Issues with registration/administrative fee

Posted by: Morodiene

Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 08:42 AM

A fellow voice teacher and I have recently opened up a school for private voice and piano lessons. We have a policy that is very clear and not overbearing, and we are upfront with the cost of our lessons. We charge a registration fee once per semester of $25 per student to defray the costs of things that are not covered in our hourly lesson rate such as printing of programs for recitals and organizing recitals/performance opportunities, billing/collections, scheduling, etc. - administrative stuff.

With some of the parents who were students with my partner previously out of her home, they questioned this fee, having never had to pay it before. My partner was charging quite a bit less (undercharging her students) so this is natural because they had quite an increase in what they had to pay previously. I have no problem explaining any charges that we have.

However, there have been some new students who come and ask if we could waive the fee. Why would you even ask that?? I understand wanting to know what it's for, but when you're driving around a lexus SUV and you have no apparent problems paying for your daughter's myriad dance lessons, why would you haggle over a $25 fee?

I'm thinking perhaps the issue is in how we are presenting it somehow. We are upfront about the fee and not apologetic, but perhaps there is a way we can present it to help avoid this coming up. Has anyone else had this problem, and what did you do to resolve it? (We told the mother that we cannot waive the fee, by the way).
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 09:00 AM

Do they mean that they want a trial period without the fee, to help decide whether to take lessons or not?
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 09:05 AM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Do they mean that they want a trial period without the fee, to help decide whether to take lessons or not?


Correct, but we charge the registration fee for all students. We offer a trial period for 8 lessons.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 10:06 AM

Fair enough.

So how about:

Would you waive the fee for us?
Why should I?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 10:53 AM

If you charge a fee once per semester, could you not spread that fee across all lesson fees, which would mean an increase of maybe $1.00 or less? "Registration fee" does sound weird since usually one registers once, and you're having it happen every semester. Why call it anything since it's recurring? Your fees are designed to give you a profit which comes after covering your business costs and there is no reason to enumerate like this.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 11:00 AM

Originally Posted By: keystring
If you charge a fee once per semester, could you not spread that fee across all lesson fees, which would mean an increase of maybe $1.00 or less? "Registration fee" does sound weird since usually one registers once, and you're having it happen every semester. Why call it anything since it's recurring? Your fees are designed to give you a profit which comes after covering your business costs and there is no reason to enumerate like this.


Most schools charge a registration fee, usually much more than $25 per semester. This is standard practice in this area. I'm not really questioning whether or not we should charge it, and I know several teachers on this forum charge something similar in addition to regular lesson tuition.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 11:06 AM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene

Most schools charge a registration fee, usually much more than $25 per semester. This is standard practice in this area. I'm not really questioning whether or not we should charge it, and I know several teachers on this forum charge something similar in addition to regular lesson tuition.

You were asking about ensuring a good reaction, and this came to mind. If you included the costs that the "registration fee" is covering into your lesson rates then the problem with these few families questioning it would disappear. It was a suggestion. It is mostly about how you present it and the name. With schools, registration fees cover the costs of registration. You don't actually have registration procedures and staff to pay for that kind of work, for students who continue with you. Your fees are for covering incidental costs such as buying books and for recitals. If you get rid of the name and include those costs in your lesson fees, there is nothing to be confused about.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 11:32 AM

I think you need to rehearse in front of a mirror that this is now a *school*. Yes, it's still you 2 same friendly neighborhood teachers teaching one-on-one voice and piano as before, but now that you two are together in rented space it has become a music school. You aim to grow, and already there are institutional expenses, and you two faculty are proud that you have managed to keep the initial registration fee to just $25 per semester.

This won't fix the problem of families being cheap, or questioning you, or whining, but these phrases need to become your new mantra. And if someone asks for you to waive this fee, you need to practice one more line in front of the mirror: "I'm sorry."
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 01:24 PM

Stuff like that tends to happen when there's a policy change or a fee increase.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 01:47 PM

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
.... the initial registration fee to just $25 per semester.

That wording will create a problem, and there is no reason to keep it. When students register in an institution, this is done within a complex organization involving hundreds of students, many teachers, and record keeping requirements. This requires the time of salaried employees. You are not doing this as a private teacher. The fee that you are charging is to cover expenses such as books and material, the costs involved in recitals etc. Anyone who knows what registration is will tend to be suspicious of that title, or confused by it. If you simply include the costs spread out over the fees, you avoid all of that. Why not do it that way? That is what most businesses do. If I were to break down my charges in an invoice, it would confuse my clients and lead to arguing and haggling. Such breakdowns are needed by the tax man, not your customer.
Posted by: LadyChen

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 02:16 PM

People don't like being nickle and dimed. I'd just increase lesson rates and get rid of the registration fee.
Posted by: ezpiano.org

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 02:34 PM

I agree with Lady Chen.
It is not necessary to complicated the process of getting money from your customers.
Add on: I do not charge registration fee either for new or returning students
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 03:45 PM

I have a music school in retail space. I charge an annual registration fee: for beginners it's $100, for returning students it's $75. I specify exactly what's covered in the fee because, as others have said, parents don't like to feel that they're paying yet again for someone to type their name into a computer and shuffle a few papers.

Maybe I missed it, but I'm curious why you charge this fee by the semester rather than by the year. In my mind, I want parents to think of piano lessons as enrollment for the school year, not for just a semester that they have to re-enroll to continue.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 06:03 PM

FWIW, I tell perspective students/parents that the "registration" fee is really an activities fee, so I don't have to nickel and dime them through the year for miscellaneous expenses incurred on behalf of their students. From a business POV, it saves accounting time (and errors), thus keeping tuition as low as possible. Plus, there are some recurring student expenses which you'll end up eating if a family moves/withdraws from lessons, and this once a year fee (in my case) also serves as a "commitment to lessons" as it is applied during the summer months for the coming year.

As it serves so many useful purposes well, the question in my mind is why those of you who don't charge such a fee, don't.
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 07:39 PM

Um. To compete against those teachers that do charge a fee.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 09:30 PM

Are you saying that teachers should continually lower their prices to the lowest possible level? Then go out of business? Wouldn't it make more sense to compete on quality of teaching and breadth of offerings?
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/27/12 11:54 PM

To be frank, in most cases, the customer cannot make an accurate distinction between two piano teachers. Most don't bother to try.

They will choose you based on some combination of these factors in relevant order:

Location
Price
Kindness
Whether you include pop tunes in your program.
Whether they felt you "clicked" with them when they phoned you.
Whether you seemed to "have it together" when they first encountered you.

John wrote: Wouldn't it make more sense to compete on quality of teaching and breadth of offerings?
To whom would it make more sense? To the ideal customer or to the ones you actually encounter?

I don't think it's a good idea to charge a registration fee for the reasons keystring has mentioned.

As I've said in previous posts elsewhere, music teachers form organizations which try to promote their best interests as a profession, and those of the children they serve. It would be wonderful if all piano teachers read tips on how to maintain a "professional" studio. But, because the profession is unregulated, anybody who can't meet those standards will need to gather students in their own way. They will choose to undercut your price and will not charge the registration fee. Or even if they are great teachers, they will perhaps be married to a wealthier person and be able to run a business without the registration fee.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/28/12 02:34 AM

Originally Posted By: Candywoman
Location
Price
Kindness
Whether you include pop tunes in your program.
Whether they felt you "clicked" with them when they phoned you.
Whether you seemed to "have it together" when they first encountered you.

And, in this part of the country: your nationality/ethnic background (and the ability to speak that nation's or ethnic group's language)! Some ethnic groups tend to stick together among themselves tighter than other groups. Some ethnic groups have a complete lack of piano teachers, so they by force have to find piano teachers from other cultures.

This problem has led to much, much frustration when it comes to recruiting new students.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/28/12 08:07 AM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
FWIW, I tell perspective students/parents that the "registration" fee is really an activities fee, so I don't have to nickel and dime them through the year for miscellaneous expenses incurred on behalf of their students. From a business POV, it saves accounting time (and errors), thus keeping tuition as low as possible. Plus, there are some recurring student expenses which you'll end up eating if a family moves/withdraws from lessons, and this once a year fee (in my case) also serves as a "commitment to lessons" as it is applied during the summer months for the coming year.

As it serves so many useful purposes well, the question in my mind is why those of you who don't charge such a fee, don't.


Perhaps "Activities Fee" would be a better name for it. We do have more work as far as signing up students and collecting payment (because I'm doing it all for two studios and a class now), but activities is much easier to explain and fits more what it is really for.

We just increased our rates for most of our returning students this year, and even some we had to "grandfather" in with their old rate or some compromise so gradually get them accustomed to the higher rate. To then increase the rate further by adding in the fee to lessons defeats that purpose. Plus, I want them to understand that there are other expenses that we incur, usually personally, for their child that are not covered by lessons. I have no problem explaining to them why we have it - in fact, I enjoy answering because then they will gain insight into these "hidden" expenses that we have to give their child the best musical education we can. But I guess just the name itself is not the best explanation for it.

Perhaps next year we will charge once-a-year, but we figured twice would be more manageable on their pocketbooks.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/28/12 08:10 AM

Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
I have a music school in retail space. I charge an annual registration fee: for beginners it's $100, for returning students it's $75. I specify exactly what's covered in the fee because, as others have said, parents don't like to feel that they're paying yet again for someone to type their name into a computer and shuffle a few papers.

Maybe I missed it, but I'm curious why you charge this fee by the semester rather than by the year. In my mind, I want parents to think of piano lessons as enrollment for the school year, not for just a semester that they have to re-enroll to continue.



I explained in my response to John's post. Perhaps we'll change this next year, though. We'll have those who are grandfathered no longer grandfathered, so we may not want to increase them and make it an annual fee just yet.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/28/12 09:54 AM

Originally Posted By: Candywoman
.... even if they are great teachers, they will perhaps be married to a wealthier person and be able to run a business without the registration fee.

Just a footnote: teachers who charge below actual costs, whether due to spousal income or for other reasons, are actually engaged in hobby teaching, and all teaching generated revenue is taxable; there are no deductions permitted. I'm guessing that in our community, 75% or more of piano teachers are hobbyists; their tuition most certainly doesn't reflect the real cost of teaching.

As far as Keystring's point, as I understand it, institutions could just as well charge one blanket level tuition, which includes all the administrative costs of enrolling students, etc. They choose to charge separately for academic/non-academic costs because they can generally enhance overall revenue by doing so.
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/28/12 05:32 PM

This thread is coming to an end, but I never meant they charge below cost. They just absorb the little costs that Morodiene is talking about into their regular lesson fees.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/28/12 09:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Candywoman
This thread is coming to an end, but I never meant they charge below cost. They just absorb the little costs that Morodiene is talking about into their regular lesson fees.


Well, these are not 'little' costs in my book. They add up over the course of the year and there's nothing wrong with wanting to separate them out from how we decide what our hourly rate is. You may not want to do that, and that's fine. We don't all have to run our businesses the same. smile
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/29/12 12:49 PM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook


As it serves so many useful purposes well, the question in my mind is why those of you who don't charge such a fee, don't.


As Morodiene has suggested, this is hardly a right or wrong issue. Different teachers just do business differently.

I have considered such a registration/materials/activities /whatever-the-heck-fee, but so far I have resisted. I figure my business costs are part of what I charge for tuition, and fees sound too bureaucratic. That's just me and my present studio.

John does it a bit differently. Morodiene is starting her school. I respect them both, and as the kids say, "Whatever."
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/29/12 02:22 PM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Just a footnote: teachers who charge below actual costs, whether due to spousal income or for other reasons, are actually engaged in hobby teaching

Fortunately, most of these teachers are incompetent and not members of any association. The problem (for the rest of us teachers) arises when some of these hobby teachers are actually good at teaching. There is a good teacher in LA who will actually teach for free.
Posted by: ezpiano.org

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/29/12 03:01 PM

Where does my tuition go?

I was reading this famous post by Wendy and decide that I will set my tuition fees to cover everything she said in the post. That includes recital fees, books, incentive, book keeping, administration fee.....That also means I won't collect registration fees or recital fees or activities fees (whatever you call it)

Of course we all do not need to run our business the same, but I like to make everything easy since my studio is called "Easy Piano Studio"

Have anyone of you deal with the billing system of our health care? They make is so complicated with all the hard to understand billing code and is not consumer friendly at all.

Just saying....
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/29/12 04:25 PM

I have considered including these extra expenses (such as described in Wendy's article) in the monthly tuition fee (or quarterly, as I have changed my tuition schedule). I just think that parents who have never enrolled their kids in piano (and therefore aren't educated about what've involved in piano lessons) will just look at the monthly fee and compare it to what other teachers charge and decide to go with the cheaper teacher. Maybe it's something psychological but I think saying you charge $100 per month with a $---- enrollment fee that covers ----(and list all the things) looks more reasonable to the average parent.

It's something I've pondered for quite a while....
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/30/12 02:24 PM

I must not be understanding what you want the fee to cover.

organizing recitals/performance opportunities, (for me this is $140 per term or zero depending where I hold the recital.

billing/collections, (I have no costs here. I ask for cheques in advance of the first week of the month.)

scheduling, etc. - administrative stuff.(I simply consider this part of the joy of teaching. Often a scheduling inquiry can lead to a conversation about progress. It's a valuable means of communicating with parents.)

activities (If I have a small studio recital, I just absorb the cost of fruit juices and cookies.)

So I think we're talking apples and oranges here, Morodiene.
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/30/12 04:20 PM

Here's what my annual enrollment fee covers that tuition does NOT cover:

Office supplies (printer/copy machine ink, paper, pens, folders, dry erase markers... that list can be endless)
Carpet cleaning of studio 2x per year
Piano tuning
Stickers, treasure box 'treats', trophies and other incentives
New computer software (billing/accounting software, Finale notepad, etc...)
Upgrading studio equipment (rhythm instruments, any new furniture, keyboards, new pedal extender, string cover for my grand, new duet bench)
Dues for professional memberships (MTAC, Guild, ECMMA)
Convention attendance (it doesn't pay for all my expenses but does help to offset some)
Recital programs or fees
Pizza parties, ice cream parties, refreshments for events
Christmas or end-of-year gifts for students

*I know I'm missing some stuff....

Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/30/12 05:52 PM

Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
Here's what my annual enrollment fee covers that tuition does NOT cover:


What some say is covered by an enrollment fee, others say is simply covered by tuition. It's all income, whatever you brand it.
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 11/30/12 06:32 PM

Yes, but I would guess most teachers don't actually figure in all the potential expenses that come up, when setting their tuition rates.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 12/01/12 12:39 AM

Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
Yes, but I would guess most teachers don't actually figure in all the potential expenses that come up, when setting their tuition rates.

How does one run a business without calculating expenses before setting prices?
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 12/01/12 07:40 AM

Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
Yes, but I would guess most teachers don't actually figure in all the potential expenses that come up, when setting their tuition rates.

How does one run a business without calculating expenses before setting prices?

By becoming a "hobby" teacher.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 12/01/12 11:11 AM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

By becoming a "hobby" teacher.

I understand what you are saying, but I still want to stress strongly what I see as "professional". First and foremost, the teacher has to have skills and knowledge to impart, and know how to bring them across. In other words, he or she has to be able to teach effectively, and make the effort to do so consistently.

A teacher who knows how to make money and run a business is not, in my view, a professional teacher due to that fact. The person may know very little and have few skills, but have a good business sense. Conversely, a teacher may be excellent at teaching, but have a poor understanding of teaching. That teacher in my view is not a "hobby teacher" - just a poor businessperson.

Of course someone who teaches excellently but can't run a business won't last long, but might be able to keep on teaching if the family income is carried by a spouse. So they could run it like a "hobby teacher" -- maybe only teaching part time, charging less than everyone else. In the sense of how they run their business, it's like a hobbyist.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 12/03/12 07:28 PM

In every profession, not just music teaching, one must know the subject matter. It is a given. What is usually overlooked, especially in the arts, is how to connect with the student. Obviously, this is not more important than the subject matter, but it isn't less important, either. Make no mistake about it, if you cannot connect with the student, all your brilliance and training is for naught. You're no more effective than the teacher with only a high school education.

The business leg of the tripod is rather odd. An artist who cannot manage his personal affairs or run his business is soon out in the cold. What good is that?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Issues with registration/administrative fee - 12/03/12 08:27 PM

All three elements of teaching are needed: knowing the subject matter, knowing how to teach (connecting with the student), and knowing how to run a business. I think we're on the same page.