By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato
I try not to rant. However, I saw some terms of service a few days ago that made me angry. I was reviewing program that another school is running. Within the bullet points was this one:
Tuition, for this program, is one price. I cannot elaborate more because I do not have permission to re-advertise this program, and I need to keep it anonymous. The program is not in question, nor the price. The issue is that a school will pay a fee per student and that fee will cover 40 to 60 hours. Let’s look at what that means.
|40 or 60 Hours
||Hours Per Week
||Number of Weeks to Complete
Based on this chart, if a student can participate for 2.66 hours per week (2, 80 Minute Sections) , they will need 15 weeks to complete a 40 hour course. A school year is usually 36 weeks long. Therefore they will need about 50% of the school year to complete the program. If they are in a 60 hour program, they will need 75% of the school year to complete the course.
So what is the school paying for? A 40 hour course or a 60 hours course? The tuition is the same, and there is only a minimum guarantee on the hours. Planning for a 40 hour course and 60 hour course would be very different, and therefore, the price should be different. The outcomes will be different.
Obviously, the company is charging for 60 hours. If they were to only meet 50 of those hours, students would lose almost a month of instruction.
So why would anyone consider this contract without heavily amending the terms and conditions? Because the program is trendy.
The school wants to advertise they are running a trendy program- parents will respond positively. Administrators or teachers with KPIs around innovation will go with a trend because it does not need to be explained. Also, trending programs usually have resources and personnel readily available. These programs are easy to start, and, schools are paying for convenience.
I get the logic for going with a trendy program. I do not get the logic for being ripped-off.
There is always an opportunity cost when money is appropriated. Investing in a program should mean investing in a sustainable program. This program would not pass a basic audit. It is a bad deal, and probably a bad value if the plan can fluctuate in providing an opportunity for 50% or 75% of the year. This is not something students can do independently. They are tethered to the program, and this program does not scale easily.
As it scales it gets increasingly more expensive; the value remains uncertain; and the outcomes are difficult to measure. The worst part is, if someone questions the deal, and it falls apart after the contract expires, the next similar program will probably be denied based-on the previous experience. That again, is opportunity cost.
Just because and expert walks into a school, does not mean common sense should walk out. Good third-party programs are not cheap, but they do not have to be economically unbalanced and unaccountable.