The world of early childhood education is buzzing more than ever. With wages soaring and grant funds dwindling, childcare centers nationwide are grappling with the pivotal question: How should we set our childcare tuition rates for the future?
The decisions you make this year will be instrumental in determining whether your center thrives or merely survives by the end of 2024. Among these decisions, two stand out: determining the right tuition hike and deciding on appropriate staff wage increments.
It's undeniable that staff compensation and program pricing are intertwined. Making decisions on one without considering the other is a recipe for imbalance.
This guide aims to shed light on the intricacies of setting your childcare tuition rates, especially in the dynamic landscape of 2024.
Why Adjust Childcare Tuition Rates?
At its core, adjusting tuition is about sustainability. Margins in the childcare industry are notoriously thin. Overlooking the profound impact of even a minor shift in tuition can set off a chain reaction with long-term repercussions.
Pre-COVID, many centers refrained from annual rate adjustments, despite the ever-rising cost of living. Fast forward to 2024, and the scenario has changed dramatically. With rates having surged by 15-25% in 2022 and up to 30% in 2023, it's evident that the financial landscape of childcare is evolving rapidly.
Your operational costs, from supplies to labor to utilities, are all on an upward trajectory. Adjusting tuition isn't just about staying afloat—it's about ensuring that your center continues to offer top-notch services and remains a vital community asset.
Make an Educated Decision
The era of casual rate shopping is behind us. In 2024, setting your childcare tuition requires a blend of research, strategy, and foresight. It's about recognizing the invaluable service you provide and pricing it accordingly.
Childcare Centers are adopting diverse strategies to cope with rising operational costs:
- Singular tuition increase
- Semi-annual tuition increase (two moderate increases within twelve months)
- Grandfathered pricing for existing families with smaller increases while having more generous increases for new families
- Requiring parents to pay for additional closures (two days of professional development, the week of the fourth of July and from Christmas eve until the end of the year)
- Elimination of items such as vacation coupons, providing diapers/formula,
- Reduced hours
- Designated early closure days
The most important thing to do when determining your new rates is to ensure you adequately plan for rising costs, wage adjustments, etc. The team at ECE Intelligence in collaboration with Child Care Biz Help created a tool that helps calculate what you should raise your tuition per child for the upcoming year.
Do you need help calculating how much you should raise and price your childcare tuition rate? Keep reading till the end to download our tuition calculator tool.
Communicating the Change
When communicating tuition increases it's best to make sure you give adequate time (a minimum of 30 days) for families to prepare before the rate change is in effect. The accompanying letter describing the tuition change should include a couple of key points in order to fully educate the families on the careful:
- Significant wins from the year
- New innovative practices that were implemented
- Consider including facts about early childhood education such as: “research shows that a child’s brain is 90% developed by the age of 5-the years they spend in early childhood are essential to their growth and development.”
- Share plans for the upcoming future of your school and significant things you plan on purchasing, updating, and implementing.
- Include professional development that will be provided to the team so they can perform at a higher level.
- Empathize about the increased cost but don’t be apologetic.
Preparing Your Team
Before the change is announced it's important to train your staff on how to handle concerns and inquiries about the increase. Especially if the increase is significant, your team needs to be consistent and confident in their response.
Every position in your school should be trained on how to respond. The last thing you want to happen is for your teachers to side with families as they complain about rate increases. The increase is partially so they can get paid more so it does them no good to feed into any negativity with a price change.
Here are some ways to prepare them - Empathize > Divert > Raving Fan.
Empathize: I totally understand how an increase in any expense is never easy. We do appreciate you and all our families.
Divert with facts: We are excited though because this last year we have been able to accomplish so much and I know we have plans to make significant improvements again this upcoming year. Specifically, I know that I’ll be participating in [fill-in-the-blank] or - I know our playground is going to get renovated in Spring which will allow us to have an outdoor classroom where we can extend learning outside.
Raving Fan: We will continue to do whatever we can to make sure you remain a raving fan of ours. We love [name of child] and enjoy seeing them every day.
An important, yet often overlooked step is what happens after the dust settles. What type of follow-through occurs to keep a pulse on the satisfaction of your families and to ensure the quality of your school improves as promised?
Some things you can do to ensure families get the value you promised them when you increased the rates:
- Keep a plan with deadline dates of all the items you promised to implement. List each item, expected date of completion, who is accountable, and any other notes.
- When any WINS occur, share those wins with your families.
- Survey your families at least every quarter and ask for feedback.
- Survey your employees to make sure they are happy. When your staff is happy they perform their best!
- Watch your budget. You raised tuition rates so its important to be a good steward of those funds. Keeping a pulse on your numbers because clarity and focus will bring with it more profits. This will help keep future increases smaller.
Get a Free Download of Our Childcare Tuition Calculator Tool:
Ready to dive deep into the numbers? Click the button below to download our updated Childcare Tuition Calculator Tool tailored for today's challenges.
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