Understanding Your Enrollment – A Key Driver of Revenues and Expenses
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A key first step in telling a district’s story and planning for coming school years is reviewing both current enrollment and enrollment history. Historical perspectives on enrollment numbers and student needs are critical data points administrators can use to educate internal teams, school boards, and their communities.
The example school district here has experienced an enrollment decline in recent years, as have many districts around the country. While COVID-19 is likely to blame for recent dips, the decline in enrollment began much earlier. The district will likely recover some of those losses, but to what degree? If you were to project enrollment in coming years, what impact should the community consider?
District enrollment changes are complicated and bring another new twist of complexity to the conversation, prompting questions such as, which schools within the district are seeing the biggest changes?
Below are the schools that comprise the above example district.
On the surface there are a several observations which might warrant additional consideration. Some districts reach a point where there are fewer students in certain neighborhoods because more families without school age children or retirees choose to stay in that part of the community. As in the example above, a district in this scenario may see a steep decline in one or more schools. Questions will likely begin to surface about staffing and budgeting concerns. It’s also important to address specific student populations, such as low socioeconomic, ELL, or IEP status. These groups may require special attention and professionals to deliver services.
When evaluating enrollment changes at your district, the two considerations that typically warrant the most focus are:
- Changes in enrollment at the district level. How much has your enrollment changed this year compared to prior years? This impacts state and federal funding. The ability to speak about enrollment trends and the historical impact of changes for your district is critical to planning effectively for future revenues.
- Changes in enrollment at the school level. This will impacts staffing and student-teacher ratios, as well as the distribution of special services. School-level discrepancies tend to be more common in larger districts but are easier to identify in smaller districts.
Analyzing your enrollment data early and often will help ensure your district is not only prepared to effectively communicate with stakeholders but is also prepared for the future.
Senior Advisor, Analytics
Forecast5 Analytics, a Frontline Education Company