Back-to-School Flash Enrollment Survey Highlights

December 17, 2020 Jinghua Liu

In September 2020, EMA conducted a back-to-school flash enrollment survey with the primary focus on enrollment outcomes for the 2020–21 school year. The main survey findings are summarized as follows:


Overall, more than 60% of schools hit their enrollment goals. Still, aboutone-third of schools did not hit their enrollment goals.

Challenges that schools are experiencing.

While families unable to afford tuition due to a change of financial situation related to COVID-19 was the main challenge for day schools, boarding schools were more challenged by a loss of international students.

Challenges for the coming year.

Most schools have concerns about uncertainty regarding how the new academic year will unfold and how they are going to communicate with families in light of those uncertainties.

Adjustments in the admissions process.

The majority of schools will offer some virtual activities. About one-third of schools are changing their standardized admission test practice by going test optional.

It is worth noting that more than 80% of schools thought that “increased interest from families enrolled in public schools” could be the greatest opportunity. The pandemic could serve as an opportunity for independent schools to enlarge the application funnel and recruit more students from public schools by making thoughtful marketing campaigns promoting independent schools’ strong academic programs, the quality of their in-person learning, their extracurricular activities and programs, the school atmosphere, and the pursuit of excellence.

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About the Author

Jinghua Liu

Dr. Jinghua Liu is a seasoned expert in test scoring and fairness. She joined EMA in 2012 and leads the team responsible for ensuring that the SSAT continues to be a state-of-the art assessment grounded in research and fair practice. Jinghua has more than 15 years of psychometric experience, including managing large-scale testing programs for Educational Testing Service (ETS). She served as psychometric manager for the SAT and for the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). Additionally, she was the SAT statistical coordinator for more than 10 years, during which time she led the 2005 redesign of the SAT. Her work on applied research has been published in more than 30 publications and presented at more than 60 conferences. She earned her PhD and M.Ed in educational psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Peking University in Beijing, China. She also holds an MBA from Rutgers University.

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