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Archdiocese of Philadelphia Schools

With more than 35 thousand students across the five-county metropolitan area, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Schools (AOPS) is the birthplace of the Catholic education system in the United States.

Like many other Catholic schools experiencing a post-pandemic enrollment boost, overall enrollment for AOPS has risen in recent years — a positive trend that requires teamwork, efficient systems, and a strategy to share the story of what makes Catholic education stand out as the premier option for families.

Any school can educate, but what makes the Catholic schools of AOPS different? Sharing that narrative meant trying a different approach. For Steve Clement and Owen Logue from the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education, that required tapping into enrollment data to drive new marketing and admission initiatives.

The Challenge

Steve and Owen work closely with 15 high schools, 3 schools of special education, and more than 100 elementary schools within the Archdiocese. While each school has its distinct culture, the schools operate under the guidance of the AOPS in its mission to form young men and women of character who are poised to succeed and to lead through service to others.

“For our schools to hit budget goals and to remain self-sufficient, we had to find families in other areas and better understand their interests and pain points,” Clement said. ”We're getting the majority share of our Catholic elementary schools’ kids to go to our high schools — the problem with that is that's a shrinking demographic.“

Finding themselves in a highly competitive educational market, Clement and Logue are leveraging Finalsite’s enrollment management system, SchoolAdmin, to collect the enrollment data that guides AOPS’ strategic marketing and enrollment decisions at the diocesan level while also empowering its individual schools to make smarter choices about how they market and communicate.

students in class at Roman Catholic High School of Philly

 

At a Glance

Representing America’s first Catholic schools, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Schools' background spans many momentous periods. The archdiocese has expanded to now include 102 elementary schools, 15 high schools, and 3 schools of special education throughout the southeastern Pennsylvania region.

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The Solution

When SchoolAdmin was implemented for the schools in the AOPS, it not only created better access to accurate enrollment data in real-time, but it also created a noticeable change in how the AOPS offices had worked in recent years. Not only did SchoolAdmin’s ability to report at the diocesan and the school level streamline how Clement and Logue’s offices worked, but it also reimagined the strategies to better engage mission-fit families.

“Real-time access to the data and being user-friendly is why we chose this product and why we resigned a contract,” Clement said. “We have presidents that are in it once a month, and we have enrollment directors that are in it once every 15 minutes, and they can both get what they need with their very varied levels of skill set.”

In nearly all of its schools, AOPS is hitting system-wide freshman inquiry enrollment goals and moving families through the funnel to become applicants and acceptances, both of which are consistently up year over year. 

The Result

Along with having individual school accounts, Clement and his team also have an Archdiocese-view, and from that perspective, they can see reports showing schools’ entire admissions funnels — totals for an entire year, year-over-year data, by specific grades, or any capacity of years, in real-time or at critical milestones through a variety of customizable filters in real-time.

“The aspect that’s ultimately changed the game for us is not just being able to collect information that is automatically built into the system, but it’s seeing schools in different ways,” Logue said. “Having that kind of perspective and ability to track how the schools are working through a recruiting cycle in a year's worth of time was the utmost value.”

“We really have that information at our fingertips in real-time, at any given time we would ever need,” Logue said. “That's been fantastic throughout the summer and helping schools plan for goal setting at the beginning of the fall.”

“It helps us with accountability,” Clement added. “We've realized that goals need to be supported through the data that we can access very quickly.”

That flexibility is evident at the Archdiocesan level, but it also empowers schools to have ownership of their key performance indicators and encourages schools’ marketing and admissions offices to find collaborative strategies that benefit both departments. 

Detailed reporting at the diocesan and individual school level

Screenshot of SchoolAdmin Funnel Reporting
Screenshot of SchoolAdmin Target Reporting
Screenshot of SchoolAdmin Key Feature Reporting
SchoolAdmin funnel Screenshot

By using the data collected inside SchoolAdmin, the team is able to look at how families from its traditional Catholic elementary schools move through a school's admissions process and compare that to area schools that have larger public and charter school populations.

“I think what’s really impactful, especially at the board level, is that we were able to work with schools this year,” Logue said. ”On a school-by-school level, we're breaking down the number of applications that are coming in on a month-by-month basis over a certain period of time, over different recruiting cycles, by individual schools. We have the exportable data inside SchoolAdmin to be able to show the school and present it to them using factual data.”

“We're working with schools from the central office and helping them co-author their goals based on market share and yield analysis and day-to-day data,” Clement explained. “But we’re also saying, ‘you need to grow right…’ If we don't change our marketing message for a group that doesn't necessarily know us, we're going to fall.”

For example, AOPS is able to show schools they should shift their focus toward collecting registrations from specific Catholic schools during a specific period of time through parish ambassadors or marketing outreach because that’s when families start applying.
 
With data comes knowledge, and it’s that deeper understanding that allows AOPS to better communicate and engage with prospective families as they move through the funnel.

west catholic inquiry form

With AOPS leading the strategy, schools can build out their custom messaging with templated email options, segmented audiences, and automated communications that are sent to families at different times throughout the admission cycle.

For example, when a student fills out an inquiry form, signs up for an event, or becomes an inquiry in their system, there's an automatic string of emails that will be sent out over the course of a 250-day period until they are moved over into that next stage in the enrollment cycle, explained Logue. 

“We have schools that have recognized a certain characteristic in a student or a certain program and have created an entire communication plan that is segmented just to students that show interest in that program,” Logue said, noting that they are personalizing the entire admission cycle because the school recognizes that's the type of information that families would want first.

“The capabilities of being able to have continued communication allows our schools to work smarter and not harder,” shared Logue, adding that previously, his team had to create a template in Gmail to use to send every morning to the new inquiries that came into the system. 

“Now you have the time to really get to know the students coming in at the different levels and understand the relationship that you're able to create with your families,” Logue said. “The relationships that you're able to create with your families can be that much stronger because you don't have to worry about the monotonous.”

“It's opening up your time to be able to create connections, to hop on the phone with the family, or to host a tour day so that you don't have to get back to your desk to send a hundred individual emails out to families.”

Like many schools, AOPS is combining the power of SchoolAdmin with other systems already in place, and with the SchoolAdmin’s ability to integrate with other platforms, it’s helped with buy-in from leadership and IT, as well as the adoption rate at the individual schools.

“We use Schooladmin for enrollment of transfer and new students,” Clement clarified, noting that they use FACTS for grant and tuition management and Powerschool as their student information system. “Because every one of our systems has a one-way sync to the other, we are able to do the work easily.”

“From the customization of logo and color, the schools have the ability to make it their own, and that helps for the buy-in. It's not diocese and brand — it's school brand, and having that customization for the daily user experience is super helpful.”

“We had 15 schools unanimously approve it because they found the value in it,” Clement said, adding that when they introduced SchoolAdmin to their network, they staggered the implementation with training and regular check-ins. And for the questions they did need help with, support was there.

“What I like most about our relationship with Finalsite and specifically SchoolAdmin is the customer service calls that get returned in 20 minutes or less.”

“I loved how we were able to grow the information that we were collecting, not just on students, but on families as a whole,” Logue said. ”To get to know the types of families that would be most attracted to our schools, and also for Catholic education in our area as well. Being able to access the data from the diocesan perspective, I now see SchoolAdmin as an ‘absolute’ in terms of reporting, communication, and customization.”

Going into another recruiting cycle with SchoolAdmin, AOPS sees the potential for its individual schools to continue to grow, while moving the diocese forward together. As Catholic schools see increased interest from more and more families around the country, the AOPS team is well positioned to share its story and advance the mission of Catholic education in the Philadelphia region. 

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