Maintaining Enrollment in a Competitive Market

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stjN.E.K.- St. Johnsbury Academy and Lyndon Institute continuously work to meet their budgets when it comes to enrollment numbers.

At the beginning of the 2018 school year, both institutions reported slightly lower numbers for their boarding programs than the year prior. So what does that mean exactly? According to Sara O'Connor, L.I.'s Interim Director of Admissions, it really hasn't made much of a difference.

"Our numbers really aren't a worry," she said. Going on to explain the demographics of the area, and the fact that less students are in the high school age-range right now. "Having a little bit smaller of a school allows for better relationships. So everything has worked out for the positive with that."

When asked if the decline in the boarding students (60 compared to 100 last year) resulted in any job cuts, O'Connor did note some changes, but didn't credit anything to the student population directly. "There were some changes in personnel over the Spring. Any organization, school, or institution, they have a budget. We're not worried about our budget for the following year."

At Saint Johnsbury Academy, where the boarding population is down to 240 compared to last year's 247, Associate Headmaster Jack Cummings reported a similar outlook. "We'd be thrilled if it were 250, but 240 is okay. And actually from a financial standpoint, we're ahead of the 247. So we're in the black. We've made the numbers that we've needed to make. It's all about net tuition revenue, that's the model we really use. So seven fewer students is netting a greater tuition. So it's still a very good year."

Another common denominator between the two schools is their effort to create diverse student bodies. Cummings described the enriched cultural environment at the Academy, discussing the importance of exposing young adults to a variety of backgrounds.

"I think the opportunity to have this kind of experience at 16 or 17, I'm sure people would disagree, but I think it would be a little more impactful then even waiting until you're a little bit older because you're less formed," he continued. "So for us, it's really about working with our partners who refer students, and making sure that we take really good care of our students when they're here, and helping them reach the goals and aspirations they have for themselves."

He did however, note the many challenges in today's marketplace, which make it diffilcult to upkeep such a diversified student body. "It's a different world than it was just a few years ago," he said, describing the many competing schools, not only in the Northeast Kingdom, but around the world.

At L.I., students from four new countries are attending the school this year, including Turkey, Turkmenistan, The Netherlands and Kyrgyzstan. This results in a total of 19 different countries representing the student body, and O'Connor couldn't be more excited.

"In our auditorium, where we have assembly twice a week, where the whole student body meets, we have the flags of every country that have been in the boarding population since the start of the boarding program. And so we're going to hang those flags up. The students are always excited to see them."

Moving forward, both O'Connor and Cummings report that the schools are in good places financially, but that the effort to keep that stability is ever present.