For decades, private and independent schools have worked hard to reach interested families and boost enrollment numbers with their marketing efforts. But it can be hard to identify when your marketing efforts are yielding a good return, or if they’re worth your budget dollars. 

There’s one easy way to make sure your marketing is not a waste of resources, and to make sure you allocate it towards the right avenues: calculating your cost per enrollment. 

Cost per enrollment is one of the primary metrics many higher ed schools use to evaluate their marketing efforts. Using this at your K-12 school can be a huge asset and advantage. 

Today, we’re sharing what cost per enrollment means for private school marketing, how to calculate it, and why you even need this information in the first place.

What is Cost Per Enrollment and Why Do I Need to Know It?

Cost per enrollment (CPE) refers to the total cost associated with getting one student into your classroom. This includes every marketing dollar you spend from the moment you first engage the family until they pay tuition and officially enroll in your institution.

Your CPE tells you how much each new student costs to acquire. Knowing this number will help you increase enrollment and identify where to direct your marketing resources. For example, if you’re running two campaigns concurrently and one has a higher CPE than the other, you know the one with the lower CPE is more effective. Your ultimate goal is to drive the most enrollments at the lowest possible cost.

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How to Calculate Your Cost Per Enrollment

Calculating your CPE isn’t something you can do overnight — at least, not unless you already measure the number of enrollments directly generated by each campaign or type of marketing. Once you do, though, the math is pretty straightforward.

The formula to calculate your cost per enrollment looks like this:

Total cost of marketing ÷ Total number of direct enrollments from marketing

For example, let’s say you spent $250 on a marketing campaign, and that campaign generated five new students:

$250 / 5 =  $50 cost per enrollment

In order to calculate this accurately, you’ll need to make sure you have a good grasp of how much you’re spending on your marketing efforts in the first place. To do that, it may be helpful to build a spreadsheet that lists all of your online marketing efforts. This includes social media, email, paid search ads, and more. From there, track how much you spend by channel, and how many inquiries each channel generated for your school.


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How CPE Helps You Achieve Success

You’ve done the math to calculate your school’s cost per enrollment. Now what?

Here are three ways you can use CPE to improve your admission and enrollment processes:

1. Better budgeting

Knowing your CPE takes the guesswork out of marketing budget planning. For example, if you know it costs $50 to enroll a student, and you know your goal is to fill 20 seats, then you can estimate you’ll need to spend about $1,000.

2. Earn stakeholder buy-in

Senior stakeholders are always focused on the bottom line. When you can share a measurable ROI for your efforts, it will be much easier to earn their buy-in for increasing your budget during times when they’re demanding increased enrollment numbers. It will also help you stand out and claim your seat at the table as a leader and establish yourself as a strategic driver of growth.

3. Reduce costs

When you know what’s driving the most success, you can invest more in those areas. Over time, you’ll be able to reduce your CPE and market more efficiently. You may even save budget dollars, which you can then reallocate into other areas of your department.

Today, every dollar counts — and modern admission and enrollment professionals are often tasked with achieving more on shrinking budgets. By calculating your cost per enrollment, you can act more strategically and spend wisely.