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#1407053 - 03/30/10 12:07 PM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: Chris H.]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I'm going to spill my "guts" here!

My tuition fee is based on receiving and charging for 40 lessons per year and I multiply 40 x $25 for half hour tuition: $1000 annually or 40 x $40 for hour tuition: $1600. I receive 10 consecutive payments of $100.00 or $160.00 which pays for the year in the 10th month. This is as though the client received 4 lessons per month each and every month: but he doesn't as my studio is closed certain weeks of the year (6): Thanksgiving week, 2 weeks at Christmas/New Years Holiday, Fourth of July week, and 2 weeks at the end of summer (last week of August/first week of September.) Subtract 6 from 52 = 46 weeks. I then allow the 6 weeks remaining to be used for: snow days, teacher absences and student absences. This works out well for all.

I do have another option of paying for 10 lessons at a time $250 and $400 in 4 payments per year. This actually works best for me and for a lot of people who don't want to be bothered in writing checks. In my years of teaching I have also had parents elect to pay for one years tuition, and this for multiple children in their family. Never something I asked for, but something that was given to me through their confidence and commitment. Would you believe!

Because the accounting is so realistic for a year of lessons, the payment system works so there are no adjustments not make ups per se needed. I do makeups for a legitimate reason given 24 hours notice for planned absenses, and accepting emergency excuses that are legitimate.

I do keep attendance records and find that most students have received 39-40-42 lessons per year. I don't care about the lessons that exceeded 40, but I do want them to have 40 lessons per year. If they don't make the mark then it is about their attendances not mine and absense is something they chose for themselves. I don't get upset about attendance in any way as the program works to give me what I need in structure and it works for them in having the potential to earn extra lessons as a bonus from their good attendance. I usually do make ups by extending lesson time 10 minutes on a weekly basis until the make up is completed. My schedule has room for the majority of students to be able to do that when needed.

The other thing I noticed compared to other studio operations is that I don't bill/invoice since the contract states the agreement. All payments come in on time with once in a while someone missing their payment date. But, fortunately that is not a problem as long as it comes in within the month. I don't keep track unless I am concerned. I do send home accounting of the tuition and student fund in September, in January and in June - 3 times a year. And, when a student exits there is a final accounting.

I can't rave enough about a studio policy and the things covered within it that allow a teacher to manage the incoming money end of the business so well.

I am about to implement higher fees for September 2010. That means my current students will be charged more as they celebrate their calendar date of entry into my studio. So for them the new fees will start in the year 2011. New students will start at the new prices in September.

I hope this is helpful to other teachers who are looking for solutions to these problems we face. Let me say that I had years of bad experiences from which to learn from before I devised this system which has worked for me over 25 years. I worked hard to continuously improve upon it until it worked. So much was about communicating the program to the client in a way that they would see the benefit to them mostly the simplicity of it. In addition, it probably helps that I am competitively priced although from my reputation and long term teaching career I could ask a lot more in my area for my time.

It's my time people are paying for, actually, the teaching is free and joyfully given.

Betty Patnude

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#1407191 - 03/30/10 02:41 PM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: Betty Patnude]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
I expect payment for each lesson, at the time of the lesson. No problem with no-shows or excessive cancellation, as I have a clear, strict, and reasonable policy.

I need flexibility to accommodate performances.

I am able to offer "occasional" lessons to adults during school hours, but not for kids afterschool. I only have one "occasional" student.

#1407369 - 03/30/10 06:49 PM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: wavelength]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
Betty, I run a similar system with annual tuition fees split into equal monthly payments. It's all there in my studio policy which every student is given a copy of and is also explained clearly on my website. Even so, I find myself having to go over it again and again with people every month. Take April for example, I have a two week break starting on Friday 2nd April which is in line with the school holidays. This means that Mon, Tues and Weds students will only get two lessons which won't be until the 19th. Last week I sent out a letter to request post dated cheques for April so that I can afford to live. Hardly any have showed up with payment this week and quite a few have questioned why they are paying a full monthly fee when they only get two lessons!

Wavelength, I am curious as to whether you make most of your living from teaching or if it's just a sideline. This probably makes a difference.
Pianist and piano teacher.

#1407706 - 03/31/10 10:25 AM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: Chris H.]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Chris, I make around 3/4 or 2/3 of my income teaching. The rest is performance.

I do consider myself primarily a performer, and secondarily a teacher.

#1407719 - 03/31/10 10:51 AM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: Betty Patnude]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1495
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude

It's my time people are paying for, actually, the teaching is free and joyfully given.

Betty Patnude

You seem to have a good system set up Betty, but if people are paying for your time, why do you value your time, at a lesser rate (pro rata) for an hour of it, as opposed to 30 minutes?

#1407804 - 03/31/10 12:59 PM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: R0B]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
That's a good question, ROB!

My half hour lesson is for the beginner until the elementary level is completed, but there are sometimes students who start needing more than half an hour due to their achievements and accelerated progress.

We start needing more time if we go wide in the level to add more music at the elementary level than my "basic" curriculum for elementary. Sometimes the students add width and depth and more time with me. I also teach "how to practice" and that has to be balanced into the lesson depending how much coaching is needed for practice. So an hour lesson is very desirable for a student who is moving toward or starting the intermediate level.

To encourage more time is to also raise the fee for lessons and sometime parents are reluctant to do that due to budget constraints. I wanted to provide an incentive for them to add the extra 30 minutes time so I gave a break of purchasing double the lesson time for only $15 more in charge. That really seems like a great bonus to my clients and they see the value in the decision. Some have continued without taking the advantage because unfortunately budget constraints keep them from electing it. Continuing at the half hour length is desirable for the majority of students as it meets their needs just fine. A nonchalant student is not going to be concerned too much about his progress and a half hour is very adequate for his lessons.

At the intermediate level, assignments get longer while the pieces also get longer with theory and technique so I feel it's necessary to go to an hour. Not all students are able to do that so it means that they are just going to take longer to complete the level. One of the ways to keep them up to accomplishment is to make sure they have great practice habits and a longer, quality practice at home...they then can stay on task without getting further behind.

For adults, I consider that they are going to need an hour for their lessons especially at the beginner level as we are establishing habits with time and effort being the criteria for their progress. We work on so many integrated things all at once for the beginner adults and it is very time consuming at lesson and in required practice at home to get to the level where they have acquired the skills they need to be self-actualizing in their music. Adult and mid-teen beginners are on a higher plane than children are in their lesson requirements.

I am happy to earn $40 an hour but if the market locally was higher at $50 and the clientele could easily handle that, I would certainly be charging at that level as it would be the 'norm'. I would then be charging $30 per half hour with $50 per hour.

My September 2010 tuition will not reflect new rates, but will charge for more lessons per year - 45 instead of 40. My present students will feel that change after January 2011 as their calendar (anniversary) dates come up during the year.

So the answer ROB, the lesser hour fee was to entice and accomodate my students to longer but still affordable lessons and to help them make a long term and more serious committment in their piano study.

I wish I could have said all that in one easy paragraph!


Edited by Betty Patnude (03/31/10 01:06 PM)

#1408434 - 04/01/10 09:24 AM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: Betty Patnude]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1495
Loc: Australia
Thank you for the clarification, Betty.

I now realise you don't charge less for an hour's tuition.

You just charge more for 30 mins.

#1408629 - 04/01/10 01:58 PM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: R0B]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington

You are incredibly succinct! That's exactly it! Why can't I think like you do? We are obviously "brained" differently! (He, he)

Yes, it's a lot more work and responsibility to start a new student than it is to maintain a student's progress over the long term. The beginning teacher is so absolutely essential to the quality of the musician in lessons that I do charge ample for that first year or two of elementary basics. I do feel that to encourage longer weekly study with me and then long term involvement with me by giving a break on the price is good business. It kept students in long term lessons for 5-6-8 years and I now have a 15 year old male starting his 9th year.

This is what makes sense to me in my locality.

Thanks for asking for the clarification. And your comment back is "priceless". (unexpected pun)


#1408633 - 04/01/10 02:00 PM Re: pay as you go lessons [Re: R0B]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Nice reframing, ROB!! I think there's another reason it can be worthwhile charging less for an hour lesson as compared to a half hour: each student represents a certain amount of preparation and administration time in addition to the lesson time paid for. It is actually more efficient to have one's income derived from a smaller number of students taking longer lessons, therefore it is not unreasonable to decide to reflect this efficiency in the pricing policy.
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more

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