Flat monthly tuition for music lessons that includes everything… what, why and how!
A flat monthly tuition rate means that every student simply pays the same amount each month. The mindset of “tuition” versus a per lesson fee is imperative: there is not a per lesson cost, in essence. The flat monthly rate stays the same regardless of how many lessons are in the month, and is based on a certain number of lessons per year. Tuition is due by the 31st (last day) of the month prior, so I expect my students to bring November’s tuition to their last lesson in October. I send out invoices (it’s automated!!!) using Music Teacher’s Helper, and they receive those 2-3 weeks in advance of the due date.
This easily allows for vacations, illnesses, holidays and other cancellations, without all the stress of having make-up lessons. For both the student and the teacher, this keeps the budget very consistent every month without the wild fluctuations over the summer, in December over the holidays, if the student is sick for a month or has soccer practice for six weeks. In addition, music lessons are often treated as a commodity, and this helps to change the framework — lessons are an investment in that child or adult student. Everything that the teacher does to prepare for the lesson, recitals and other activities should be recognized and acknowledged, just as it is for teachers in K-12 schools. The flat monthly tuition rate completely removes the “per lesson” psychology from the equation, for the betterment of our profession, I believe.
Here’s how I structure mine:
- I charge $115/mo for 46, 30-minute lessons per 12-month period. I charge proportionally more for a 45-minute or 60-minute lesson. Obviously, charge what’s best for your area of the world.
- Lessons are usually once a week, but when we’re preparing for a recital, during the summer, if a student is in a competition, etc., I might offer 2-3 lessons in a single week. All of these count toward the promised 46.
- My tuition includes all of the recitals, any group classes we might do (such as Suzuki group, recital performance classes — these are dress rehearsals in essence, etc.), and now even books (see the bullet point below). If I offer a camp or a workshop that is a series of classes, I’ll offer the option for that to count for a certain number of lessons, or for there to be a separate charge.
- Beginning this fall, I’m allowing the $115/mo to include all of the books, SproutBeat, JoyTunes, etc. However, I do set a cap at $60/student (in a 12-month period) for books. I track this in Music Teacher’s Helper. This makes everyone’s lives so much easier, and it also pushes me to be creative in what books, activities and platforms I select so that I’m cost efficient for everyone. If we have to go over $60, which could happen for an advanced student, then the family would owe for those books at retail + tax/shipping.
- During the summer, I plan to offer 1-2 “camps” in lieu of lessons. While this is not yet set in stone, let’s say that it’s a 4-day “camp” (I use quotes because there won’t be any camping or overnight staying!) on writing music for intermediate and advanced students, 2 hours each day. Instead of charging families for the camp, I could say that this is worth X lessons toward their 46. In this example, these students are probably taking 45 or 60 minute lessons, so I would probably count it for 4 lessons. This is especially convenient for families who want to take off part of the summer. Their tuition always remains the same and I hold their slot on my calendar, but they’re provided with some flexibility at no additional charge to them, as well as providing the student with something new and interesting. Pretty cool, if you ask me!
Making the transition
If you are currently not teaching with a flat monthly tuition rate, I certainly encourage you to consider it. There is no perfect time to roll this out, but I would recommend January or August. I would not recommend December, or a month in which a number of lessons will be missed, such as the summer. In addition, I would offer 45-60 days notice, and I would recommend consulting with each parent through a phone call. The transition, especially for students you’ve had for awhile, will be tricky; however, the communication is key. Write a gentle, explanatory letter, email it and hand it to parents, and call parents individually to answer questions and work out any transition fears. Be willing to be flexible and to help some of your families ease into it. And, start it with your new students right away.
Teachers: Do you have questions about how I handle this? Please feel free to comment below, or contact me!
Students: For more information about lessons, please register for a meet and greet!