A 20% Increase in Enrollment (& How it was Done!) #PODCAST

October 28, 2015 Peter Baron

Imagine you’re a new head of school. Enrollment’s down, and your board of directors tasked you with boosting the numbers.

Where do you start? How do you quickly (and thoughtfully, mind you) assess the school’s strengths and weaknesses? What does your plan look like to increase the student population with mission-appropriate students?

Greg Bamford faced this very scenario when he assumed the head’s position at Watershed School, a small progressive private school in Boulder, CO.

In episode 18 of Blackbaud K-12’s Get Connected Podcast, Greg shares how he and his team embraced the challenge and realized a 20% enrollment boost (growing their student body from 55 to 70).

Greg dives into the details and offers direct advice for any school (regardless of size) looking to grow their student population.

First, though, if you don’t know Greg, before becoming head at Watershed, he lived in Seattle and worked in and out of schools. He taught English and History and was a department chair at Overlake School.

Then in 2010, he started his consulting practice that included co-founding Leadership+Design, a non-profit dedicated to supporting creative leaders as they drive innovation in their schools

For a full breakdown of what we covered, make sure to check out the episode notes below.

You have a few listening options. Download the episode, listen to the podcast below or subscribe to our channel on iTunes!

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Episode Notes:

  • Greg talks about his background as an educator and consultant along with sharing Watershed School’s history.
  • When Greg arrived at Watershed, he found a school community that wasn’t “feeling good” about itself. Enrollment was down, people were wondering about the long-term health of the school, and the mission-market alignment was off. Hear how Greg approached understanding the challenges and the steps he took to begin the rebuilding process.
  • As a new head, Geg had a lot on his plate (getting to know the community, building an understanding of the culture, etc.). In our conversation, learn how he approached the admission aspects of his job by asking some key questions:

Who is your customer?

Why do they choose you?

What are the stories they tell when they explain why they go the school?

What words do they use to describe you?

What are their pain points?

Do you have current customers who aren’t well served? And is that your fault or because they’re looking for something you don’t offer?

  • As a head of school, Greg partners with his admission director. Listen to understand how he positions his office to support the school’s admission and enrollment objectives
  • Greg does a fantastic job breaking down his admission strategy. Hear how better storytelling, branding, a refined student profile, and investments into mission-consistent programs benefited Watershed.
  • We conclude with some advice. Greg offers his recommendations for a school looking to solve an enrollment challenge.

About the Author

Peter Baron

Peter Baron is the Chief Member Relations Officer at the Enrollment Management Association. Prior to joining EMA, Peter served as a senior product marketing manager, for Blackbaud K-12. Peter is the founder of edSocialMedia, a community-driven site dedicated to exploring the role of social media in education. He regularly contributes to various online communities and education conferences like NAIS, CASE/NAIS & SSATB to explain the importance of providing modern, user-friendly experiences for school constituents. Peter also serves as a trustee for Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School and is an Executive Committee member of TABS’ North American Boarding School Initiative.

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