What Makes Tutoring So Expensive (or Cheap)?

Tutoring fees vary widely — from as little as $15 to as much as $1,000 per hour. This variation leaves many parents in the dark as to what is reasonable or useful to pay to help their children succeed in school.

Itemizing the Cost of Tutoring

There are many considerations parents take into account when they are looking for the right tutor in their price range. Here are some of the factors that often influence a tutor’s fee:

Level of Service

Is the tutor providing basic or full-service tutoring? Basic tutoring — which encompasses services like homework help and supplementary exercises — is best for students who are self-driven and only need help with particular concepts. Tutors may only need to prepare minimally, and they likely will not need to tailor lessons directly for each student. In these cases, tutoring fees tend to be relatively low, since students are responsible for leading the sessions, and the tutor is there simply as a guide.

Full-service tutoring is more extensive and includes an amalgam of services, such as customized assistance on college applications and test prep. This kind of tutoring tends to be relatively costly because it involves more time, planning, and effort from the tutor.

Convenience Fees

Are you willing to drive to the tutor, or would you like the tutor to come to you? Parents who want a concierge tutor should expect to pay (sometimes significantly) more. Tutors are not paid for transit time, and this leads them to charge more per hour.

The Tutor's Education

Some tutors are current college students who don’t yet have the work experience or education to command a large fee. They may be helpful in providing peer tutoring but are not yet trained in educational theory. Other tutors may have bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, doctorates, and/or teaching credentials. The fee that tutors charge will generally equate to the tutor’s education and work experience.

Results

Sometimes, tutors base their fees on the tangible improvements they’ve seen their students make. For instance, tutors whose students have improved 350+ points on the SAT will certainly charge more for their services than those who have not documented similarly impressive results.

Generally, a tutor will report these score or grade increases in the aggregate, since tutors are required to, and should, maintain client confidentiality. They may quote an average, but they will never provide specific names for reference (without prior consent from those clients).

If you know someone who has worked with the tutor, however, you can consider asking that person directly about the results she saw. While it’s entirely up to that client to reveal specific increases, she may be willing to discuss what her experience with the tutor was like.

Tutor Happiness

For the most part, you get what you pay for. Tutors who make a comfortable wage generally don’t need to take on an excessive number of clients. As a result, they tend to be more rested and focused on their students. A tutor just scraping by, however, will have to take on as many students as possible to supplement (or constitute) her income.

Gauging the Effectiveness of a Tutor — Before You Hire One

A number of factors influence how effective a tutor will be. You or your child will have control over some of them (e.g., how motivated she is to improve), but others will emerge out of dynamics beyond your control (e.g., whether your child and tutor have a strong rapport).

Student Motivation

A tutor’s impact depends largely on the motivation of the student. Some students who can only afford one hour every other week, but who are determined to achieve their goals, will make the most of the additional instruction that they receive. By contrast, some students simply aren’t interested in having a tutor, and thus no amount of money will help them improve.

For this reason, it’s important for parents to talk with their child openly about their combined goals and expectations prior to hiring a tutor.

Rapport

This is perhaps the most important factor parents should consider when hiring a tutor. Students may need tutors for any number of reasons. They may be in a remedial situation in which they need extra help; they may be uninterested in school and need motivation; they may already be A students who want to apply to top-tier colleges; or they may wish to receive extracurricular supplementation in areas like art or music. At the end of the day, outcomes will be determined in part by the rapport between student and tutor.

It’s essential for children and teens to view their tutors as positive adult role models. If a child or teen respects the time and instruction she is given, she is much more likely to do the work the tutor assigns. On the other hand, students who dread the thought of their tutoring sessions will probably do no better than if they were working on their own. Good rapport is worth a lot of money.

The Lowdown on Money

These considerations aside, there is a range in which parents can generally get a high-quality tutor. A good range is between $65 and $100 per hour (depending on your location and the level of service you are looking for). In this range, tutors can keep their student roster low enough to provide personalized educational supports to their students. If a parent has $500 an hour to spend, great — but most families can probably find a fabulous tutor for less than half of that.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, determining how much to spend is up to the parent. Do you want a basic subject tutor to help your child with certain skills for an hour here and there, or do you want a tutor who will also act as a mentor, role model, and supplemental educator who can facilitate major results? Whomever you choose, it’s crucial to make sure your child has good rapport with her tutor. After all, a great tutor is valuable, but a line of trust and communication is invaluable.

Discover the tutors near you and find further advice about finding the right tutor right on Noodle.

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