Coming late to this conversation …
Some questions to reflect upon:
What are all the “services” that a robust, comprehensive Tutoring and Learning Center provides?
Who is the target audience for these services?
Is it possible / feasible / appropriate to charge for only certain services? I.e., which services would we find it unacceptable to charge for and which services would we find it acceptable to charge for?
Is it possible / feasible / appropriate to charge only certain students? Or to have a special grant or program subsidize the fee for the student?
What are the unintended consequences of charging for services? E.g., will administrators use the income as a justification to keep the general budget static or even decrease it?
Why would we say charging for services is not a “best practice”? Does the fee reduce course success, retention, and persistence? Can charging a fee even be assessed as a best practice?
Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego? (Just kidding. A little humor for those willing to read to the end.)
Ray M. Sanchez
Learning Center Faculty Coordinator
Madera Community College Center
ACTLA President 2016-2017
“The real issue is finding a proportion between the scale of the problem and the scale of the solution”
With all due respect, I disagree with Emily and Laurie (I’m sorry Laurie!). Shrinking budgets are a reality, and if we are not willing to address the fee-for-service issue head-on we could be allowing our programs to wither and die. Every conference I go to I hear the same refrain – no money. The challenge then, is to find the mechanism to support ALL students while offering fee-based services. Can we think outside the box? Can we offer the same service to students free or reduced cost? Can we view the fee-based service as a recruitment incentive rather than a reason to find another institution? The University of Arizona THINK TANK has been able to do it. And it is highly successful.
Our fee-based services allow us to offer expanded free services. Nine years ago we were able to serve 4,827 students and had 23,915 visits. This last year (2016-2017) we served 10,863 students and had 74,220 visits. Over the course of their academic careers we served over 60% of the 2017 graduating class. 93% of services used are FREE. There is no way we could have served those students with the budget the institution provides. My tutoring budget has not increased in seven years. The only way to expand and better serve students is to be entrepreneurial. Our fee-based services generate an income of $300,000 for us annually. I cannot imagine not having those funds to support Supplemental Instruction and tutoring. Our fee based services include Academic Coaching, individual tutoring appointments, exam prep sessions, and test prep (ACT/SAT, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, and MCAT) courses.
At first I grappled with it, too. But, I made peace with the idea. We work extremely hard to provide outstanding services to all students. We offer similar free services that are drop-in rather than scheduled, we offer fee reductions to qualified students (verified through Financial Aid), we offer a mechanism to request reductions/waivers without including Financial Aid, and we offer complete waivers through our philanthropic efforts. If a student desires the support, we have the mechanism in place to serve ALL students.
I also take exception to this and I’m going to call it out:
The students who need academic coaches are students who are under-prepared or first-generation: students who generally come from low-income or middle-class backgrounds. Wealthy students whose families are willing to pay for extra services don't typically need academic coaching because they attended high quality high schools and have the tools to succeed, if they just bother to use them. Some might benefit from academic coaching, but they are by no means the target population.
That is one loaded statement filled with classism. Substitute ‘tutoring’ or ‘Supplemental Instruction’ for ‘academic coaching’ in the above statement and see if you have the same concerns I do. I firmly believe in access to education for all. I also firmly believe in lifelong learning. There isn’t a student out there that can’t benefit from having someone to discuss learning with – even my expert staff and I benefit from discussing our learning through brown bag professional development sessions (often led by our academic coaches). Most of our students are still developing their frontal lobes, and thus their executive functioning and can benefit from coaching. Again, I firmly believe that we are here to support ALL students regardless of their path to our institution.
I’m happy to talk offline! My direct phone number is below.
Dorothy A. Briggs
Director, THINK TANK
College Reading and Learning Association Past President
University of Arizona
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Your and Emily’s comments and concerns are spot on. Just this week, I prepared a presentation called best Practices in Learning Centers that I will be presenting over the summer. Charging for services is not a “best practice,” and has not been that widely adopted (though it does seem to be a current trend). I think it has the potential to turn some parents off, particularly if your school charges, and your benchmark and/or comparative institutions don’t charge. Here’s some verbiage excerpted from an external review I did. Maybe it will help……….
Scholars identify a set of educational practices that research has shown to have a significant impact on student success and retention. These are called “High Impact Practices” or “Best Practices.” Indeed, it is widely known that learning centers are one of those “Best Practices.” Almost every college and university has some type of learning assistance or academic support on their campuses. A robust learning center is crucial the fiscal health of post-secondary institutions. Student recruitment and student retention represent the cornerstones of enrollment management. New-student recruitment requires substantial institutional expenditures (e.g., hiring of staff, travel funding, and marketing costs). In contrast, retention initiatives are estimated to be 3-5 times more cost-effective than recruitment efforts. In other words, it costs 3-5 times as much to recruit a new student than it does to retain an already-enrolled student (Noel, Levitz, & Saluri, 1985; Rosenberg & Czepiel, 1983; Tinto, 1975). Bean and Hossler (1990) report that a student who is retained for four years will generate the same income as four newly recruited students who leave after one year.
The institution should be investing in more services (though, as you mention, you have them—the key is how to you drive students there and insure they use them…..). I have also been doing research om parents this year and parent involvement in their student’s higher education experience. With the rising cost of college, I think parents shop around for institutions that would not charge. Just another thought for your argument…..
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On Behalf Of Emily Janssen
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2017 3:17 PM
To: LRNASST[log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Fee-for-service academic support
A fee-based academic coaching program seems entirely counterproductive to me. The students who need academic coaches are students who are under-prepared or first-generation: students who generally come from low-income or middle-class backgrounds. Wealthy students whose families are willing to pay for extra services don't typically need academic coaching because they attended high quality high schools and have the tools to succeed, if they just bother to use them. Some might benefit from academic coaching, but they are by no means the target population.
I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but maybe this will help you form an argument for the administration.
Director of Tutoring and Supplemental Instruction
Hedberg Library 215
On Thu, May 25, 2017 at 10:14 AM, Susan Pratt <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Good morning all,
My university is asking me to investigate the potential benefits of offering academic coaching for an extra fee in addition to regular, no-fee tutoring services. In this model students are assigned to an academic coach with whom they meet two or more times a week to address study skills, time mgt, etc. Two area colleges in New England are doing this and it comes at significant added expense to the student. I confess that I have a bias against charging extra for such services but my university is responding to perceived pressure from parents to have someone keeping extra watch on their child's learning (I use the word 'child' intentionally since this seems to be how their parents view them). They see it as potentially necessary to stay competitive in the college market. Personally, I see it as a backward step in assisting young adults transition to independence (not to mention this kind of support is available anyway at no extra charge if the student just asks for it!) , but !
it's entirely possible that I am missing something (it's been known to happen). Can anyone steer me in the direction of any research that makes a case FOR the effectiveness of such fee-based academic support (not ones for students with disabilities)?
Susan Pratt, Ph.D.,
Director, Academic Center for Excellence
Salve Regina University
p: (401) 341-2228 e:[log in to unmask]
100 Ochre Point Ave., Newport, RI 02840
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event. It is a habit." Aristotle
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