quality education.
This study surveyed seven independent schools from
Delaware, Southern New Jersey. and Southeastern Pennsylvania,
asking what specific enrollment and fundraising strategies
are utilized to attract enrollees and their families.
Overall, all schools target current students and families to
help them market the school. Paculty, alumni, students, and
administrators are basis for a successful enrollment
A questionnaire was formulated with the help of the
author's professor and classmates. A cover letter, with a
response card, was mailed to fifteen independent schools;
seven returned the postcards and telephone interviews were
arranged. These conversations lasted anywhere from 10 to 40
minutes in length. Since the sampling was not random, the
results and innerpretation reflect opinions only of the
The questionnaire was divided into four main topic
areas: finance, enrollment, Curriculum, and diversity.
After reviewing the answers from the representatives, the
author found that all schools use current parents and
students in school publications, brochures, advertisements,
newsletters, and enrollment Campaigns.
All schools responded that their budget for enrollment
campaigns is minimal, so therefore, all "free" forms of
advertising are utilized. These "tree' forms are "word of
mouth" and happy students and families discussing their
successes with other families.
Several pertinent ideas on increasing enrollment by
providing more creative financing was found by this author in
all research. NATS provides its members with a list of
financial advisors thar will help interested families work
cut financial difficulnies.
Under curriculum, the author found that all schools
highlight a strong commitment to quality curriculum and an
unbending discipline code.
This commitment provides for many marketing strategies.
Parents rated strong Commitment to quality curriculum has
very important, therefore, all schools should strive
highlight this in all publications.
Support for public education continues to be strong
Therefore, independent schools must really market their
strong points, i.e.: individualized attention, challenging
curriculum, and nurturing atmosphere.
A point continually emphasized throughout the study was
the dedication of independent school teachers and their
commitment to provide a quality education. All schools could
not say enough about their fine teachers.
Independent schools are not under any state regulations,
therefore, their teachers do not have to be certified.
Demands for only the best teachers, though, have made it
necessary for independent schools to require that all
incomi.ng staff hold teaching certificates. In many cases
this is not necessary; many hold masters and PH.Ds.
'All schools, be they private or public, strive to be
diverse. Unfortunately, diversity, in its truest form,
rarely occurs. Only one independent school, Pilot, is viewed
diverse. It's a school for the academically and socially
disabled. One other, Tatnall, tries to look for a "real
cross section" of stdLents, yet the respondent could not tell
All schools are under pressure to fill ethnic quotas,
but not learning disabled student quotas. All schools stated
that money is the bottom line
of any reason to solicit
enrollees from ethnic groups.
Many schools are becoming
ethnically diverse due to
makeup of their community.
with the influx of working
immigrants into the United States,
independent schools are
finding their classrooms filled
with a wide variety of
students. These particular families
are searching for
educational settings that
match or exceed the local
school. Many families are also searching
where education is valued;
independent schools are catering
to these individuals.
Finally, there is finance. Independent schools must
Continually strive Lo offer parents
alternative ways to
finance their children's
education. Cost is the leading
factor that affects enrollment.
All schools furnish financial
aid information at the
initial visit or inquiry.
Only one school offers alternative
payment plans, hut all schools
are flexible and will set
The data from this study shows
that independent schools
are slowly coming to recognize
the need to market their
schools. No longer can independent
schools rely on prestige
or social status to get enrollees.
Although all schools do
utilize some forms of marketing
and public relations, it's
essential that they continually
search for other markets
emphasize their strengths.
B. Reconmmendat ions
Because cost is leading factor that influences
enrollment patterns, the author recommends
that all schools
interviewed devise more financial aid
The author found that the curriculum
strategies of the
independent schools interviewed were
excellent. All schools
involve teachers in curriculum changes
and some include the
students. Yet the author feels that all independent
need to include, in their budgets,
a means for training
teachers to handle the technological
changes (i.e. computers,
video productions, CD-ROMS, etc.).
These changes could only
enhance the image that independent schools
have been able to
The author recommends that all schools
strive to create
an atmosphere where all students are
welcome. regardless of
race, religion, financial background,
aptitude. The influx of immigrants to
this nation will demand
that these changes take place, and
the author feels that
immigrants will become the "bread and
independent school environment.
The author recommends that each school
featuring the students and parents
in all forms of
communication. Featuring these people seems to be an
especially successful endeavor on the independent school
marker. The author has listed a few suggestions to further
enhance public relations in the independent market.
Hire a public relations or marketing director
-Do a direct mail Campaign
Perform local radio spots
-Campaign through local corporations
-Activities/Events/Plays open no public
Workshops, seminars and lectures for staff on effective
-Workshops, seminars and lectures for staff on
Name of participant:
Date of interview:
QUESTIONS WERE CATEGORIZED INTO
FOUR TITLES: PINANCE,
CURRICULUM, DIVERSITY, AND
AUTHOR AND THE PERSON ANSWERING THIS ENABLED THE
THE QUESTIONS TO RSEELIN
FOCUSED ON ONE TOPIC AT A TIME.
1. What do you feel is your mosc
effective motivator in
prompting families with no interest
2. WhaN forms of marketing do you use to encourage
inquiries about your school-
__TV RADIO -_F_PRI
__ _..NEWSLETTERS NT
3. What forms of communication do you
use to encourage
families to apply or inquire.
check all that apply:
_ Personal Contact
Back co School Nights
--- Others- please list:
4. How are staff involved in enrollment-
5. At what part of the enrollment process are campus visits
encouraged? Who conducts these tours?
6. what do you feel is your school's strongest selling
point? Check all that apply.
_ education of staff
7. Do you use parent, faculty, or student spokespersons to
highlight academic quality in school publications or during
on campus events?
8. Do you provide summer, academically oriented, programs
that might introduce families to the quality of the
independent school experience? if so, what are some of your
offered programs? Can anyone apply?
9. DO you use pictures and testimonials in school
promotional materials tc show "atmosphere," school spirit,
10. What forms of maintenance does your school employ to
ensure that the outward appearance of the school is
physically pleasing? On a rank of 1 to 10, 10 being the
highest, how would you rank the importance of physical
1_ 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 10
11. what competitive strengths do you emphasize in
comparison to public school? Check all that apply.
Opportunities in the Arts
FOCus on ethics
_ .ttention to moral values
Sense of community spirit
_ Successful educational outcomes
_ Safe environment
12. Why should a family consider an independent school?
13. what is your strongest curriculum area?
14. Do you establish any learning links with nearby
community schools. i.e. student internships, community
service, exchange programs with local high schools, etc.
15. How much effort is there to demonstrate a commitment to
the moral and ethical development of the student?
16, How involved is your staff in curriculum developmentt
17. What educational degree is required to teach in your
18. What do you feel makes your school unique?
19. Do you have a primary targeted audience?
20. Are you under any strains to fill ethnic quotas?
21, With the American melting pot becoming increasingly
larger, what particular ethnic group do you see becoming more
and more a part of the independent school/ climate?
22, How much do you fell the costs of independent schools
vs. the so called "free" public schools affects the
23. The voucher system --what impact do you think it will
have on your school?
24. What percentage of people do you feel, you lose due to
the costs of independent education?
25. Do you publicize that financial aid is available? If
word of mouth
26. Do you have alternative payment plans?
sliding scale tuition
-"Early bird" specials
Alumni child discounts
27. What have been your most successful
Rick Cowan, The Nexl Malketinu Handbook (Boston:
National Association of Independent Schools, 1991) p, 4
"Pricing, Affoirdablity, and Accessibility, " Jia
&Persnect ivns (Independent School Marketers, Vol. 16, #6)
"Attracting and Retaining a Diverse, Multicultural
Student Body,," ideas & Perspeacti.e (Independent School
Marketers. vol. 14, 912) 1 8 90
"Ten Sbeps to Make Your Family Part of Your School's
Marketing Team," Ideas & Pers(Deive (Independent School
Marketers. vol. 15, #1) 4 23 90
"Emerging Markets for Private Independent Schools,
Idea& PerS c (Independent School Marketers, Vol.
15, tl) 4-23-90
"Eleventh Hour Marketing," leaS. & Perspectve
(Independent School Marketers, Vol. 9, #S) 6 25 84
w Rodman Snelling, Ed. : "Snobbery in Private
Education, Ideas i? PerSpectives (Independent School
Marketers, Vol.1, #7) 2 2 76
William A. Weary: "Paying Attention to Diversity
Today, Ideas & Perspectives (Independent School Marketers.
Vol. 14, #12) 1 8-90
Meg Moulton, Snummary of Market Research Themes.
(Boston: National Association of Independent Schools,
1991) p. 4
National Association of Independent Schools,
Briefn-ians. (Boston: National Association of Independent
Schools, 1992) p. 2
National Association of Independent Schools,
Briefings. .(Boston; National Association of Independent
Schools, 1992) p. 5
National Association of Independent Schools, PErents
Guide andtirectory (Boston: National Association of
Independenr Schools, 1992)
Susan Stone, Shaoing Strateuv: Inrdegendfnc School
planning in the 9O's. (Boston: National Association of
Independent Schools. 1993)