An Interview with Heather Hoerle, Executive Director, SSATB

How should independent schools enter the international student market - or expand within it?

Thoughtfully! Some key guiding principles include:

  • Gaining a full understanding of each local market
  • Building the necessary foundation in terms of curriculum, infrastructure, and student support
  • Maintaining brand alignment; committing the budget dollars to get it right
  • Ensuring professional development for admission directors 

SATB recently published a comprehensive report on the changing international landscape, which highlights a number of schools who are succeeding in these areas. I’d encourage everyone to download it below.

What do independent K-12 schools most need to know about the international market?

Like colleges and universities, independent schools in the U.S. and Canada have long matriculated educationally-ambitious international students to ensure campus diversity—and more recently enrollments.

Yet, as the world becomes ever more interconnected and as economic dynamics shift, the demand for English-language education is exploding. This demand is resulting in significant changes in existing K-12 educational programs—and the emergence of new options for families.

What evidence is there of this increased demand?

First is the international export of U.S. education. U.S. universities have the largest number of post-secondary branch campuses abroad, and some independent schools are now launching into international markets with their own place-based programs in order to increase all-school revenue, expand their international curriculum, and/or enhance overall prestige and visibility for their U.S. “headquarters” schools.
Second, the number of international students enrolling at U.S. and Canadian schools has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2011, The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) reported that the number of international students enrolled in their member schools increases by 3,500 every eight years. According to SSATB’s 2016 state of the admission industry survey, 48% of responding schools—97% of boarding schools and 37% of day schools—enrolled international students in 2015-16.

What about the growth we are witnessing in English-medium schools worldwide?

International schools are changing—no longer just serving expat communities. Indeed, many local residents in various countries worldwide have expressed growing interest in an English-medium education.
ISC Research Ltd. reports that in 2000 there were 1 million students in 2,854 global English-medium international schools; by January 2016, this number jumped to 4.36 million students in 8,218 schools. Therefore, enrollment leaders in these international “English-medium” schools must be equipped to navigate a more competitive landscape.

Heather Hoerle

Heather became Executive Director of SSATB in April 2011. Heather’s career began in independent schools as an administrator, student advisor, and teacher at George School (PA) and Westtown School (PA). She then embarked on a successful 23-year tenure in leadership roles with two of the world’s largest nonprofit independent school associations: first as associate director of The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), then as director of admission and marketing services for The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), leading to a vice presidency at NAIS overseeing membership, corporate affiliations, customer service, and the annual NAIS Conference. 
SSATB is the nonprofit member organization dedicated to the advancement and support of independent school admission. You can find out more at the SSATB website.