Financial aid pages are a necessary evil. They're a top search query, and therefore, a top entry point from search for most independent schools.
And yet, they also have some of the highest bounce rates.
Now that's a scary thought: you have hundreds (or thousands) of unique visitors entering through a page that literally scares them away.
How did you do that? Well, you most likely listed a bunch of astronomical facts and figures that only a small group could afford without blinking.
That's way more expensive than I thought. Is the education really worth that much? The public schools are fine.
So how do you keep prospective families from immediately cringing at your school's tuition costs and then hitting the back button?
Here are four simple enhancements to make on your tuition page that will encourage prospective families to stay and explore, rather than discouraging and deterring.
The Ultimate Website Optimization Guide for Independent Schools
1. Sell Your Value Before You Name Your Price
If someone offered you a $5 cup of coffee and a $1 cup of coffee, your first action would most likely be to ask "what makes the $5 cup of coffee so great?"
Once you've been told what makes it worth the extra $4, you might splurge, or you might still go for the cheaper option because $1 stuck with you more than organic Ethiopian hand-picked beans — it's this kind of concept that's brewed a heated coffee war among Starbucks, Dunkin' and McDonalds.
But look at it on the reverse. Imagine someone told you what makes that coffee so special, and then told you the price. You might be more inclined to make that purchase — am I right?
Implement this same psychology on your school's tuition page. Too often independent schools think of their tuition page as simply a place to list costs. But it's more important to first talk about what makes your school so special, before you start listing facts and figures.
Use videos, photos, and testimonials to sell an experience before revealing the cost. Remember: inquiries and applicants rely on a good first impression, so always put your best foot (and story!) forward.
Here are some examples:
We love Trinity Prep's tuition tagline "Education is your best investment" at the top of the page, which is followed by tuition assistance statistics
And why not try an infographic? While Westridge School presents their tuition up front, it's accompanied by some impressive college matriculation statistics.
2. Put an Emphasis on Scholarships and Financial Aid Rather than Tuition
For simplicity, many school websites tend to split "Tuition" and "Financial Aid" into two different pages. However, for independent and boarding schools struggling with enrollment, it may be time to re-visit that strategy.
When it comes to price, it's all about context. Positioning tuition secondary to scholarships and financial aid puts prospective families at ease before applying. It puts the percentage of their tuition being covered in the forefront, before revealing the actual cost of tuition.
Brentwood Academy's Tuition and Financial Aid page discusses their financial aid philosophy before revealing a cost. The combination of the compelling, high-quality video testimonial and text is ideal for easing the pain price point that would hinder them from learning more.
3. Change the Page Title from "Tuition and Financial Aid" to "Affording [School Name]"
This simple switch signifies that you'll be denoting costs, but that you're also discussing affordability.
We love how Episcopal Academy features their page as "Affording EA" in the navigation, and then features a financial aid overview video that's short, sweet, and compelling! (Watch the video here.)
Forman School and The Odyssey School (both schools for students with learning differences) take a similar approach. The Odyssey School encourages families to apply while boasting that 35% of students will receive aid, while Forman School encourages families to give their office a call to discuss opportunities. Now that's a nice personal touch!
4. End Tuition Pages with a Call to Action
Apply! Inquire! Learn more about affordability! Call Us!
Don't just leave your site visitors hanging. Capture them with a call to action that encourages them to learn more. If tuition costs and fees haven't scared them away just yet, now is your chance to capitalize on their attention.
Engage them with photos, videos, and related calls to action like Lawrence Academy does on their tuition page. With a video about Lawrence Academy, a CTA to request information, and another for learning more about Financial Aid, Lawrence Academy has a little something for everyone, wherever they are in their search for an independent school.
The structure of your tuition pages should always be based on appealing to the psyche of your prospective families. Keep in mind that as humans, we respond best to emotion, rather than logic — which is why most tuition pages exhibit such poor performance. They're just numbers, rather than a story.
And while prospective families aren't always looking for the cheapest option, keep in mind they are comparing you to other schools — and for those on a budget, public schools.
Use photos, videos, calls to action and testimonials to build context, use digital storytelling, and sell your school's value to improve the performance of your school's tuition page.