2 February 2017

Dana-Hall, is a well known and respected all-girl boarding and day school (6-12 grade) competing in a time period in which social attitudes towards single sex education is shrinking. Measures of demographics and social trends indicate a clear shift towards a co-educational school environment. This new reality, where demand is decreasing faster than supply, results in declining numbers of potential female applicants over which the last four all-girl boarding and day schools are aggressively competing to maintain continues enrolment figures.

Other former all-girl schools have either moved to admit boys or merged with better-funded boys schools to avoid bankruptcy. On top of these constraints, and in direct relation, Dana-Hall is also encountering financial challenges to the extent that the current tuition revenues are not sufficient to cover operating expenses. Alternative sources of revenue to make ends meet include: annual giving, investment income, rental of property, property sales and the introduction of a sixth-grade program.

Dana-Hall Essay Example

Cutting expenses is difficult, since excellent academic programs and an enjoyable living environment are essential factors to attracting the quantity and quality students. Obviously, falling enrolment and strained finances should be the basis for a mission review and change in strategy. The question is weather Dana-Hall should follow the stream into a gender-integrated classroom or perhaps continue to operate within its current market.

We can all agree that the model under which Dana-Hall is currently operating is insufficient and will eventually lead to the institutes bankruptcy when its alternative financial resources dry out (as would be the case for example when there is no more property to sell). Therefore, there are two alternatives: 1. Going against the deeply-held mission by making the school co-educational either through the acceptance of male applicants or through a merger agreement. 2. Trying to fix the existing model to improve future performance. Let’s tackle the first alternative:

To make it short, if applicants and donors were predominantly looking for co-education, it would be very wise of Dana-Hall to adjust accordingly in order to maintain its financial health and competitive presence. Full enrolment implied a student body of approximately 450; however, Dana-Hall didn’t experience such a case since the 1980s (numbers reaching not more than 374). Opening the doors to male applicants would fill the empty/missing positions and push financial performance to full capacity. Dana-Hall could also consider a merger with a boy’s school.

However, it is unlikely that the institute will find a partnership as merger opportunities dried up since 1971, when many single-sex schools were moving towards co-education. Today only two all-boys institutes remain in the area but if one of them would be interested, a merger providing financial and operational synergies would definitely help Dana-Hall out of its crisis. Following this strategy, Dana-Hall not only opens the door for male applicants but also for female applicants who prefer gender integrated schools, thereby securing the likelihood of full enrolment at all times.

However, going against its sole mission could be a slap in the face for some stakeholders, especially to those who believe that a single-sex environment works well for their daughters. This could hurt Dana-Halls’ performance and reputation in away that some parents would move their daughters to the other competing all-girl institutes. In such a case Dana-Hall would have to make sure that also those seats are filled up by other applicants. Now let’s talk about the second alternative: The writer doesn’t support this solution and I can understand him.

But here are some possible arguments and adjustments the institute could follow. First, before Dana-Hall decides to integrate co-education it should engage in some market research to learn what the other 4 remaining all-girl schools are planning to do. If the institute finds out that say two out of four are already in developing negotiations to open their doors to male applicants or enter into a merger agreement, Dana-Halls commitment to all-girls education may be needed more than ever.

An event such as this would increase the pool of female applicants by at least 50%, enabling Dana-Hall to increase performance dramatically. Even if only one out of the four other schools changes direction it would be something to think about. Secondly, although a campus of 55 acres of prime land in an upper-class suburb, plus a number of fine buildings attracts the quality female students, it could be beneficial to sell the entire property and move into a cheaper and smaller location.

Though, the new location must still be by all means at a comparable value to the others schools to avoid withdrawals. This move could have potential expense cuts, especially if the complex includes fewer rooms and unusable space. But Dana-Hall must not forget to maintain the same excellent academic programs and provide and enjoyable living environment that still is a key factor when it comes to recruiting applicants. Thirdly, assuming Dana-Hall is the cheapest all-girl school among its competitors in the area, it could raise its tuition fee after consolidating with the students parents.

Balancing the tuition fees to market levels will not necessarily result in the withdrawal of students. Finally, Dana-Hall could engage in aggressive persuasive-advertising campaigns with the objective to strengthen public opinion about single-sex education and thereby increase the pool of potential applicants. My personal suggestion: If I would be the director of Dana-Hall I would most probably stick to the present model and hope for the tight market competition to weaken.

Further, by strengthening and stabilizing the internal management and the various institutes’ operations, additional expense cuts could be realized. If Dana-Hall manages to stay a respectful competitor during tough times, it would prosper significantly when the market turns to its advantage. I believe that if Dana-Hall would fight for its original reputation and mission supporting an all-girl environment, it would have a positive double-scale affect on the future performance during prosperous times. As long as the institute does not near bankruptcy, the mission should be maintained.

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