Can't Build A Larger Endowment? Then What?

If you cannot easily build a larger endowment, then what?


I have always thought that enrollment was the most critical area to save an independent school. My CFO and I used to always debate who was king, cash or enrollment? This can be a tricky question. You can end up closing your doors, if you stress one and forget the other. As a wise veteran teacher at Worcester Academy said to me,

“I have heard of schools with no endowment, but I have never heard of an endowment with no school".

VisM believes the following:

  1. Work hard to build your enrollment, but NEVER lose sight of NET TUITION REVENUE. Schools that over spend constantly to keep students but build annual deficit budgets are doomed.

  2. It is a mistake to build an enrollment by admitting students who are too weak to succeed in your school’s curriculum. Parents and students are looking for schools that excel, have good college placement records and success on test scores. Your academic reputation is critical to staying competitive.

  3. It is all right to strategically shrink your enrollment, if this is done to improve the quality of your student body, and, if you adjust your balance sheet so that you can run a balanced budget.

  4. Don’t take on unrealistic debt to build a facility that you think will significantly increase your enrollment. There are no quick fixes to school security and long life. There are many more schools that have tried the “build it and they will come” dream and failed, than there are schools that have done this successfully.

  5. To build your enrollment you must have a well researched plan that looks at your demographics, your past history, your message. Never forget that the best marketing tool has always been, and always will be, word of mouth. Happy and pleased students, parents, faculty and alumni will keep your new enrollees coming.

  6. Word of mouth, however, is not everything in good marketing. You need help in establishing a strong brand image.


VisM Group works with schools to fight and win the enrollment, financial-aid, marketing, strategic planning and balanced budget challenges.

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  • Dexter Morse LinkedIn