The Admission Director* as Chief Value Proposition Officer: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

By Dr. Harry Bloom

Measuring Success’ research among hundreds of independent schools of all sizes and types in all kinds of market situations indicates that a school’s relative (to competition) perceived value determines its enrollment. Yet, in most schools, there is no one tasked with managing all the components driving relative perceived value, and this is a major barrier to enrollment and financial vitality.

In this post, I will make the case that now is the time to formalize the Admission Director as the de jure Chief Value Proposition Officer. I will also describe how to go about doing so.

The Need for a Designated Leader

If we unpack the elements that go into creating a superior value proposition, they would include the following activities which determine (a) the relative quality and depth of the school’s offerings to its students and their families and (b) the drivers of the tuition that is charged in return. As can be seen in the table below, these activities typically fall under the responsibilities of different departments within the school.

While it is legitimate to say that the Head of School is its de facto Chief Value Proposition Officer, the reality is that most Heads are already fully engaged in internal and external constituency management and simply lack the time to do justice to this vitally important endeavor. So, if not the Head of School, who? 

I submit that the Admission Director’s success or failure in meeting their enrollment goals is so dependent on getting Net Relative Perceived Value right and their connection with the customer is so deep, that they (You!) are the logical candidate to pick up the responsibility—along with the supportresources to fulfill it.

Driver of Relative Perceived ValueWho Manages It
Parent and Student and Prospective Parent research; Competitive AnalysisEnrollment Management; Marketing
Curricular Quality; Teaching Quality; Co-Curriculars; FacilitiesAcademic Leadership; Athletic and Arts Departmental Leadership; Facilities Management
Expense Management: Staffing Levels, Compensation Levels, Purchases of Goods and ServicesFinance; Departmental Leadership
Auxiliary Revenue GenerationVaries Widely
Advancement: Annual, EndowmentAdvancement
Tuition Setting; Financial AssistanceBoard; Head; Finance; Admissions

Strengthening Relative Perceived Value

So, let’s assume that you make the case for the criticality of this work to your Head of School, and youfind a receptive ear. What would you actually do to ensure your school maximizes its Relative Perceived Value?

5 Steps to Manage Relative Perceived Value

Based on Measuring Success’ experience helping numerous schools perform the research and take the indicated steps to maximize their perceived value, here is what you need to do to ensure your school is managing it to maximum effect:

  1. Establish Clear Accountability: You have achieved step one if you have successfully been anointed with the role of Chief Value Proposition Officer and staff or consulting support to fulfill it! Congratulations! Here is what you need to do next:
  2. Generate the Needed Information:
    • Conduct in depth market research among prospective and current families to identify your school’s relative –to its competition, public and private–perceived strengths and weaknesses on the outcomes that matter most to current and prospective families.
    • Partner with your school’s CFO to perform comprehensive benchmarking of your school’s key revenue generation, expense management and asset utilization ratios compared to those of respected peer schools to pinpoint better ways to utilize resources and minimize tuition increases.
  3. Convene Your School’s Leadership Team, Lay Out Your Findings and Together Define theRequired Corrective Areas and Actions: Form a working team of key functional leaders at yourschool. Share the findings from the research and benchmarking analysis. Allocate the areas requiring corrective action or reinforcing action to relevant, influential school leaders. Work with them to them to define improvement hypotheses and then the corrective/reinforcing programs that remedy weaknesses and optimize resource allocations to what matters most.
  4. Project Manage by Conducting Regular Show and Tell Meetings Where Assigned Team Members Share their Progress Bringing Needed Corrective Action to Fruition: Define implementation responsibilities, timeframes of required action, anticipated progress milestones. Codify the collective plans into a school wide financial roadmap. Meet regularly as a team to measure and review progress and define corrective action as needed. Actively communicate about progress—giving lots of praise where due– and challenges to be overcome. This disciplined process has helped scores of schools make measurable progress that results in enhanced relative perceivedvalue for tuition—and enrollment and financial vitality.
  5. Repeat the research and benchmarking process every other year. Improvement cycles generally take time to come to fruition– although there will be immediate gains as well. Watch the growth in organizational wisdom, enrollment, and esprit d’corps that flows from the process! Yours is now a learning organization, able to master the strengthening of its relative perceived value and growth.

Congratulations! By managing this most important issue informed by data and research, setting concretecorrective and reinforcing goals, and catalyzing the entire school leadership team to care about RelativePerceived Value and work to achieve it, you have positioned yourself for expanded career opportunitiesand your school for ongoing success.

Measuring Success has over 15 years of experience helping independent schools measure what needs to be measured, identify corrective action, and monitor progress through to success. We would be delighted toassist your school in enhancing its relative perceived value—acting as your guide and staff as appropriate. Please contact Dr. Harry Bloom, Senior Vice President of Client Solutions at 202-524-1532 to discuss how we can support your efforts to increase Relative Perceived Value. *Aka Enrollment Management Director

For questions about these takeaways, or to find out more about Measuring Success’ tailored survey offerings, please email Harry.