Preliminarily, you have to ask yourself the right questions;
Do I have the expertise and team to develop a quality curriculum?
Do I have the time and expertise to put together the required state licensing package?
Do i have the right marketing team to create and manage a high converting marketing campaign?
How do I assemble a good admissions team and train them to sell enrollments?
Do I have a good business and school marketing plan in place?
Most dental practices do have the existing facilities and equipment already operating for patient. But during non-patient hours, they still incur costs and are idle. This presents an opportunity for the practice to generate excellent revenues during non-patient hours without having to reinvest in building and equipment, one of the most expensive aspects of starting any vocational training school. And with good reason. The vocational training business is a $500 Billion industry in the U.S., second only to healthcare in revenue generation.
You may have been thinking about starting a dental assisting school for a while now, but do not know where to start or what’s required. So here are the answers to the preliminary and important questions to contemplate on.
Developing an outcomes-based curriculum is one of the most important tasks you can undertake in starting a dental assisting school for a number of reasons; one is that it has to be approved by the state licensing board. The state regulators will do a preliminary review and then send the curriculum materials to a team of expert reviewers on the subject matter. They will determine if the course is structured in a manner that will produce a good graduate with the level of fundamental knowledge and hands-on job training to gain an entry-level job upon graduation. Are the textbooks, handouts, PPTs, lesson plans, lab manuals, student handouts and other ancillary equipment such as mannequins all consistent with the individual course syllabuses? Are the instructor to student ratios consistent with the square footage of the lecture and lab areas as determined from your submission of the practice’s floor plan? What are the contact hours and what constitutes a contact hour? Is there an externship involved and do you have agreements in place with these facilities?
They will scrutinize every aspect of the curriculum because after all, students are paying you thousands of dollars to be trained in a new career field and in years past, prior to today’s stringent regulations, students were being ripped off by fly by night schools.
So yes, putting together a school licensing package ready to submit to your state board is a very important, detailed and arduous process that requires your strong attention. Not only will the curriculum itself be scrutinized in the new program application, but so will your campus facility, you as the director, your instructor, and any admissions staff, in a separate new school application. In many cases, you’ll also need to submit a business plan with at least two year’s of financial projections. You should have a game plan put together to accomplish licensing your school. Put a trusted staff member in charge of retrieving and organizing documents that are going to be a required part of the package. Make sure that you become very familiar with the state school licensing site and requirements. Develop the required and very important school catalog and enrollment contract so that they are consistent with each other, structurally sound, and have the required component language as dictated by the state’ policies, especially for Refund Policies and Compliant Procedures. many states require you to also submit externship contract agreements with other area dentists
The lifeblood of your new school will be marketing. You probably have already thought about how you’re going to get the word out about your new school. It may be that you’ve already approached the marketing firm that did your practice website and markets for patients. Unfortunately, with student marketing, it doesn’t work that way. Educational marketing is a very specialized niche that requires a strong 3 to 4-month marketing campaign set up to a highly targeted demographic group(s). Selecting an experienced higher education marketing company that doesn’t also do other general types of marketing, is the only way to go. The student demographic is a much sophisticated group than marketing for paints who are looking for endodontic treatments, or dental cosmetic procedures. There are three very distinct groups of students and each with its own types of buyer personas. You have the right message for each group and sub-group, at the right time, with the right content, on the right medium, and institute a strong follow up program. That’s part of what’s going to give you strong returns on marketing investment.
The other part is admissions. Once the marketing does its job of creating an interested student, that doesn’t mean she/he will enroll in your school. If you’re going to spend money on attracting students through a multi-channel marketing campaign, then it would also be wise to make sure your admissions sales process is in place and ready to go. In order to accomplish this your representatives will have to understand not only the program(s) you’re offering, but also have an in-depth knowledge of this demographic’s buying behaviors, especially their decision-making process. They’ll need to know what the three value metrics prospective students weigh most on their decision based on their pain. But that’s a whole new subject that won’t be covered here. Just know that marketing and admissions are NOT the same thing, but go hand in hand and have to be seamless to do their jobs and get you favorable marketing ROIs. In either case, you cannot legally advertise or enroll students until after you are a licensed school.
It’s not enough to have a business plan in place for your school. Most states will require one with at least two years of detailed financial projections. In developing these plans (one for the school and one for the state), you’ll have to be realistic as the state boards know how to spot inconsistencies in the numbers. Do the proper research before starting on projections.
In the end, once you are licensed and enrolling students, you’ll be able to enjoy lasting profits during practice closed hours for years to come.