By Lee Iben
Evangelization begins with enrollment. We cannot assume Catholics will want to send their students to a Catholic school. Those days are behind us as our culture continues to combat our efforts. Rather, we must rely on promoting ourselves through strong academics, offering students exceptional learning environments through wired classrooms and 3D anatomical software, and perpetually emphasizing the lifelong benefits of a faith-based education for people of all faiths.
In a continuing effort to bolster enrollment, the marketing program at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City officially kicked off in April when I spoke of the benefits of a Regina education at every Mass in the four Iowa City and Coralville parishes. It was long overdue and welcomed by parishioners.
Dr. Brian Daniel, a parishioner of St. Patrick in Iowa City, said that as I spoke he felt himself sitting a little taller in the pew. He and his wife, Anna, committed to sending their five children to Regina beginning with kindergarten. Formerly of Coralville, the Daniel family recently purchased a home two blocks from the Regina campus. “We’ve always heard Regina is a family,” Dr. Daniel commented. “We certainly found that to be true as we were at school all the time. It just made sense to be closer to where the action is.”
Summer is an extremely busy enrollment period. We continue to clean up our campus, manicure our grounds, de-clutter the hallways and make necessary maintenance repairs when the students are away on break. It’s important to keep our campus looking fantastic because even though classes are not in session, we are frequently giving tours to new families and hosting groups who use our facilities for summer retreats. For example, Regina was home to the Davenport Diocese’s annual Catholics in Action youth service retreat June 30 to July 2.
Most recently, we have been working with a company out of Hiawatha to develop a branding element for enrollment and purchased yard signs to display at each of the four parishes. Our board members, administrators and parents have also agreed to place the signs in their yards to help spread the word. In addition to the yard signs, we have produced magnetic door clings for cars and banners for parish lobbies.
Our goal is to create top of mind awareness (TOMA) so when families are discerning an educational option for their children, they immediately think of Regina as their first and best choice.
The perception has been that Regina is at maximum capacity and that there is a long waiting list. While that may have been true decades ago, the Iowa City educational scene has changed. There is much more competition between public and private schools today. As long as we have even one available seat, we’ll tell the world until we get it filled!
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Teach a child in the way he should go.” A faith-based education combining excellent academics, flourishing fine arts, championship athletics and an emphasis on building strong character fulfills this mission. It’s not just good business acumen; it’s our obligation as Catholics.
(Lee Iben is president of Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City.)