What about tutor pricing and fees?

This is post #6 in the series: How to choose the right tutor

Because tutor pricing and fees is such an important question for many people, we will look at the following 5 aspects in this post:

  1. Tutoring options and how much they cost
  2. How, what, and when will you be expected to pay?
  3. What if you cannot make it to a session, or forget?
  4. Will you be expected to pay for anything besides the tutoring itself?
  5. What if the tutoring doesn’t work out?

1.  Tutoring options and how much they cost:

How much should you expect to pay a tutor?  This is of course an important question for most people.  In fact, many folks who need a tutor often just don’t even bother looking for one, because they are afraid it is totally out of their financial ability to pay. Fortunately, there are often options that make it possible to receive tutoring help after all.  Here are some of those options.

  • Most tutors have a variety of pricing options.  Always ask for a detailed fee plan.  It will likely include a fee for individual sessions (by the hour or half hour) as well as “savings” if you agree to contract for a certain number of sessions.  There may also be various different fees depending upon the educational level of the student; special needs; and other factors.  (See also the section below on extra fee costs).
  • Many tutors will have a written policy regarding their payment fees and rules.  If so, you will be expected to sign this contract, and abide by it.
  • Some tutors offer group rates as well as individual rates.  If you are willing to be tutored together with a few others who are studying the same material, the cost may be shared among the group to some degree.  For example, if the regular rate is $20 per hour, the group rate for 3 students might be $10 per hour each.
  • Some tutors are willing to take family financial situations into account.  They may charge a reduced rate, or even take on one or two “pro bono” students as a gift to their community.  Some tutors are willing to “barter,” exchanging their tutoring for goods or services the tutor’s family can provide (for example, a parent who has renovating skills might barter them to the tutor in exchange for tutoring for his/her child).
  • There are organizations, such as churches or other community groups, who offer “homework help” sessions once or twice a week.  These are usually free or “by donation.” Some tutors also offer these sessions. Schools also often offer free lunch time, after-school or evening/weekend sessions with free tutoring help.
  • If your child has diagnosed learning disabilities or physical disabilities, you may well be able to access special funding for tutoring through your child’s school or through government channels.  Students whose families are on social assistance may also be able to access funding.
  • Consider how much experience and education you really need in a tutor.  If your elementary age child simply needs some one on one help with their arithmetic homework, you might be able to hire a successful high school or college student for a lower rate. 
  • If you are looking for tutoring for a particular hobby or skill, consider the possibilities of joining a club or other group in your community that engages in that activity.
  • Grandparents or godparents (or other caring adults) are often happy to help pay for tutoring costs – but of course don’t “push” them to do so.  You obviously don’t want to cause family discord that would affect your child’s relationships with them.
  • Another alternative is to take a look at what is available on line.  There are many sites that have great software (teaching software, or learning games) for free or for a small fee.  Be aware, however, that you should be prepared to sit with your child and guide them as they use these aids.
  • You should check out what different tutors are charging in your community.  Look in the newspaper classifieds, yellow pages, on bulletin boards at schools or libraries, online at kijiji and other classified sites, and by googling city/province(or state)/+subject (or grade)tutor.
  • Remember that very low prices can indicate a scam, or a poorly prepared tutor.  On the other hand, there are some tutors who provide tutoring services free or at low cost as a way to give back to the community.  Always check out references – talk to the references personally; don’t just depend on reference letters or written testimonials.
  • Some tutors have special “drop-in” fees for students who just want tutoring on an ad-hoc basis, and are willing to come when another student is absent.  Tutors may also provide one free or one low-cost session for you to check out their tutoring style and ability.  (But going from tutor to tutor to take advantage of such “opportunities” will, in the end, be a disadvantage as you will not get the help an on-going student-tutor relationship offers.  And of course, word will get around the tutoring community!)
  • Some tutors offer on-line tutoring, either individually or in group sessions.  Their rates are usually similar to in-person sessions, but not necessarily.
  • Colleges and universities often have their own tutoring departments.  The tutors are usually more advanced students in the same department, or students taking Masters or Doctorate programs.  The prices are usually somewhat less expensive than tutoring by a regular tutor qualified in that area. 
  • Colleges and universities may also be able to hook you up with a mentor; in return for receiving tutoring, you will be required to assist your mentor with his/her research or work.  This kind of arrangement usually requires a long-term commitment, but in the end may result in a superior learning experience and opportunities to network in the field you are preparing for.
  • If you are interested in trades training, be sure to look into apprenticeship opportunities.

2.  How, what, and when will you be expected to pay? 

Different tutors (or tutoring companies) have different expectations.  You might expect to find one or more of the following:

  • Pay for each session as you take it – usually an hourly or half-hourly set fee.
  • Pay after every few sessions (perhaps 2 or 4).
  • Pay in advance for a contracted number of sessions.
  • Tutoring fees usually cost between $20 to $60 per hour, though they may be even higher for highly specialized tutoring.  If you live in a large city, you are likely to pay more, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule.  Fee costs may also depend on the educational level of the tutor; the length and number of tutoring sessions (you may get a discount if you contract for a longer time period); the requirements of each student (for example, you may expect to pay more for a student with special needs; for a student in a higher grade who requires a more highly trained tutor; for students with unique requirements for which the tutor must spend extra preparation time or provide specialized materials; and so forth).
  • You may expect to pay more for tutoring through an agency than from an independent tutor.  Agencies have overhead costs, management costs, and so forth that independent tutors do not.  Of course responsible agencies have checked out and/or trained their tutors very carefully, so you may generally expect highly qualified and experienced tutors.  If you are not sure about an agency, check them out through the Better Business Bureau and through on-line reviews etc.
  • On the other hand, especially excellent and experienced tutors may choose to be independent because they really do deserve to be paid well, while agencies keep a sometimes significant portion of the student payment.  Naturally, you should always check out independent tutors’ references.
  • Many tutors require cash payment.  Some will accept cheques or payment through PayPal; others (especially agencies or full-time tutors) will have credit card payment options available.

3.  What if you cannot make it to a session, or forget?

  • Most tutors will allow one missed session without penalty (but check with your tutor – not all allow this).  After that, they will expect you to pay for missed sessions.  Some tutors will forgive the payment if you contact them 48 hours (or whatever time limit they decide) ahead of the appointment – though they usually have a limit on how many times you can do this.  You need to remember that tutoring is their source of income, and if you miss an appointment without sufficient warning, it affects their own budget and finances.  If they have enough warning, they may be able to fit someone else into that time slot, but it may also not be possible.
  • If the student is sick or will be missing sessions for good reason, some tutors will email lessons and homework.  You will of course expect to pay the regular session fee for such help.

4.  Will you be expected to pay for anything besides the tutoring itself?

  • Some tutors will require a one or two session fee up-front in case the student misses a session.  If that fee is not used up by the end of the tutoring contract, be sure to get it refunded, or perhaps have it put toward the final session or two.  You should always get a receipt for up-front payments, with the purpose of the fee recorded on the receipt.
  • Different tutors have different expectations.  If they don’t mention it upfront, be sure to ask. 
  • If you will be tutored in a specific school/college subject, or receive homework assistance, you will of course be expected to bring with you any textbooks, assignment sheets, and so forth. 
  • Some tutors provide paper, pens, worksheets, and other similar materials.  Others do not.  If you expect the tutor to provide these kinds of materials, expect to pay a higher rate, perhaps an extra $5 per hour.
  • Some tutors charge extra if they have to drive to meet you at your home or in a special location other than their usual tutoring location.  You need to remember that when the tutor must go to a different location, they incur gas and other vehicle/transportation costs.  It also takes time out of their tutoring schedule.  If they have to spend, say, 15 minutes each way, that effectively takes a half hour from their schedule on each side of your appointment.  And that is a full hour they could be tutoring another student!  Tutors often charge an extra $10 or so if they have to travel to a location that suits you.  If you are a long distance, the charge may be more.
  • Some tutors offer homework help phone calls, or online help sessions in addition to the usual tutoring sessions (they will usually tell you exactly what days and times they accept such calls).  Expect to pay for the extra help.  Ask what their rates are for such help. 

5.  What if the tutoring doesn’t work out?

  • You should always ask, in advance, the tutor’s policy in the event that things don’t work out – for example, a personality conflict between the tutor and student; the student not advancing satisfactorily after a reasonable amount of time; or an unexpected family move, event, or other circumstance that prevents you from continuing with tutoring.
  • A suggestion:  if you are becoming unhappy with anything to do with the tutoring, it is best to discuss it with the tutor in the early stages before it becomes a serious problem.  Often you and the tutor can work amicably together to come up with a solution that will work for both of you.
  • If you are paying by the session, and can give at least a couple week’s notice, it will usually not be a problem if you need to end your tutoring agreement.  If you have to stop suddenly, you may be required to pay for one or two more sessions.  However, if you have agreed to a contracted period of tutoring, you may have to pay for all sessions contracted for.  If you have paid in advance, you may or may not be able to get some refund.  Be sure to discuss these issues before you start, and get the agreement in writing.  This protects both you and your tutor.

Discussion:  Do you have any other questions related to tutoring fees?  Have you experienced other fee agreements than those we have covered here?  Be sure to tell us about it in the comments, or ask other questions you may have. 

Penticton tutor:  If you live in the Penticton area, and are looking for a tutor, be sure to check out my Penticton tutor information page!


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