How To Use Demographic Data for Planning


Of the topics I am asked to speak about, how to use data is easily the most popular. There is a dizzying amount of research that could be done and enrollment managers are often overwhelmed by the very idea of focusing energy on research. Each school is different, naturally. But there is no denying that understanding demographic trend projections is among the most useful.

Let’s look at two opposite examples of demographic projections.

Scenario one: The demographic projections indicate an aging population, with percentage decreases in school age kids. The largest decrease is indicated with ages 0-4 and there is a small increase projected in 10-14 year olds. The raw numbers also indicate a shrinking number of school age children by about 12,000 in the area.

Income: Incomes at the highest levels are projected to increase slightly.

What’s the impact?

When using demographic projections for enrollment planning, clearly we need to keep in mind the lowering number of school age children.

  • When considering how to create enrollment targets, be prepared for possible decreases.

  • When looking at school structure, consider smaller sections of lower school and larger sections of upper school.

  • When setting tuition, be prepared with contingency plans.

  • When making hiring decisions, remember that positions may not exist in the next five years.

  • Remember that incomes are rising slightly, so the ability to pay will continue (willingness to pay is different question, though)

Scenario two: The demographic projections indicate a sizable percentage increase in school age kids, especially in 4-9 year olds. The raw numbers indicate a rising number of school age children by about 18,000 in the service area.

Income: Incomes at the highest levels are projected to decrease slightly.

What’s the impact?

In this scenario, the rise in school age children is very beneficial.

  • Take some time to be sure your admissions procedures are bullet proof. If interest increases, you’ll want to be ready.

  • Consider maximum capacities.

  • Remember that the largest increases are in the middle elementary grades; what impact might that have on your enrollment configuration?

  • What are your strategic goals for recruitment? This may be a time to get more selective. What recruitment strategies might need bolstering?

  • When setting tuition, remember that incomes are going down slightly, which will make the ability to pay a little more challenging.

  • This may be a good time to increase mentorship of less experienced teachers so that they are ready to step into lead roles if enrollment increases.

These are just two simple examples of how important demographic trends are. As you continue your summer planning, be sure to take these factors into consideration in service of effective recruiting and projecting.