Tuition and Material Costs
Anna J., Canada
I’m a new teacher since September and have been charging my families monthly for their tuition and then invoicing separately for materials costs as they arise. As I look ahead to next year I’ve been wondering if there are other ways of doing this so that it doesn’t feel like I’m constantly asking them for money! I hate the feeling that I’m perpetually reminding them how much they’re spending (even though I know there is value in what they’re paying…). I’m wondering how others handle this? I’ve thought about moving to more of a semester or session-based approach, but I really like the freedom and flexibility afforded by month to month payments. I really think it makes it easier for families to sign on. Another approach I’ve wondered about is the subscription model approach (I’m also a Kindermusik teacher and this concept has been raised in those quarters recently). This model of payment bears some similarity to the monthly payment structure SM advocates but the monthly payments include all costs for the year (tuition, materials, parties, etc). There are no additional charges, and fees are paid on an automatic deduction. Does anyone have experience with a model where the materials fees are somehow incorporated into the tuition payment schedule? How has it worked for you?
Katie S., California
I find that if materials are necessary before the end of the month, I’ll teach other programs like arrangements or accompaniment until tuition is due at the end of the month.
Fiona H., Australia
I moved from Neil’s suggested monthly system to a school term invoicing system (around 9-11 wks) after my studio grew bigger. Parents love it. At the time I surveyed families for what they wanted and 4 students wanted to remain with monthly. I agreed because it is only a very small minority compared to my 55+ students. 4 students still have monthly invoices – but I will keep it this way as they are my original families and the monthly cash-flow is great to keep me floating with cash for some low level business expenses in between school terms. The term cash-flow is even better than before and it accords with my weeks of teaching. I invoice both materials and tuition at once – on the one invoice (just different line items). If new materials are needed during the term, then I invoice as needed at that time – which is more like a one-of type arrangement. All my term fees are due prior to teaching the term. This has benefits for me in terms of reduced paperwork than the monthly system.
I use an accounting system which is online – all my parents pay directly into my bank account using my BSB and account number, and subsequently this account is linked to my online accounting system (MYOB live accounts), so every payment into the bank account is fed directly into my accounting program – in which my invoices and the payments made by students are automatically matched. Thereby, showing me quickly and clearly which invoices are unpaid. I now send email receipts once payments are received in my bank. Better for me, students and the environment.
Marg G., Australia
I always look at where each student is at when I do my accounts and add any materials that I believe they may need before the next account is to be sent out. I record what I have charged them for and mark it off when it is issued to them.
Sometimes they don’t get that far until into the next accounting period but as I have recorded it that is fine. I’ve found that parents become less aware of the material costs. Parents often ask me how much they owe me for a newly issued set of materials and when I let them know they paid for it with the account they are really happy. I might add I itemize it all clearly so maybe they don’t read the fine details and just pay the bottom line!?
Just “one account does all” system.
As I taught traditionally for over 30 years, before starting SM, I was in the habit of billing per school term, which is a strong tradition here in Australia. Consequently I have continued to do this. As I’m now in my 60’s I really want the school holiday times to rejuvenate and/or run my Piano Camp Holiday Program.
Mark M., New York
Anything about timeframes/schedules for tuition payments themselves can potentially be so diverse that I don’t feel I have anything useful to say one way or other about that.
The notion of embedding materials costs in with other payments came up here a while back at least once. I believe there are some teachers who do it. When I was considering it, I couldn’t get around the fact that different students/groups move at different paces, sometimes very different, sometimes hugely significantly different. As a result, any plan for embedding materials costs ends up being unfair to some students since all are paying the same amount per unit of time but getting potentially a very different amount of material per that same unit of time. When I’d discussed possibilities with some of my students/families, a few of them, said, “But, hey, what about…” — recognizing the potential unfairness on their own without my having brought it up.
Business models abound. Not everyone is as fair as possible to every party concerned. I rejected the idea of embedding the materials costs. Others do it. It’s up to you to do what makes sense for you as a businessperson.
David P., Australia
I charge per 10 week term & incorporate any student home materials required in the invoice, this way I’m only collecting money four times a year. Has worked well.
Brigitte L., Canada
I am also a new teacher and I too charge a monthly tuition cost. I ask my students/parents to pay for the Foundation level 1 SHM with the first month’s tuition. I cover the cost of the future Foundation books and the accompaniment 1 book by adding a $5 per week to their tuition cost (so $20 per month). That avoids asking them for money every other months. I find it less frustrating for the parents (consistent cost) and much less administration for me.
Original discussion started April 19, 2012