Written by Nivin El Aawar the Director of Admissions at Wellspring Learning Community
One of the most challenging tasks of the admissions director is predicting budget scenarios, and reaching the targeted scenario this is the light at the end of the black tunnel.
The director of admissions needs to hold the compass to navigate and orient the school business plans. Once the academic year starts and the students’ number settles, the plan starts to present budget scenarios for the next academic year. Autumn is the time for such a plan, since the international staff recruitment takes place by the winter and ordering school supplies by spring, and that depends on the number of students projected for the following September along with its equivalent income. Therefore, having a clear vision of the expected number of students is essential through proposed budget scenarios.
Studying the figures history of the schools past years, such as percentages of leavers, joiners and applications for admission, will allow the director to have the vision in drawing various scenarios. Studying the history and trend of figures is not enough, since every academic year is unique and impacted by many factors, such as, the school vision, curriculum changes, capacity, economic status, political situation, and unexpected issues that can affect the safety of the school community (explosions, COVID-19, etc).
The vision of the budget needs to be strategically planned. The first step is to predict the percentage range of leavers. Second is studying the number of applications for admission and predicting how many admissions can be done per grade level. The third is studying the market to see if there are new competitors or any other economic/political challenges ahead.
When I strategically planned the budget scenarios for September 2020 it was November 2019. Since we are in Beirut, the main concern at that time was the economic crisis. Protests started in October, and the country was showing signs of an unhealthy economic drop. Also, schools started virtual classes, so my projections were looking at five different scenarios, in which the highest percentage of leavers that the school had over the 13 years of operation was considered the best case for September 2020. As you may know, the admission of early years is the main solid foundation of the budget, so I started early years admission by December 2019 and January 2020. February 2020 things were looking healthy until the COVID-19 started impacting many countries globally, since we apply online entrance exams on campus and globally at international schools, I had to create new admission procedures to exclude entrance exams, in order to avoid putting any student at risk anywhere in the world. Our new admission procedures are based on collecting evidence of learning.
The pandemic started in Lebanon by March 2020, which impacted all industries and impacted the economy negatively and increased the crisis since organizations were closing for weeks and months. This impact reached our community and parents had difficulty paying their dues and were hesitant to re-register for the following academic year. Normally the re-registration process starts by February and ends by April and during May, the budget scenarios start to take on a realistic feel, but this year it was July and the tunnel was still black. One of the main tragedies of the year was the exchange rate against the local currency, this affected the tuition fees rate (for example the value of the tuition was 10,000USD became 2,000USD), many other consequences followed: salaries, resources, paying international organizations, current foreign staff, daily living cost, medication, etc. As if the year did not have enough challenges, August 4th, 2020 came with an unpleasant surprise, the explosion at the port of Beirut. This incident traumatized many families and made them leave the country, a big percentage of foreigners and many other Lebanese families. The percentage of leavers from the school doubled and the recovery plan to admit new students was very difficult, especially that the 2nd wave of COVID-19 was forcing schools to start the academic year virtually by September, which was not acceptable by the early years parents, many moved their acceptances for the following academic year or decided to keep them in daycares which were operating.
The long black tunnel finally had light, we started the academic year with a student number between the 4th and 5th scenario, and having new students admitted every week. At least we survived the many incidents of the year. Three main reasons played a role in getting back on track:
- Some schools were not as successful as us in their virtual learning.
- Some countries had more difficult pandemic than us, so families decided to stay in Beirut or relocate to Beirut.
- Our passionate and persistent team (leadership, administration, teachers, IT, and academic).
In conclusion, no matter how you plan to drive through the tunnel, you have to be well equipped by data and monitor the smallest details. Be ready to take sharp turns and have high flexibility.
Nivin El Aawar has over 21 years of working experience with international and multinational organisations. She is an International school’s trainer as well as a Certified Life coach, family coach and teenagers. Nivin holds a Master degree in Organisational and Business Psychology. You can see more about her work here: www.nivininspire.com.