Using New Housing Studies to Build Precise Enrollment Projections

Posted by Ron Van OrdenO

November 14, 2019


Hoonuit’s new housing studies help administrators accurately forecast student enrollment, secure funding increases, and more.

For school administrators, predicting school enrollment can feel like trying to hit a moving target. School closings, socioeconomic shifts within the surrounding community, and attendance boundary changes can all affect how many students enroll in a particular school each year.

Yet the most significant factor that can impact enrollment projections is arguably the most pedestrian: construction. It’s essential for school administrators to keep track of new housing developments because, in all likelihood, families with school-age children will soon populate many of these homes. However, it can be difficult to track the progress of construction — and how it will affect enrollment — without harnessing the power of actionable data.

Hoonuit’s Approach to New Housing Studies

DecisionInsite, powered by Hoonuit, helps administrators build nuanced enrollment projections based on annual housing studies. To build these projections, Hoonuit analysts gets in touch with a district’s local planning departments to find out which housing projects are on the docket for the next ten years. From there, we contact developers and sales offices directly to solicit more information about what kinds of units will be built, what phase construction is currently in, and when housing developments are expected to be finished.

For our analysis, new housing units are typically categorized into three types: single family detached, single family attached, and multifamily. Student generation rates (“SGRs”), estimates of how many new students will reside within each unit, are determined for each housing type. In the absence of SGRs calculated specifically for the district, Hoonuit applies its national default SGRs. These numbers are based on our biennial review of a comprehensive list of district-based generation rates for districts across the country, and have proven to be an effective representation of recent housing trends. To calculate the projected student enrollment from the district’s new housing projects, the number of each unit type is multiplied by the appropriate SGRs for each of the next ten years. Further, student matriculation is considered to accurately model the student impact over the enrollment projections studies’ ten-year timeframe.

Hoonuit creates two residential growth scenarios: one that is built around moderate projections and one that is built around conservative projections. The moderate scenario is based on information provided by municipal planning departments and developers that includes prospective completion schedules and unit occupancies. The conservative scenario generally contains the same information, but incorporates potential delays, assuming that occupancies will develop over a longer period of time. District leaders can toggle back and forth between these two scenarios to gain a more holistic view of their projections.

Hoonuit’s Housing Studies Dig Deeper

Enrollment forecasting is not a one-size-fits-all process, and therefore often requires an innovative data-driven approach. To optimize our enrollment analytics, Hoonuit’s new housing studies mine student generation rates for nuanced, district-specific information.

For example, when one school district’s superintendent requested a new housing study, we initially used the district’s default student generation rates from the previous year to populate our projection. However, we quickly realized that the numbers did not add up. Our analysts subsequently discovered that the district had a high number of single-family homes that were occupied by families without school-age children.

Hoonuit’s work revealed a unique detail that ended up having a massive impact on the school’s enrollment projections: the school district was close to a large university. People in the local community were buying up single-family homes and renting them out to college students, which accounted for the discrepancy between student generation rates and the number of single-family homes in the district.

This case illustrates how, by using nuanced studies featuring multiple layers of analysis, administrators are able to base their decisions on data-driven insights instead of relying on suppositions or instinct. This can lead to the “discovery” of hundreds if not thousands of potential enrollees, enabling administrators to dramatically improve the precision with which they allocate their resources.

How Can Administrators Use New Housing Studies?

A high-quality new housing study is a critical part of a superintendent’s toolkit. It’s easy to see how these studies can be leveraged into accurate enrollment projections, but housing studies also help school administrators prepare for fluctuations in enrollment across the board.

Do you need to know how new housing developments will impact a major redistricting project? Is your school board requesting accurate enrollment projections for the next five years before they will approve a budget increase? Our new housing studies put these kinds of insights in the palms of your hands.

In short, Hoonuit is committed to helping its partners understand how their school enrollment will be impacted by new homes in the area. Our team will find out how many units are being constructed, what type of housing is being built, when the new units will be occupied, and how many new students can be expected from each new development. Armed with this valuable information, district leaders can make informed decisions about their schools that will benefit students and educators alike.

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