Communicating Tuition Changes to Families During COVID-19

Now that it’s been a couple of months since COVID-19 began, some centers who had previously waived (or significantly reduced) tuition fees are finding that they need to begin building up revenue in order to weather the storm. However, if you haven’t been charging tuition or fees for a while, it can be daunting to communicate to families that you’re going to begin charging them for a service that they’re not currently receiving in full. 

Once you’ve decided on the appropriate tuition model for your center during COVID-19, this guide will help you communicate tuition changes to families in a professional, respectful, and thoughtful manner. We’ve included some templates for communicating with families, which you can modify as needed to suit your center’s circumstances and style.

Tuition policy communication tips for all childcare centers

1. Tie increased charges to updated offerings. If you suddenly update your tuition policy without offering any additional services, families may understandably become confused or resistant. According to Certified Child Care Coach Brian Duprey, it’s better to time tuition changes to coincide with expanded offerings. Even if you’re only able to accommodate a very small number of students, reopening or increasing your capacity are acceptable reasons to introduce tuition changes or hold fees to all families. Alternatively, some centers are introducing virtual learning or at-home lesson plans in exchange for full or partial tuition. 

2. Provide context. If you clearly and professionally explain your center’s financial circumstances, steps you have taken to minimize expenses, and planned use of funds, families will be much more open to working with you than if you do not provide this context. Families want to know that their money is going to good use, and they will appreciate that you have thought through optimizing your budget.

3. Be open to input. This is a difficult time for families as well as childcare providers. Be clear with your families that you welcome their questions and concerns—and that you’ll get through this together. It’s likely that some of your families have lost income due to COVID-19 and may need to request reduced or deferred payments. On the other hand, you may also have families who would be willing to contribute more than you are asking for. Make sure that you include the appropriate way to reach you to discuss tuition updates on a one-to-one basis. Some centers block off a couple of hours in the week for dedicated office hours, allowing parents to sign up for a 30-minute time slot to meet via video conferencing.

4. Maintain regular and ongoing communication with families. In order to avoid surprises, it’s important to communicate with your families on a regular basis—not just when you’re updating your tuition policy. Consider sending a weekly or biweekly update to families to keep them informed about your center’s reopening plans. Brightwheel users can send alerts or newsletters to check in on families and keep them updated. 

You can learn more about how to effectively communicate with families during this time here.  

Communication templates

Feel free to use these templates as a starting point and edit to suit your center’s circumstances, relationship with families, and communication style.

For centers that are partially reopening or expanding capacity

In order to best serve our families and support your child’s development, we are very pleased to announce that we will be partially reopening in accordance with state regulations and safety procedures. Beginning on [date], we will be open to [insert number of students, any changes in hours, how student attendance will be prioritized, and any other context around your current capacity to help families understand your circumstances].  

[Insert applicable details about health and safety protocols, updates in drop-off and pick-up procedures, and other reopening information specific to your state and center.]

Because of this change, we will be resuming monthly tuition payments beginning on [date] for families who are in attendance. For families who are not attending right away, we will begin a monthly hold fee of [amount] to reserve your child’s enrollment. Your hold fee will be used to support our essential teachers and the cost of our facility—and to secure your place in our roster until we are able to reopen in full. [Insert any additional information about when you expect to have more updates about reopening.] 

Our top priority is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for your child. We sincerely appreciate your understanding and cooperation. We understand that every family’s circumstances are unique, and we’re here to help. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your preferred method of communication]

For centers that are offering virtual learning or activities

In order to best serve our families and support your child’s development during these challenging times, we are pleased to announce that we will be introducing online learning sessions beginning on [date]. These online learning sessions will include [insert details and schedules, and access information for your online sessions]

[Highlight the hard work your teachers have already done to prepare for distance learning.]

Because of this change, we will be resuming monthly tuition payments in the amount of [your center’s specific full or reduced tuition amount] beginning on [date]. Your tuition funds will be used to support our essential teachers and the cost of our facility—and to secure your child’s enrollment until we are able to reopen.

We understand that every family’s circumstances are unique, and we’re here to help. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your preferred method of communication]

We have missed our families very much, and we’re looking forward to seeing you and your child in our online learning sessions soon!

For centers that are introducing a hold fee

[Open with any key updates on your center and your anticipated reopening schedule.]

COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to all of us, including our center’s finances. While we have taken care to reduce unnecessary expenditures [insert specifics if you wish], it is becoming increasingly difficult to support the cost of operating our center.

In order to sustain our center during these challenging times, we are going to begin charging a monthly hold fee to reserve your child’s enrollment. Your hold fee will be used to support our essential teachers and the cost of our facility—and to secure your child’s enrollment until we are able to reopen. [Insert any additional information about when you expect to have more updates about reopening.] 

We understand that every family’s circumstances are unique, and we’re here to help. If you do not wish to reserve your enrollment, or if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your preferred method of communication]

For centers that are seeking optional tuition

[Open with any key updates on your center and your anticipated reopening schedule.]

COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to all of us, including our center’s finances. While we have taken care to reduce unnecessary expenditures [insert specifics if you wish], it is becoming increasingly difficult to support the cost of operating our center. 

In order to sustain our center during these challenging times, we are respectfully requesting optional monthly tuition payments from families who are currently able to contribute. These funds will be used to support the cost of our facility and essential staff until we are able to open again. 

If you wish to contribute, please reach out to me. Even if you are currently unable to provide the full amount, any amount you are able to contribute would be deeply appreciated. Your contribution will help us weather the storm so that we can return back to what we love the most: providing the best possible care for your child.

Our families are the heart of our center, and we’re in this together. We are sincerely grateful for your support and are looking forward to seeing you and your child again soon! 

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your preferred method of communication]

Handling concerns and winning buy-in from families

Some parents may be resistant to paying tuition during a time when their child is not attending your center. Whether they’re experiencing new financial stress due to COVID-19, or whether they simply do not wish to pay for something they aren’t receiving in full, it’s important to listen to their concerns and be willing to work with them. 

While there isn’t one right answer that fits every center’s needs, here are a few ideas to keep in mind when you receive questions and concerns from families:

  • Many centers are offering reduced or deferred tuition payments from families who have lost jobs or income due to COVID-19.
  • If you haven’t already, seek out loans and grants that can help you fill in any gaps in cash flow due to loss of revenue. This will make it easier for you to offer financial assistance to families in need. You can view our guide to financial relief resources here.
  • As a last resort, if you have families on your waitlist who are willing to pay tuition, you may have to remove families who are not willing to pay tuition or hold fees and give their spots to families who will pay. This is obviously not ideal, and it’s up to you to determine whether this course of action is necessary for your center to stay in business.

 

Brightwheel is here to support you through this time, and we hope this resource helps you determine how to best communicate tuition updates to your families. We are in this together as an early childhood learning community, and our top priority is supporting your needs. For additional information on how childcare providers can navigate these challenging times, please visit our COVID-19 resource center.

 

Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.