Summer and Auxiliary Programs: How Partnering with Outside Organizations Benefits Students and Families

For educators and students in North America, the months of June, July, and August are a time to take a break and recharge. But for many students and families, the months outside of the academic year present an opportunity for students to pursue new interests or build skills by enrolling in summer and auxiliary programs.

Schools have different motivations for creating summer programs. Some are seeking to create alternative revenue streams. Others want to create a menu of academic offerings for their students - either for remediation or further enrichment. Still, others seek to draw in summer students or campers whose applications may someday land in the admissions office. No matter what a school’s motivations are for creating summer offerings, they are often limited by a go-it-alone mindset that seeks to do absolutely everything in-house. Below are four reasons why schools can better serve their students and families by partnering with one another or with outside organizations.

image of a student working on her laptop outside

Create a broader set of offerings than one school can staff or fill alone

A school may have eight or ten faculty on campus who are excited to teach a summer course or facilitate another kind of program - but do their interests and expertise align with what students and families are looking for? Likely not. Suppose students and families want Sailing or Computer Science and your available faculty and staff are ready to teach Spanish or Geometry. In that case, you can either hire (which comes with overhead) or partner with an outside organization that is already set up to run a particular course or program. Furthermore, when partnering with other schools and organizations you can do much more for your students. For example, it’s relatively unlikely that most schools would have enough enrollment to offer courses like Introduction to Investments or Abnormal Psychology over the summer - but by partnering with other schools through GOA’s summer membership, schools can offer access to 24 different courses and feel confident that there will be enough enrollment for the courses to run.

Create programs that are not dependent on particular people

On a similar note, often schools create programming that is dependent on a particular staff member. When that staff member leaves the school or decides that they don’t want to run the program in a particular year, the school is then put in a difficult position and may see their summer programs weakened as a result. For example, many Directors of Auxiliary Programs at independent schools take a “program over people” approach. Their goal is to design and build programs that can last over time, providing both continuity and clarity of brand, without running the risk of disruption due to turnover in personnel. Cultivating relationships with other schools and organizations to support this approach to auxiliary programming protects the school from becoming too dependent on a single person or people to run their programs.

Reduce overhead and financial risk

All programs in schools have a certain amount of overhead and financial risk involved. You have to invest in facilities, hiring, training, marketing, etc. But, what if a particular program doesn’t enroll as well as planned? Do you cancel it and damage relationships with key constituents? Or do you run it in the red? When you partner with other organizations, you offload a lot of the overhead and share a lot of the risk. For example, when many schools offer a course together through GOA - and the course is under-enrolled, the consortium (not the individual school) bears the financial burden of running a small course. A well-managed program or partnership isn’t going to have an infinite appetite for risk and overhead, but partnering almost certainly relieves the individual school of some of the financial risk of going it alone.

Reduce the risk of low-quality programming

And finally, there is the risk of launching programming that doesn’t meet the standard that great schools have set for themselves. Too often, schools are bullish about the quality of programming they can create from scratch and staff from within - only to find out that doing so stretches staff and strategic resources only to achieve suboptimal results. When branching out from their core products and services to offer novel summer and auxiliary programs, schools may want to consider whether they can deliver a program that reflects as well on their brand as their other signature programs do. If you’re considering running a program that is considerably outside of your usual lane, find a partner who occupies that space and does it well. Capitalize on their expertise to deliver high-quality programming and leverage their particular brand in that area.

Is your school looking for ways to engage high school students through flexible, passion-based online courses this summer? Learn more about GOA's summer membership. This post was written in partnership with SPARC, the premier national organization serving independent school auxiliary program leaders. SPARC offers professional development experiences throughout the year, current benchmarking data and best practices, and a community of supportive peers. SPARC supports schools in maximizing their auxiliary program potential.

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