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Sliding Scale Tuition

  • 1.  Sliding Scale Tuition

    Posted 03-04-2021 07:51 PM
    With increased COVID costs and decreased numbers this year, my tuition-based preschool implemented a partial sliding scale model to help bring in more funds and recap some of our losses. (Basically the sliding scale slid up by $200 but not down.)

    Now, we're looking into more radical sliding scale models for tuition.

    I'd love to hear from anyone who has done this transition at their school (or used a sliding scale model from the start).

    Specific questions include:
    -do you calculate tution numbers yourself for each family or outsource to a company that does this? & why?
    -what do you base your sliding scale on: income only? A FAFSA-style report? Something in between? & why?
    -have you have problems making enough money with the sliding scale system, finding enough people at the high end of the scale to balance those at the lower end?
    -has it impacted your school population? For example, have you noticed increased socioeconomic stratification among families?

    Thank you for your help!

    Encian Pastel
    Children's Community Center, Gender Justice in Early Childhood, Bay Area Childcare Collective
    Richmond CA

  • 2.  RE: Sliding Scale Tuition

    Posted 03-05-2021 04:20 PM
    I think sliding scales can be a slippery slope.  There currently exists a significant discrepancy between how much we get reimbursed for a subsidized student versus what our regular private pay families have to pay.  Both students receive the same level of services, and our costs remain the same, but I bring in less revenue with a subsidized student to cover those costs.  With reduced class sizes due to covid and a significant decrease in our income, we have not been able to admit any new subsidized students over the last year and try to maximize our private pay student enrollment.  The sliding scale model causes the same kinds of financial conflicts.  It may help with overall enrollment, but it may also create animosity with those families that are still paying full tuition.  We don't see that happen so much with our subsidized families because the state is qualifying them for the service and setting the rate that they will pay versus us offering a sliding scale product.

    Just something to think about.

    Tim Kaminski
    Gingerbread Kids Academy
    Richmond TX

  • 3.  RE: Sliding Scale Tuition

    Posted 03-06-2021 09:40 AM


    There are so many models and choices to make here.  I worked for a long time in a center with a sliding scale.  There were positives and negatives.  We used the middle of the scale (I think there were five steps on the scale) as the actual cost of the room (4 classrooms, each with different tuitions due to numbers of children, child/teacher ratio).  We scaled up or down from there so that the tuition in the top bracket balanced the tuition in the lowest bracket.

    Parents had to submit a tax form as proof of income.  We didn't allow other "deductions" to be taken or other allowances made; it would have been too subjective and complex.  Parents in the top tier didn't need to submit a tax form.  There was a strong feeling that adding more proof of income materials would have driven families away.

    It absolutely provided economic diversity to the center.  It depended on parents in the top two tiers being willing to be part of a community that valued this diversity and was able and willing to put their money behind that value.  Luckily, we were in a community with many high earners who did want to be part of the community.  I believe that this was changed 6 or 7 years ago and the center now has one tuition and several scholarships.

    Good luck with this,  Aren

    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA

  • 4.  RE: Sliding Scale Tuition

    Posted 03-08-2021 10:03 AM

    Good day,

    We have used a sliding fee scale at our school since we opened 23 years ago. We are unique because we are a public/private non-profit corporation with 90% of our school population coming from the town where we are located. We are in a very diverse community and one element of that diversity is the socioeconomic level of our families. There are families who are on the poverty line and families that are extremely wealthy (and everyone in between).  Some of our funding to help subsidize the sliding fee scale comes from our own fundraising efforts and additional funding comes from the Township; we are a line in the town budget. Without getting into too much detail, we "took the place of" the public school pre-k program that was offered to families for app. 20 years. It was important to the Township Council  and the BoE that the town find a way to continue the school and that all children have access to a high quality early childhood program.  The only piece that the BoE has maintained is the preschool program for children with special needs.

    We ask families to prove residency (since the money comes from the Township, we can only provide it to families in the town) .  We also ask for the latest income tax return and use the adjusted gross income to see where the family falls on our sliding scale.  Each year, we have app. 30 - 35% of our families who utilize the scale.

    For us, this has worked and until there is universal pre-k in the state on NJ, we will continue to offer assistance. We have found that the families who are considered ALICE families (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed - families in the middle of economic brackets) make up a good portion of those in need.

    Thank you.

    Carolyn DeVito
    Assistant Executive Director
    Montclair Community Pre-K
    Belleville NJ