April 10, 2020
COVID-19 has disrupted the traditional school year and creates numerous questions concerning tuition payments. Some parents are asking for tuition refunds for the months the building is closed, others are expecting tuition reductions because the online experience is not your “full” school experience. Further, some parents feel that the added parental responsibility for online learning justifies tuition reduction.
ISM makes the following recommendations concerning tuition for the 2019–2020 year.
For Schools with Grades K–12
Review your contract to determine if a tuition reduction is required. Then consider the following points.
- If your building is closed but you’re offering daily online learning for your students, no tuition change is recommended.
- If your school charges fees—for athletics, lunches, field trips, etc—refunds for those fees are appropriate and necessary. If your school offers a single, all-inclusive tuition, refunds are not necessary.
- If your school is not actively engaged in virtual learning, tuition adjustments are recommended.
The following recommendations may not appease all of those requesting refunds. We suggest you consider the following explanations in response.
- While the school building is closed, our school is not. We are fully engaged in online learning to keep our students actively engaged during this pandemic.
- In order to sustain the quality of the education you’ve come to expect, we must continue to support our teachers, cover all of our non-teaching expenses, and invest in innovative ways to deliver our curriculum for our students. In fact, the school has invested in the additional operating expenses associated with adopting and implementing online learning tools.
- There are hardship needs in our community, and we’re doing everything we can to help those families through the end of this school year.
For Schools with Preschool Students
Review your contract to determine if a tuition reduction is required. If not, consider the following.
- Evaluate your virtual learning experience and determine the amount of time students are engaged in virtual learning, compared to the classroom experience and your daycare program. Determine the percentage difference. For instance, if a typical on-campus school day is seven hours and a typical virtual school day is two hours, that’s a five hour difference per day or a 71% reduction in classroom time. Reduce tuition accordingly.
- Rather than issuing refunds, consider issuing credits that can be used against future programs, tuition, and fees. Further, consider increasing the credit (for every dollar add ten cents) as a goodwill gesture.
Tune in to live webinars every Wednesday during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
For All Current Families
We make the following recommendations.
- Eliminate late fees for tuition payments to help families through this crisis.
- Create payment arrangements for any family who is facing lost income to due job loss or reduction in business.
- Prepare to receive additional financial aid requests for this year and help those families as much as possible.
- For any family that decides to leave the school, strictly follow your contract. You must treat each family in the same manner. Your contract is designed to maintain clear, fair policies, as well as protect your school from viability-threatening withdrawals.
We also encourage all schools to consider the CARES stimulus package to see if there is stimulus assistance to keep your fiscal operation stable. Ensure you fully understand the terms before applying.
This is a difficult time and there are no easy answers. We realize that some of these points may not provide the complete, satisfactory answers that all parents will accept. But you will uphold this critical point: school is open, even if it's online.
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