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  • 1.  Sliding Scale for Tuition

    Posted 11-05-2021 03:34 PM

    Does anyone use a sliding scale tuition in a center based setting? If so what factors is it based on and could you tell me what your formula is?

    I am working with a program who is looking for a more equitable approach to tuition and would love to see some model and examples of a sliding scale, so I'm reaching out to this amazing community for some real life examples if anyone has some!

    Thank you in advance for any insight you have!

    Sarah Garczynski, M.Ed.
    Quality Improvement Specialist
    Salem, OR

  • 2.  RE: Sliding Scale for Tuition

    Posted 11-06-2021 10:36 AM

    Hi Sarah,
    When we established our non-profit community preschool we needed to have criteria in place for exactly what you're asking.  More went into arriving at our method than there's space to detail here, but can be summarized as follows.
    We found what the median family income was in our city (where the COL is higher than the wider county) and set that as the top limit for full scholarships ($76,580 for family size 4).  
    We asked our regional resource and referral agency for the subsidy table they use to determine the "columns" that adjust for family size and used that formula to calculate the sliding scale for partial tuition/partial scholarship families.  

    Then we came up with our own criteria for the sliding scale: 101-120% of median income families pay tuition calculated at 10% of their gross income; 121-140% pay 12%; and 141-200% pay 15%.  While we were aware that 7% of income is the target limit a family should need to pay in tuition, and "TILL WE ARE FREE," in our sliding scale there isn't a gap between those who are at the top limit of the sliding scale, at 200% for a family size 4 is approx $153K, and the families paying the full tuition.  Our mission (and what we do) is to serve families evenly spread across income levels, because diversity and its benefits find obstacles when there is only a sprinkle of lower income families added later.  

    Please do not take that last sentence as cynicism, and at the same time I wrote it for anyone reading this to simply say: it matters to not approach scholarships from a savior mindset (where some families may feel THEY are paying for poorer families to attend preschool with their privileged  child) but that it's the school that's making it financially possible to diversify the families because it's necessary for ALL the children to be together and to learn best.  Desegregating preschool by social class can feel like an uphill battle, and my hope is that future gov't funding (UPK), until it's eventually possible for all preschools to be free for families, will be distributed to programs that have achieved a level of socio-economic diversity.
    Best wishes on your endeavors Sarah!

    Laila Taslimi
    Untitled No. 1
    Santa Monica CA

  • 3.  RE: Sliding Scale for Tuition

    Posted 11-06-2021 10:36 AM

    Hello Sarah,

    I run a non profit preschool in Seattle, and will be opening a new daycare soon, and we want to move towards a sliding scale tuition system. Due to the insane costs of remodeling during Covid we are over budget and two years behind our targeted opening date so we can't implement this dream yet. I'd love to keep in touch and share ideas around this. 

    As a preschooler I went to Stanford University Bing Nursery School. If I remember correctly I think my mother told me they were on a sliding scale. This was almost 60 years ago, but it might be worth reaching out to them. 

    All my best,

    Tara Katz
    Fremont Community School
    Seattle WA

  • 4.  RE: Sliding Scale for Tuition

    Posted 11-09-2021 08:45 AM
    Dear Tara:

    I was the director of a cooperative nursery school that had a sliding scale tuition. Families had to submit their w-2 if they did not want to be placed at the top of the scale. Also, budgeting when you have a sliding scale is tricky because you do not know exactly how many families will fall into each category. We had a few solutions for this that I can share if you like. One way to account for an inability to know exactly what the center will be bringing in as income is to budget for enrollment that is not full and use the median tuition to establish your income.

    Another point is to make sure that the scale is modified as economics change - income levels across the country, etc. One level that we have to be careful with is the tuition for those at the bottom of the income scale. The top tuition (and really all levels except perhaps the lowest level) is a moving target based on the cost of living index among other things.

    You do want to set your tuition scale in such a way that you can give adequate pay to your teachers and assistants. If you decide that you will provide benefits to them, you need to factor that in as well.

    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ

  • 5.  RE: Sliding Scale for Tuition

    Posted 11-08-2021 10:52 AM
    Hi Sarah
    I love Lalia's approach because it incorporates subsidy take up and considers relative percent of income for families which is an approach from an equity lens. I live in VT. I consult with ECE programs here and have been modeling true cost of care (with living wage salaries and benefits) against layered revenues including subsidies and co-pays, parent tuition capped at a percent of income (a variation on  Lalia's approach), UPK tuition for preschoolers, local/regional employer support for either scholarships or as an employee benefit, and an annual campaign for scholarships which allows more affluent families (voluntarily and and not as a cost shift), philanthropy, and community members to contribute to affordability across a diverse set of family incomes. Its a bit complex but doable, doesn't leave federal/ state funds on the table (families are required to apply for CC subsidy if they are eligible), educates everyone about true costs as we attempt to reach both sustainable high quality and compensation parity, and, as Lalia says,  builds a bridge between our current unsustainable state and the day when childcare is adequately funded in the US.

    Figuring this out is really important for "reinventing" childcare. Keep at it!


    Reeva Murphy
    Heat of a Child Early Care and Learning Consultation, LLC

    Reeva Murphy
    Early Care and Learning Consultant
    Heart of a Child
    Stowe VT