Sunday, January 29, 2012

Save the Green Belts (How to drastically increase total enrollment)

This post will have limited appeal to the broader
audience as it is meant to provide some interesting data to school owners. That being said, if you are a green belt, you are entering the time you are most likely to quit - and that is a shame. Green belts are on the cusp of being able to actually use their martial art.

I have a post here titled, What's After Black Belt. It’s the most read article, and it should be no surprise that a lot of students quit their martial arts training after getting their first degree black belt.

Student drop out rate is something every school faces. If you own a school, then drop outs not only represent a lost opportunity for the student, but for you as well. You should try to understand why students quit - without being dismissive. After all, it’s probably you. Think of it this way; if you could simply hang on to your green belts, you could over time, double your student body, and improve your revenue, community impact, child safety, and quality of facilities.

The numbers I’ll use have been carefully matched with actual drop out rates, although I’ve simplified some to avoid pinpointing any specific schools. Let say you have an established program, with students at all levels up through 4th Degree Master. Let also assume you get about ten new students a month. Tests are scheduled every three months.

If nobody ever dropped out, each student would test for their Black Belt (1st Degree) after four years (51 months approximately). Your student enrollment, after this time would be 750. But of course, students do drop out. Approximately 14% leave right away and never get their yellow belt. Another 15% drop out at yellow and never get their orange belt. If you had no other students, this would leave your enrollment at 76 students, when you had actually signed up 90; 14 had dropped.

The chart here shows the progression of total student body size with varying drop-out rates. The back series of bars in blue shows how big your school would be if no one every dropped. The red bars of the graph illustrate the size of your student body over time if you only lost 1% of the students at each belt rank. It is impressive how much impact a 1% decline has over time. Click here for the full chart.

Jumping over the green bars, take a look at the front row (purple bars). This shows the actual drop out rates we’ve observed and documented in a program that is very strong and has been viable for decades. What is interesting is when a school will loose most of the students, and when it doesn’t.

By far, the greatest drop off occurs just after students receive their black belts. For many, this is the end of the journey. Interesting, you are more likely to loose a student as a white belt, right out of the gate, than you will once they reach red belt. Red belts seem to feel so close to their goal, that they want to stick it out.

Green belts are the ones that are (A) very likely to jump ship, and (B) your best opportunity to retain students and grow your school. If you can reduce the combined loss at the green belt level (three levels of green belt in our school results in a 67% drop out rate), you stand a chance of nearly doubling your total student body over time. Instead of 26 black belts, you’d have 65; and instead of 206 total students, you’d have 354.

Multiply those numbers by your monthly tuition, and it adds up to better facilities, advertising, freebies, flooring, and of course income.

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