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charging full-year tuition - getting into details
#1932343 07/25/12 03:50 PM
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This questions stems from a previous thread I started. But since my question is so specific and more narrow than the original thread, I thought I would put it in a new post.

I'm a traveling teacher (have taught for twelve years) and am revising my piano teaching policies.

I'm leaning toward having students pay yearly tuition -- students will take X number of lessons per year (12 months), pay for it in monthly installments or in full or by semester. The impetus for this is for me to have a more even income throughout the year, rather than to fall off a cliff starting in June. But it's also to have all clients share in the burden of keeping this service viable. Currently, some clients keep me afloat in summer (or at least keep me from sinking altogether) while others are off the entire summer and expect me to be ready and available again when they return in September. Finally, I'm thinking also that if parents think more consciously about how much they're paying each year for piano lessons, they might start to invest more in it, that is pay more attention to practice, etc.

I think I may offer three different options:

1) pay tuition covering 42 lessons per year (Sept. 1 to August 31st); tuition is due upfront, or by semester, or monthly over twelve months.
2) pay tuition covering 30 lessons (or maybe a little more or less... haven't quite established a number for this yet) per nine months (Sept 1 through May 31); this would work out to a higher rate than the full year plan. Payment would be completed in nine months.
3) pay on a per lesson basis; pay for it monthly, at the beginning of the month. This would be the most expensive option. This option might have a different policy as far as cancellations....


My questions concern the logistics of having yearly tuition. I would welcome your thoughts on any or all of these questions. Please note that I have been combing through this forum for answers (I've read many posts now), but again, it helps to have people answer my questions directly. Thanks so much!

For those of you who have your students pay tuition for the year:

1) What number of lessons is working for you for a full year? I've seen some people say that they have 38 lessons per year, others up to 45 lessons. I'm thinking the sweet spot might be 42 lessons per year -- that would give the students 9 weeks off throughout the year. 38 lessons per year seems like too few to me (at my lowest rate), especially since I'm a traveling teacher who spends a lot of time on the road and can't fit in as many students as teachers who have their own studios.

2) Do most of you have your clients sign a contract? It seems to me since we're talking about an obligation on the client's part to pay a regular monthly fee (even if they're not taking lessons in that month), that you would need something to bind them to that agreement -- like a contract.

3) Are you the one monitoring how many lessons the students are taking throughout the year? (I'm inclined to believe that you are). Do you keep an accounting of this monthly, weekly? (Scott Coletta, it sounds like you do this monthly). Does it take a significant amount of time to keep track of all this, or have you got it down to an efficient process?

4) Does the student have to tell you ahead of time where their lessons are going to land (that is, how many lessons in a given month)? If so, how far ahead do you plan -- monthly, by semester?

5) What if a student decides, for whatever reason, to have a bunch of lessons in a short time (they've been gone on vacation and want to get in their X number of lessons before the year runs out)? Doesn't that create some havoc with your schedule?

6) Have any of you ever had a client renege on their obligation? A theoretical example: a client says they will take lesson throughout the year (including summer), but when summer time comes, abruptly decides to take the summer off and halts payments. I think I would probably follow Minniemay's example in this case (from another post she made) in which i would recalculate the tuition based on a per-lesson fee. But I'm interested in hearing your experience with this.

Thank you again. I really appreciate all your help with this matter.



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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932346 07/25/12 04:00 PM
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1. I have 38. That's enough to have weeks off for me and buffer weeks for them when they have a conflict.

2. Yes, and my contract includes a clause about both discontinuing lessons mid-year and refunds for those who paid in full.

3. I have an attendance sheet for each student with boxes numbered 1-38 and a box below to write in the date of the lesson.

4. Lessons not canceled before the lesson time count as a lesson taken.

5. They can only have that option if there is room in the schedule, which there usually isn't. I have, on occasion, taught 3 longer lessons to make up for one missed, but that is not outlined and I have done it as a courtesy for students that are capable of that length.

6. No. They have all paid their due.


B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932387 07/25/12 06:10 PM
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1) 38 lessons plus one recital and one dress rehearsal, total of 40 lessons in ten months of period, from September to June.

2) Yes, parents has to return a signed contract

3) Yes, I keep track of the attendance with one attendance sheet for each student

4) Yes, students receive the dates that they will be having lessons in Summer so that they know which day has lesson, which day has no lesson. The lesson dates are given in a year ahead.

5) In my policy, yes, if student decide to take month of October off and crunch all lessons into November, they are welcome to do so, but they have to find the time slot by themselves. I have a google calendar feature that I mark the time that I am willing to teach as “Open”, they have to find it and schedule the lessons themselves. That also means that they cannot request a specific time slot for their reschedule lesson, they can only select their lesson time at the slot that I mark “Open”. In this way, I am controlling the hours that I am willing to teach, not students.

6) My 40 lessons only run from September to June. July and August is considered “Summer” for me and my summer policy is totally different than school year policy. Basically, in month of July and August, students are free to choose if they want to have lesson or not. They can choose to have between zero lesson to eight lessons. Lesson time would be the same as their regular slot during the school year and they have to give me the dates that they are attending in June and pay summer tuition before July starts. I have only 4 students take zero lesson in this summer, other majority is taking between 5 to 8 lessons. I like to give to give a little freedom during summer and remind them that once school start in September, all the attendance is mandatory.

At the end, it is your studio, you can run it according to what works for you, what doesn't work for you.


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932396 07/25/12 07:03 PM
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Using Google calendar is brilliant.
I would love that as a consumer of lessons.

I hate scheduling.


Learner
Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932440 07/25/12 09:19 PM
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In the process of "falling off the cliff" as I usually do in the summer...Such a great tag line. Hoping my husband can make up the difference in August. I think it's time to have a talk with some of my families that "leave me dangling" at the start of every summer. Such a drag! I start to actually dread the beginning of summer in May. I am a torn woman, though.

I just don't like the idea of being "tied" to a student for more than 1 month. Every year I think, "Ok this year I will have a year round policy" and then I back pedal....what is the cost of my yearly "security". Will I have to teach little burnt out so-and-so because his parents have paid me a year in advance? What if next month I don't want my identity to be Mrs. Piano Teacher? I like the idea of not being obligated to anyone at the end of each month more than security for the year.

Ideally I would love to not teach at all during the summer.

Dreaming again, probably.....

I so love this forum so I can express myself freely.

Great topic....I think on it, often...especially in poverty stricken JULY!!!!

LOL

Oh well.

smile



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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932460 07/25/12 10:04 PM
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I hope this isn't too long-winded, but here goes:

First, I don't travel for lessons, so I understand that scheduling considerations will be very different. Also, I use 3rd-party billing, which makes collecting tuition less of a headache, and keeps attendance and committment very high.

1) I teach 44 lessons per year. This works out well for us, and lets me have a couple weeks lesson-free here and there throughout the year (2-week winter break, 1-week spring break, 3 weeks before summer lessons and 2 weeks before fall lessons). Please note that students do not get to choose which weeks they have lessons; there are just certain weeks when my studio is closed. In the summer, there are 7 specific weeks in which to schedule lessons, and they can self-schedule (see #5).

2) Yes, my students sign my studio policy, but I allow students to pay quarterly, monthly, or annually (if they have already been studying with me for a year). I have a 30-day notification requirement for dropping lessons.

3) Yes and no... since I do not offer make-up lessons, the onus is on the parents to make sure their children attend each lesson. I do keep track in my Google calendar, though, and will make a note on the student's assignment tab if they cancel or are no-shows. If they ask in advance to reschedule, they can self-schedule that online (I decide the available times), or if someone else cancels and I have time *within the same week* then I will reschedule. Otherwise I say "see you next week!"

4) I only allow flexible scheduling during the seven (8 next year) summer weeks. Otherwise, students attend every week the studio is open.

5) I use youcanbook.me to allow students to self-schedule during the summer. They may schedule all seven lessons wherever they see fit, or they may choose to keep their regular weekly lesson and reschedule in advance if they need to plan around a summer trip. So, yes, my schedule is all over the map in the summer, but I only open specific blocks of time that they can self-schedule. Oh -- the youcanbook.me program syncs with Google calendar perfectly and in real time. It is customizable, but not necessarily user-friendly. I like it, though. Music Teacher's Helper is also a good choice for allowing students to self-schedule lessons. I did that for two years and it worked well.

6) Sure, students do on occasion drop lessons mid-year, but that is why I have a 30-day notice policy. No one has taken me up on the one-time annual payment, so I imagine that if a student dropped before mid-year I would certainly prorate and refund unused tuition. That would be a pain, so hopefully it won't come up -- one of the reasons I will only allow an annual payment from an established student (though there is no guarantee there, either). As far as summer lessons go, I have students pay to hold the spot if they cannot attend, and those who do attend summer lessons have scheduling priority in the fall. This year, only two students did not attend summer lessons; one is traveling overseas, and the other is out of state. A third student is having six of her lessons this week and next, since she was out of state as well.

I hope this helps! Best of luck to you with your teaching and scheduling. smile

~Adrienne


Private piano teacher in Lexington, Kentucky
Member MTNA, NGPT Board of Adjudicators
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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932469 07/25/12 10:54 PM
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1) My studio operates 48 weeks per year. My students average 46-48 lessons each year. We take off one week for spring break, one for Thanksgiving, and two for Christmas. Students whose lessons fall on holidays usually reschedule for the weekend after.

2) Yes, all students' parents are required to sign a copy of the policy.

3) Yes

4) I plan the studio schedule as soon as the school year calendar is released.

5) Each student gets four rescheduling opportunities per calendar year.

6) I charge on a monthly basis, but tuition is nonrefundable.


Children's piano instructor
Member NGPT, MTNA/TMTA/PMTA, NFMC/SJFMC
Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932610 07/26/12 09:06 AM
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1. I think this just depends on how many students you have and how much money you want to make. Right now, as I'm still building up my studio in my new state, I only have 25 or so students (mostly in my studio), so I'm doing 40 lessons for the year. When I had 50 students (all traveling) I only did 32 lessons and took off the entire months of July and August.

2. I've never needed to have signed contracts. I just make sure to hold up my end of the deal to absolute standards and everyone has been respectful. Aside from one or two over the last 5 years... and in those cases I doubt a signed contract would have made a difference. They were just "difficult" people. But I should add that I'm not "requiring" a yearly commitment. While payments are based on a year's worth of lessons and paid monthly, students can drop at anytime without penalty. We just settle up where we stand. In most cases students are generous with giving notice or letting me keep extra money already paid.

3. I keep detailed invoices with all pertinent information which I update each day when I finish teaching. Then I email them to students at the first of each month. Doing it this way I spend about 5 minutes a day updating, and about 20 minutes sending emails each month.

4. I have all teaching days scheduled for a year in advance. Students don't get to pick when their lessons will be. They are scheduled for a regular weekly time and that's that. I just allow 3 misses that aren't paid for which they can use anytime. And if they need more, I give them a chance to reschedule on my terms. If they can't do it, they forfeit the lesson. And if they don't use all 3 misses, they get 1-3 free lessons.

5. Number 4 answers this. No lessons in bunches.

6. I usually do have a few students who want to stop in the summer. When I was taking off two months in the summer it wasn't a problem. But part of the reason for taking that time off was that many students didn't want summer lessons, plus I was just overworked and tired anyway. smile Right now I just let them go and inform them that their spot won't be held for the fall. The ones I lost this summer have already been replaced so I haven't missed any income.

Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1932623 07/26/12 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by purepassion
6) Have any of you ever had a client renege on their obligation? A theoretical example: a client says they will take lesson throughout the year (including summer), but when summer time comes, abruptly decides to take the summer off and halts payments.

I'll address this one.

This problem is rampant. A lot of parents don't read the agreement before they sign it, and after they sign it they don't bother to follow it. This problem comes with the territory. Just stick to your guns and follow through on your policy. In MTAC, if a student leaves you and owes you money, you can tell the next teacher. It would be unethical for that other teacher to accept the transfer student knowing there is a debt owed.


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
AZNpiano #1932898 07/26/12 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
In MTAC, if a student leaves you and owes you money, you can tell the next teacher. It would be unethical for that other teacher to accept the transfer student knowing there is a debt owed.


How would you know which teacher the student transfers to unless if he or she tell you? If your student owe you money, probably he will not want to let you know who is his next teacher.


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1937306 08/04/12 12:03 PM
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Sorry this reply is so late, but I wanted to thank you all very, very much for your replies to my post. I really appreciate the thoroughness of your answers. Thank you for taking the time to write such detailed answers to my questions. The information was very helpful!


piano teacher, composer for film and games
Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1937816 08/05/12 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by purepassion

1) What number of lessons is working for you for a full year? I've seen some people say that they have 38 lessons per year, others up to 45 lessons. I'm thinking the sweet spot might be 42 lessons per year -- that would give the students 9 weeks off throughout the year. 38 lessons per year seems like too few to me (at my lowest rate), especially since I'm a traveling teacher who spends a lot of time on the road and can't fit in as many students as teachers who have their own studios.

-I have yet to see how my studio year will go, but I've planned out my studio year to include 45 lessons for all students who begin first week of September. This includes 7 weeks off. I first thought I would require less, but I desperately need the income. I figure families can decide if they want to drop in the summer and lose their lesson slot, or if they love my studio then they can pay and hold their lesson slot whether they are here or not. wink

2) Do most of you have your clients sign a contract? It seems to me since we're talking about an obligation on the client's part to pay a regular monthly fee (even if they're not taking lessons in that month), that you would need something to bind them to that agreement -- like a contract.

-Families/adult students are required to sign my Studio Policy in agreement to the terms stated. That's their "contract" in my studio.

3) Are you the one monitoring how many lessons the students are taking throughout the year? (I'm inclined to believe that you are). Do you keep an accounting of this monthly, weekly? (Scott Coletta, it sounds like you do this monthly). Does it take a significant amount of time to keep track of all this, or have you got it down to an efficient process?

-Yes, I'm going to keep track of each student's attendance. I plan on doing this every day to keep track of who is at their lesson and who is not. I imagine it shouldn't take much time to jot down attendance. smile


4) Does the student have to tell you ahead of time where their lessons are going to land (that is, how many lessons in a given month)? If so, how far ahead do you plan -- monthly, by semester?

-No, the student doesn't tell me when THEY want a lesson. I tell them when they are having a lesson. smile They fit the studio schedule. By the recommendation of many experienced teachers, I have planned out my entire year. Yes, this was my first time to plan out a whole year on how many lessons per student- what days are holidays, etc- and it was very difficult. But I imagine it will be MUCH easier next year since now I figured it out! I'm creating an Excel Calendar that will help the students be prepared for studio events, holidays, etc.

5) What if a student decides, for whatever reason, to have a bunch of lessons in a short time (they've been gone on vacation and want to get in their X number of lessons before the year runs out)? Doesn't that create some havoc with your schedule?

-This summer I did have one student decide to schedule two weekly lessons for three weeks in order to get his full 6 lessons so he could be guaranteed a slot this September. This wasn't really difficult as I had students drop out for the summer. frown I figured out this summer that it is indeed too difficult to try to accommodate every families schedule and keep up with billing..who owes what and when, etc. I've decided that for ME, the best thing is to have students scheduled once per week for the entire year (excluding holidays) and they can re-schedule ONE summer lesson. I'm the provider of the piano education, so they can follow my schedule!

6) Have any of you ever had a client renege on their obligation? A theoretical example: a client says they will take lesson throughout the year (including summer), but when summer time comes, abruptly decides to take the summer off and halts payments. I think I would probably follow Minniemay's example in this case (from another post she made) in which i would recalculate the tuition based on a per-lesson fee. But I'm interested in hearing your experience with this.

-Well, this last year I didn't go by annual tuition, so families didn't really see the importance of summer lessons. I actually left it optional (but they had to attend/pay to reserve their lesson slot in the studio). Ouch! (financially) I'm hoping this next year that the majority of my students will continue through the summer. Besides, if they don't attend/pay then they could permanently lose their lesson slot. They may not be able to get back into my studio until later due to new students! However, that being said, I don't believe in charging a student for the rest of the year if they do decide to discontinue lessons. I learned from another teacher that she simply has the person stop paying the monthly tuition and leave it at that. Figuring back to the per-lesson fee/pro-rating seems to complicated and time-consuming for me personally. So, on some lessons, depending on when they quit, you may have lost a little or gained a little. Point is, it makes life easier just to require an extra month for notice and then just have them stop paying.


Hope that helps a little!
~April


April's Piano Studio
"Where music and imagination meet!"
www.aprilspianostudio.net
Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
bzpiano #1937921 08/05/12 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
In MTAC, if a student leaves you and owes you money, you can tell the next teacher. It would be unethical for that other teacher to accept the transfer student knowing there is a debt owed.


How would you know which teacher the student transfers to unless if he or she tell you? If your student owe you money, probably he will not want to let you know who is his next teacher.


True, but if YOU are the next teacher, you would probably ask who the previous teacher was.

In our branch I've transferred students to other teachers. Many times the new teacher will call me to let me know that they've received one of my students, just to keep everything on the up and up. That would be the opportunity to let the new teacher know if any monies are still owed.


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
April's Piano St. #1939989 08/09/12 04:57 PM
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Thanks, April, I really appreciate you're taking the time to answer my questions. And thanks for your offer of help (in a different thread). I may very well take you up on that!


piano teacher, composer for film and games
Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
dumdumdiddle #1940000 08/09/12 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by dumdumdiddle
In our branch I've transferred students to other teachers. Many times the new teacher will call me to let me know that they've received one of my students, just to keep everything on the up and up. That would be the opportunity to let the new teacher know if any monies are still owed.

Consider yourself lucky that you're in such a wonderful branch with responsible, ethical members. If all piano teachers were as responsible, we can easily combat the "teacher hopper" problems and enforce some policies.


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1940003 08/09/12 05:35 PM
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I always inquire about the previous teacher and I don't accept the student until I've talked to the teacher.


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1940028 08/09/12 06:31 PM
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MTAC Code of Ethics

It would be nice if MTAC can add-on a clause that make this happen: not accepting transfer students until talking to the previous teacher.

In this case, all piano teachers are in the same boat to eliminate students who owe tuition to the previous teacher.


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1940083 08/09/12 09:07 PM
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You're welcome, purepassion! Definitely feel free to message me. I enjoy discussing with other teachers. smile smile


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Re: charging full-year tuition - getting into details
purepassion #1940280 08/10/12 10:25 AM
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This is my first post. I'm new to the group. I am enjoying this thread. I really like all the ideas that have been contributed. I'll share with you what we do in our studio. My son and daughter teach piano and violin, and I teach piano.

We charge a monthly tuition, payable the first week of the month. We submit a statement the last week of each month for the next month, which includes any materials purchased, and any credits or other adjustments to their total fees. The monthly tuition is the same regardless of the number of lessons they attend in a month. When there are five lessons in a month, which usually happens four times a year, there is no additional charge for that extra lesson. This compensates for a reasonable number of absences. If their teacher has to cancel for some reason, we credit them for the lesson. We also credit them for holidays and weather cancellations.

We provide all our students with a copy of our schedule and the phone numbers of all clients. If they want to reschedule a lesson, it is up to them to call another student and exchange lesson times with them. This relieves us of the burden of having to juggle the diverse schedules of all the families we work with. We are available for make-up lessons only on our regular teaching days.

We teach through the summer. If a student chooses to take the summer off, they may reserve their spot by paying 50% of the tuition for the lessons they miss.

We hold performance classes about six or eight times a year, and the performance class counts as a lesson. There are no other lessons taught the week of a performance class.



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