Variable Pricing in Tuition - Do You Like It?

Kwan Jang

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I charge a variable rate in my school and I have three programs available. A basic program, Black Belt Club and XPT (Extreme Performance Training). Everyone starts with a basic program and they have to earn their way into the other programs. BBC is the same price as a basic program, but they are the students who are accepted to train towards their BB. I consider a basic student as someone who is trying us out and we are trying them out. If they are consistant in their training, puting out the effort, and have a good attitude, they will be recommended for BBC. If they are not doing these things, they will not be allowed to continue past their first year(barring mitigating circumstances). If they are not serious about their training, we will shake their hand, wish them well and let them know (politely) that if in the future they can dedicate more time and energy to their training, they are welcome to come back and try again.

For a school age child, they must be doing well in their behavior at home and their behavior and performance at school. Usually, this requires at least a 'B' average with no failing grades, though if a child came into our school w/ poor grades and is both really trying AND showing improvement, we take that into consideration. ALL students are taught our curriculum (up to their level) regardless of which program they are on including our basic program. We are not really a TKD school, though that is our traditional base. Our curriculum is a pretty comprehensive mix of TKD, Boxing, Muay Thai, Escrima and BJJ/Submission Grappling in a MMA format. For anyone who wants to train 2-3 classes/wk., this is more than enough to keep them as busy as they can handle.

The XPT program is for the students who would basically move into the school if I would let them put a cot in the back. XPT costs $40/mo. more than a regular program and they learn things that are not on our regular curriculum. They learn weapons for open tournaments like Broad Sword, Kama, Bo Staff and Nunchaku. They also can do the flip and aeriel kicks class (mostly kids) and the competition sparring and grappling class (mostly adults). The XPT program is mostly made up of competitors and demo team members, but is not exclsive to that.

I feel that we give more value than we charge for our basic and BBC programs and that what we teach in those classes are more than enough for most people to try to keep up with. For those who want to go that extra mile and have the time and energy to devote to it, they have that option. I also have to pay staff work those classes BTW. Also, since some posters have made comments regarding this subject; our school is nearly 50/50 adults to kids, we have a very full curriculum going from white belt through fifth dan. There is more curriculum the higher you go rather than a few token add ons and a few extra forms at dan levels like many schools do. Nor do I expect students to drop out when reaching first dan, though it happens, the majority stay as we have a lot to keep them learning and improving. I do lose many of the younger ones when they move away for college, but that's OK, becoming successful, well educated and a leader in the community is part of what I was grooming them for in the first place.
 

auxiliary

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We offer a tiered system at my school. The main reason for this is to make it affordable for the students and then also make it successful for us as a business.

We offer a committed program (12 Months) for two classes Black Belt Club and Leadership.

The Taekwondo curriculum is very close if not identical. The leadership students will receive the opportunity to attend Instructor classes, Demo Team classes, Comp Team Classes, and some different weapons in regular classes. We also do "Homeworks" for the students that are built off of principals and concepts. Each week they get a sheet that they review at home and in class and fill out. As of right now we allow the leadership students to attend unlimited classes...but that may change as the school grows. Seems we don't have enough hours in the day!

The black belt club does all the martial arts training and everything that they will need to finally achieve black belt. They don't get the extra weapons, or cit/demo/comp classes.

We also offer a month-to-month option for both programs. This is a little extra a month but gives families that are worried about commitment an option.

It works really well here in our demographics (Which is important for any school to know!). Probably about 40% just pay the first year in full, receive a nice discount and don't worry about it for 12 more months.
 

jthomas1600

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The way this variable pricing is being presented here it seems somewhat counter productive to me. Obviously some of ya'll are running schools and using it so it's working for you, but here's something that keeps coming to mind for me: It seems most schools, most of the students are going to be getting a fair deal -- and the school is going to think it's getting a fair deal too. But some students, no matter how much they pay, it's not enough to make it a fair deal for the school -- these students don't practice at home, they frequently have a bad attitude, they won't stay in shape making it unfair for their sparring partner, they slow the class down, take up an excess of the instructors time etc. etc. etc. Then you have other students who are so dedicated, who put in so much practice on their own, who gladly help other students, who model the type of behavior you want in all of your students...in short, it would almost be worth paying them to train at your school. With this variable pricing system it's like the more valuable the student is to your school, the more you charge them. Sure they're getting a little extra, but it seems like the students who really shine should earn that extra based on all of the things I mentioned that they bring to your school.

That was quickly written. I hope it makes sense.
 

auxiliary

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The way this variable pricing is being presented here it seems somewhat counter productive to me. Obviously some of ya'll are running schools and using it so it's working for you, but here's something that keeps coming to mind for me: It seems most schools, most of the students are going to be getting a fair deal -- and the school is going to think it's getting a fair deal too. But some students, no matter how much they pay, it's not enough to make it a fair deal for the school -- these students don't practice at home, they frequently have a bad attitude, they won't stay in shape making it unfair for their sparring partner, they slow the class down, take up an excess of the instructors time etc. etc. etc. Then you have other students who are so dedicated, who put in so much practice on their own, who gladly help other students, who model the type of behavior you want in all of your students...in short, it would almost be worth paying them to train at your school. With this variable pricing system it's like the more valuable the student is to your school, the more you charge them. Sure they're getting a little extra, but it seems like the students who really shine should earn that extra based on all of the things I mentioned that they bring to your school.

That was quickly written. I hope it makes sense.


This makes a lot of sense. We have thought about doing this before at my school but it's hard to justify. People in today's times are use to "getting what they pay for". Remember, price perceives value. If you have your "best program" for the cheapest then it's confusing.

What I would do if you want to teach everyone the same thing is to offer 3 types of payment options for them.

This satisfies those that want to do no contract, shot term, long term. Simple idea. Offer an option at $75 a month if you sign up long term, $100 for short term, $125 for no contract. That way you are giving back to those that are committed to you.

All in all do what works for you. I highly recommended multiple payment options for the family. Makes it a lot easier for them to continue with you.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Many schools in my area do some form of variable tiered pricing. You have 3 tiers, usually named something like Basic, Advanced, and Masters (some notable groups use other nomenclature, but that's not important).

Tuition is set at $80, $110, and $125 respectively with an obvious goal of pushing everyone to the top tier.

Basic students only get 2 classes a week and only fundamentals are taught in this class, so if you ever want to promote beyond the first 2 belt levels you will need to upgrade.

Advanced students get up to 4 classes a week, but their classes only get instruction in the base curriculum for advancement. The 'fun' stuff is reserved for the Masters membership students who get everything.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with schools in your area who do something similar even if you do not attend or run one. What are your thoughts about the structure? Fair, unfair? A good idea? If so, for whom? Finally, do you believe it can foster good martial instruction?
Basically, this is a school that charges 110 per month, but knows that they'll snag more customers if they add stuff to one class (calling it advanced) and shorten another class (calling it basic), while placing their mainline class in the middle and calling it 'advanced. Really, it isn't advanced. Its 8th geub and higher. Its the same sales pitch used by fast food restaurants wherein the small drink is regular (instead of small) and the medium is called large, and the large is super sized, giant, or some other marketing buzz word to make it sound bigger than it is.

Looks like the intro class that takes them up to eighth geub. Assuming that there is a testing every couple of months, the intro class is only going to last about four months. This will snag people who's kids want to play at a martial art but probably won't stick with it.

The 'master' class, I'm assuming, entitles students to add on stuff, like weapons or bits and pieces of other martial arts that have been lifted and refitted to enhance the base art, whatever it may be. A cool uniform may be included as well.

If I were going in as a student, I'd go with advanced class and train for as many of those four days a week as I could and practice out side of class. If they want me to spend an extra fifteen dollars a month, the 'fun stuff' had better be fairly substantial. And if it is weapons or some add on material, the staff had darn well better be qualified to teach it.

Not really a question of fair or unfair; if you're advanced, you don't get as much material but you also are spending 180 dollars a year less. Good or bad? I'd have to see the 'master's program' to really decide. I'd also want to know if the school has things like ascending fees for belt tests, crazy prices in the pro shop with requirements that the students by from the school's pro shop, and any additional fees along the way.

If it's just a tiered system with pricing based on features, I don't see it as bad, though it isn't what I would do.

Daniel
 

Daniel Sullivan

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This satisfies those that want to do no contract, shot term, long term. Simple idea. Offer an option at $75 a month if you sign up long term, $100 for short term, $125 for no contract. That way you are giving back to those that are committed to you.
KMA where I train does that, though 'no contract' is not an option. With my personal students outside of KMA, I charge by the lesson, and if you pay for fourteen lessons at once, I throw in two additional lessons (16 lessons for the price of 14) and I don't do contracts at all.

Daniel
 
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dancingalone

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Basically, this is a school that charges 110 per month, but knows that they'll snag more customers if they add stuff to one class (calling it advanced) and shorten another class (calling it basic), while placing their mainline class in the middle and calling it 'advanced. Really, it isn't advanced. Its 8th geub and higher. Its the same sales pitch used by fast food restaurants wherein the small drink is regular (instead of small) and the medium is called large, and the large is super sized, giant, or some other marketing buzz word to make it sound bigger than it is.

Approx 85% and higher of the students are in the top tier, so arguably $125 a month is the normal actual charge.

Looks like the intro class that takes them up to eighth geub. Assuming that there is a testing every couple of months, the intro class is only going to last about four months. This will snag people who's kids want to play at a martial art but probably won't stick with it.

It is the basics and 'workout' class and actually is one of the more popular classes for adults due to one section being offered at noon. The owner thinks he could make more money out of this program if he could figure out how to market it better to people more interested in working out than in TKD itself.

The 'master' class, I'm assuming, entitles students to add on stuff, like weapons or bits and pieces of other martial arts that have been lifted and refitted to enhance the base art, whatever it may be. A cool uniform may be included as well.

Right now, I teach Okinawan kobudo there as one of the additional offerings. Other extras include RBSD (they've brought in Tony Blauer before) and arnis. I believe they are trying to add an XMA competition class too. Oh, and the exclusively sparring classes are in the Masters tier, so if you actually want to spar a lot, you must upgrade for the privilege.

If I were going in as a student, I'd go with advanced class and train for as many of those four days a week as I could and practice out side of class. If they want me to spend an extra fifteen dollars a month, the 'fun stuff' had better be fairly substantial. And if it is weapons or some add on material, the staff had darn well better be qualified to teach it.

:)

Not really a question of fair or unfair; if you're advanced, you don't get as much material but you also are spending 180 dollars a year less. Good or bad? I'd have to see the 'master's program' to really decide. I'd also want to know if the school has things like ascending fees for belt tests, crazy prices in the pro shop with requirements that the students by from the school's pro shop, and any additional fees along the way.

You can buy your gear elsewhere, but I imagine everyone uses the school's shop since the people mostly use the same stuff I've observed. As the kobudo instructor, I've steered the students to quality weapons, and the owner has not minded. Belt exams are expensive IMO at $50 a pop and the dan exams cost more.

If it's just a tiered system with pricing based on features, I don't see it as bad, though it isn't what I would do.

Not what I have done before myself either, but I am trying to learn more about commercial martial arts and this structure/idea is fairly common.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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It is the basics and 'workout' class and actually is one of the more popular classes for adults due to one section being offered at noon. The owner thinks he could make more money out of this program if he could figure out how to market it better to people more interested in working out than in TKD itself.
Shouldn't be too hard. Get a pretty gal in workout duds to run a TKD based fitness class. Run it like a cardio kickboxing and take out any sparring. Pumse could be integrated in as well.

Daniel
 

Balrog

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We charge a one-time registration fee and a flat rate of $100/month. The leadership program goes up to $125 but that's because we are allowing the students to amortize some of the costs across time.
 

miguksaram

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We are entering our 2nd year with variable pricing. Before we just had one program which had 3 prices depending on how much of a commitment you make. We decided to try out our version of Black Belt Club and Leadership program. Both are longer term commitments. A couple of differences between them is that the BBC has two extra classes specifically geared for just them and the LP has 3 extra classes specifically geared for them. Or basic program has not changed. We still teach the same type of classes we have always done in the past, so at no time have taken away or watered down that program to try an push people to BBC or LP.

The BBC adds more width to the students' learning process. For the kids we start to cover bunkai and introduce different traditional weapons earlier on. We have a focus topic of the month, example this month is sparring and mechanics of technique. So we spend the first 30 minutes of their class covering the the core program and reviewing older lessons and the last 15 minutes hitting on the topic of the month. The LP adds both width and depth to their learning. In the LP we teach more leadership skills, and we bring in guests to teach different cultural aspects of martial arts. We have had a Japanese language instructor come in and teach basic Japanese class. We had a calligrapher come in and teach a class. To add to that both BBC and LP students are given a 1/2 hour private lesson per month at not charge.

Over all the new programs have been successful in not only bring in some better income for the school, but it has motivated a lot of the students in their learning process, without us having to take away or water down anything in what we teach.
 

punisher73

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I liked the way Kwan Jang had his run. Offer a beginner's class so people can try it out and see if they like it for a little bit of a lower rate.

I would not go to a school that had a tiered system as the OP talked about. You are being penalized in some cases for not having more money to learn MA.

I also would not mind a school that charged a lower fee if a student could only make it one night a week and could only train on a certain day. I think more people would be inclined to join an MA school if that was the case.
 

jthomas1600

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We are entering our 2nd year with variable pricing. Before we just had one program which had 3 prices depending on how much of a commitment you make. We decided to try out our version of Black Belt Club and Leadership program. Both are longer term commitments. A couple of differences between them is that the BBC has two extra classes specifically geared for just them and the LP has 3 extra classes specifically geared for them. Or basic program has not changed. We still teach the same type of classes we have always done in the past, so at no time have taken away or watered down that program to try an push people to BBC or LP.

The BBC adds more width to the students' learning process. For the kids we start to cover bunkai and introduce different traditional weapons earlier on. We have a focus topic of the month, example this month is sparring and mechanics of technique. So we spend the first 30 minutes of their class covering the the core program and reviewing older lessons and the last 15 minutes hitting on the topic of the month. The LP adds both width and depth to their learning. In the LP we teach more leadership skills, and we bring in guests to teach different cultural aspects of martial arts. We have had a Japanese language instructor come in and teach basic Japanese class. We had a calligrapher come in and teach a class. To add to that both BBC and LP students are given a 1/2 hour private lesson per month at not charge.

Over all the new programs have been successful in not only bring in some better income for the school, but it has motivated a lot of the students in their learning process, without us having to take away or water down anything in what we teach.

That's the first example of a tiered system that I've liked. If I had a little extra time and for a reasonable price I could add a few classes a month that focused on these extras and get a half hour private lesson I would jump all over it.
 

andyjeffries

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In our club we have one price, but we're only a small club training twice per week. I don't have any issues though with people providing multiple price-points. Consider it the other way round - rather than justifying why you charge more for extra sessions, why charge people the premium (now standard) price if they're only able to make a couple of sessions per week.

View it as a discount for those less financially able/time-restricted rather than a premium on those who want more.

No problem...

Also, this is capitalism. If you don't like the price, vote with your wallet!
 

auxiliary

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Also, this is capitalism. If you don't like the price, vote with your wallet!

This is so true. People will always debate about what's the price to pay and what not. We are trying to make a living doing what we love and passing on our art to others.

Should we be broke and struggling to do so? Some of us spend our entire life practicing and training in order to become a teacher to pass the art along. You should be able to support your family, your staff, and enjoy life also.
 

miguksaram

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That's the first example of a tiered system that I've liked. If I had a little extra time and for a reasonable price I could add a few classes a month that focused on these extras and get a half hour private lesson I would jump all over it.

Thank you. Sensei Sharkey was really hesitant about implementing this as there has been so many stigmas along with things like BBC and he did not like how a lot of the NAPMA's and MAIA's pushed their BBC philosophy of teaching very minimum stuff in a basic program and then keep all the cool stuff for the BBC. We do let the kids know that being in either program does not mean they will be getting their black belt at the end of the program. This simply means they are making a commitment to earn their black belts. Some of the other perks we do is have their name embroided on a black belt and hung in our display cabinet. We also do the different color uniforms as well. :)

We sat and put a lot of thought into what we wanted to do in order to benefit both students and the school. It is still a work in progress and we are continually tweeking it here and there. One wall we hit, which was actually a good thing, was the initial response we got to the program. We thought when we started we would be lucky to get 4 kids in either new program. So the thought of 1/2 hour private lessons was no big deal. The first month we converted 15 kids to the BBC and 7 kids to the LP. We were stuck trying to figure out times to cover everyone's private lessons.ha.ha.ha.

As for keeping up on who got their private lessons or not, we tell them that it is up to them to schedule them each month. If they do not schedule them then they lose that month. We are not ATT, we don't do rollover minutes. :) We keep a monthly log as well so that we don't have a student going up to one instructor to schedule a lesson and then run to another instructor and try to schedule another lesson.
 

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