Preschool enrollment management isn’t what it used to be. If you’re technically within the legal limits of teacher/student ratios, but it somehow feels like you’re still way over — know that you’re not alone.
In recent years, we’ve seen a big shift in the enrollment planning requirements early childhood education (ECE) centers have to meet. Between a national teacher shortage, behavioral changes in families and kids, as well as new requirements for health and safety, it’s more important than ever to have robust enrollment management systems for your preschool or childcare center.
In this article, we’ll review what enrollment management for preschool actually is, why airtight enrollment forecasting is more crucial than ever to your billing and revenue strategy, and dive deep into two key reports to help you nail it.
MomentPath empowers center directors to easily forecast preschool enrollment and capacity, without manual data entry. Request a free demo and find out how it works.
There’s no way you could have planned for Liam eating a glue stick like a package of string cheese. No one could have possibly anticipated Tiana giving herself a haircut because she couldn’t get one of her pigtails out.
Unexpected surprises happen every day in ECE, but enrollment rates should not be one of them. Being able to prepare both operationally, as well as financially for upcoming enrollment can have a major impact on your ability to deliver on both staff and parent expectations.
Enrollment management is the act of developing and executing a strategy for shaping your preschool’s enrollment levels in order to meet its goals. While the term ‘enrollment management’ is used commonly in higher education, it also applies to early childhood education, including preschool and childcare centers.
It’s no surprise that since the pandemic, many preschools and ECE centers are having a tough time financially.
As the industry struggles to recover, one of the smartest things you can do for your early learning business is to anticipate your enrollment rates. Doing so will give you better insight into the tuition fees needed to offset your expenses and help forecast your costs and profits more accurately.
Preschool teachers are up against a lot right now.
Between academic disruption leaving students behind on key milestones, as well as isolation causing social and attachment issues, your staff’s jobs are harder than ever. Effectively managing enrollment rates can grant your center additional recruiting time to meet your staffing needs while keeping ratios low. Having enough time to hire the right people is a huge advantage right now, and may help your staff retention rates.
Parents are experiencing heightened anxiety and larger financial strain when it comes to enrolling their children in preschool or childcare.
Right now, childcare can feel like a big sacrifice for parents to make. Add in tuition hikes, and you’re going to have an expectation of a higher quality care from families. Understanding your enrollment rates will ensure you have adequate staffing, systems, and pricing to be able to meet the needs of families.
Need to streamline enrollment management across dozens or even hundreds of centers? Learn how MomentPath helped the team at Lightbridge Academy unify operations across 133 childcare centers.
New census data reveals that preschool enrollment dropped nearly 14% during the 2020-21 school year.
This brings enrollment rates down to even lower levels than during the Great Recession of 2008. At the same time, many ECE centers are also experiencing an increase in operational costs, creating additional pressure on financial forecasting.
While these increases will vary center to center, here are some changes you may want to consider when managing your enrollment this year.
A survey conducted by NAEYC in 2020 concluded that 56% of the childcare centers that stayed open were coming up negative financially.
No matter what your business model looks like, chances are you’re going to be experiencing some new pandemic-related expenses. These were impossible to forecast a few years ago, but now is the time to make sure you’re accounting for any new expenses including personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, and other costs impacted by inflation.
Yes, there’s a cost associated with hiring and retaining teachers thanks to the national teacher shortage. However, the biggest chunk of your new expenses are likely to be related to sick day coverage and pay.
Studies show that while teachers do not have an increased risk of death or hospitalization, they are 37% more likely to test positive for Covid than other workers, resulting in centers needing to hire substitutes, pay for sick leave, and even shut down entire classrooms due to staffing shortages.
You may want to consider an estimated opportunity cost of increasing enrollment by hiring new teachers with the latest cost of hiring additional staff to help make the right decision for your center.
Throughout the pandemic, we saw a lot of new emergency stabilization grants for childcare centers.
The goal was to empower centers to remain open and ready for families to return to work. As the world slowly returns to some sense of normalcy, it’s important to ensure you’re accounting for programs that are ending or maybe even starting as you manage your preschool enrollment rates.
Moving forward, preschool and childcare centers will need deeper insights into enrollment management and capacity planning to help keep attendance and revenue on track.
At MomentPath, we’ve seen that the centers who have the most success with enrollment planning focus on two key reports: the enrollment forecast and the capacity planning report.
Here is the complete breakdown of how these reports work inside MomentPath.
By using an Enrollment Forecast Report, center admins can quickly analyze, manage, plan, and predict future enrollment rates.
This report looks at your current income and expenses by classroom, and can predict what your financial outcome will be as children move up, into, or out of your program. This can be done at the individual center level, or enterprise-wide.
If you’re already a MomentPath user, you'll want to ensure the system has all the correct information when creating your forecast. Keep in mind, inaccuracies within your dataset can cause discrepancies within the final report.
Groups are used to identify classrooms within an enrollment forecast report.
Here, you can add information by classroom or grade based on what works for your center.
From there, you simply outline the details for students and staff inside that particular group, including:
Once you’ve set a child's default group on their profile, they’ll be assigned or "placed" accordingly!
Make sure any non-classroom groups (like lunch groups) have an unchecked box next to ‘designate as classroom’.
Once you have your group configured, you’re ready to begin running your actual attendance and enrollment breakdown.
The first step is to tell the system what a full time enrollment equivalent (FTE) looks like at your center, then highlight what other enrollment options there are by adding in ‘schedule types’ within the ‘admin’ section. These are going to be defined by the name of the program, as well as the start and end times.
Examples of student schedule types:
Once your hours for alternative schedule types are added in, you’ll see that the software has automatically configured a full time equivalent (FTE) value. Your full time schedule type should have an FTE value of 1, everything else will be a percent of that based on how much time you elected to be included within the program.
Now that your student and tuition data is locked and loaded, it’s time to input your staff data.
This is also where you will configure your scheduling and balance incoming vs. outgoing finances per classroom.
Start the process by auditing your staff profiles. In MomentPath, you’ll do this by:
Pay types will help you manage payroll ratios, as well as provide important time keeping information.
Here, you’ll define different hourly rates for events such as paid time off, unpaid leave, maternity leave, etc.
Once you have all your data configured, you can run an enrollment forecast with the data you have now, or you can choose to add in an additional layer of information within your capacity planning report to get an even more detailed result.
Your Capacity Planning Report works in combination with your enrollment forecasting report to provide a more detailed view of weekly schedules, availability, and age-level summaries.
Here are some of the additional points you can add in with capacity planning.
The capacity planning report can omit certain days from your report calculations.
For example, if your center has a holiday break or in-service day where students will not be attending, you can elect to exclude the dates from your reporting.
In this section of the report, you can define your ideal revenue and target payroll percentages.
When your report is finalized, you’ll be able to see a detailed view of how close you are to your goals. From there, it will be easier to determine which changes will need to be made to best meet your organization’s needs.
Under a child’s scheduling tab, you can add in an upcoming transition if you know they’re going to be moving from one classroom to another.
Once this is saved, their progression plan will be visible and accounted for within your capacity planning report — no more manual entry!
Once you’ve run your reports, you’ll have a clear picture of where your center(s) stand with enrollment and capacity planning.
This will also give you a detailed outline of how close you are to your enrollment goals, as well as deeper insights into your payroll ratio, and more.
Here’s a quick dictionary of terms that you’ll be seeing within your report:
With the complete overview of the day-to-day availability within your centers, you’ll be able to easily see which classrooms are making the most of their available capacity.
You’ll also see how much revenue each classroom generates, the number of staff members needed in order to stay in ratio, and other key metrics to measure your program’s success.
While recent years have been anything but easy for preschools and childcare centers, new digital tools are helping centers keep pace.
With increased cost pressure and fluctuations in attendance, your approach to preschool enrollment management today may look very different than it did yesterday. And that’s ok.
Empower your center directors with tools that drive transparency at both the center and individual classroom level, face cost pressure head-on, and commit to taking a regular look at your capacity planning. Before you know it, you’ll be back at optimal enrollment levels and ready to take on the next big challenge.
To learn more about how MomentPath can help you with Enrollment Management & Capacity Planning, schedule a free demo today.