Today we are publishing the Tuition and Fee Schedule for our 2019-2020 academic year (Launch Year). We encourage you to review this information carefully and ask questions where it’s not clear. We also want to share our thought process and some background as to how we arrived at our decisions.
It’s important to note that this is the plan for the Launch Year. We should assume that in the next year we will learn from successes and mistakes, that goals and obstacles will come and go, that leadership will change and grow, and that future years may look very different. And in light of all this, we ask for grace, patience, and perseverance from all of the families that join in this endeavor.
Balancing Basic Priorities
In building a budget and tuition plan, we sought to balance two competing priorities. First, we want TRCA to teach excellence, not just in the classroom but also in the way it conducts business. The biggest example of this is in how we pay our future teachers: we need to commit to paying teachers appropriately, and we need to honor our commitments with integrity.
That priority is in tension with our desire to make TRCA affordable and accessible to as many families as possible. TRCA’s model assumes that one parent is homeschooling, which means the family likely depends on one income. In fact, two of the three founding board members have been through periods of unemployment in the last year, so we “get it.” We don’t want TRCA’s price tag to “freeze out” anyone, yet there is a cost that parents must bear to make TRCA operate, and that cost can only go so low.
We’ve prayed, researched, and discussed this tension a great deal. Despite our best efforts and intentions, no balance will be perfect. TRCA won’t be able to afford all that we would like to do this year, and we regret that some families may not be able to afford TRCA this year. But in good faith, we must start somewhere and then work to improve in coming years.
The beauty of public school is that only politicians ever need to worry about the costs (an admitted oversimplification, but that’s all we have time for today!). The opposite occurs here: all parents need to consider the cost of TRCA and the value of what they receive in exchange. So what does TRCA offer?
At its core, TRCA offers a direct partnership between professional teachers and parent co-teachers, built around a comprehensive, cohesive, classical curriculum. This partnership helps parents satisfy the supervision and progress requirements of Iowa home school laws, and it enables parents to actively participate in a high-quality education for their children.
We are convinced the value offered is well worth its price tag for many families in our community. TRCA’s greatest value is its perspective and philosophy on education, but that’s hard to put in economic terms. It’s easier to measure things like number of days or hours in the classroom. And each family will place differing values on the various aspects of TRCA.
How We Determined Tuition
We began with a budget, asking what bills TRCA will need to pay. We tried to build in variables and buffers for what we don’t know, and we tried to pare down where could. Based on total projected costs, we then divided that number by the number of students we anticipate. We don’t yet know exactly how many students will sign up or which grades they will be in (which will affect the number of teachers needed). But we have an informed, calculated guess that we believe is workable for the coming year or two.
We also compared our numbers to those of other schools. Our initial price tag is well within (on the low side) the range we saw at similar schools around the country. Looking at private Christian schools in our own area, we are around half their costs, which makes sense when you consider our collaborative model.
Payments in Advance
As you review the tuition and payment information, you will notice an emphasis on full payments in advance of each semester. This will lead to the question: Why? In short, we are erring on the side of fiscal prudence for the first year.
When we hire teachers, an administrator, or other staff, we are making commitments to pay them in return for their commitments to work on behalf of parents. Similarly, we will be contracting to rent space and buy materials. We need to know that we can honor our commitments. A failure of one commitment would directly impact many other people, as TRCA does not have profits, reserves, or bank loans available as a safety net.
You won’t see a robust or detailed refund policy this year. In general, the expectation is that parents commit to the full academic year, and tuition won’t be refunded after the Cut-Off Dates. This is to protect TRCA faculty and other families. That said, we’re human and want to be gracious, so exceptions could be made for things like severe illness, death in the family, or loss of employment.
Our long-term goal is to offer a need-based scholarship program that enables many more families to participate in TRCA. We would like to get to the place where our operating budget includes funds for scholarships.
We have begun asking donors for start-up funding that includes scholarships for the first year. And soon, we will ask parents to form a task force to raise scholarship money for future years.
In the short run, we’re uncertain if we will have scholarship funds available for our Launch Year. We would be thrilled if we can, and if possible, we will announce when and how they are available. And please feel free to share our school’s vision and business plan with anyone who may be interested in supporting TRCA.
We hope you sense our reason and our heart in these matters, and we welcome your feedback and perspective. We have stared at these numbers and documents for so long, we may be missing the obvious! If there are questions we have not yet answered, please be sure to ask them. And if there are errors, kindly point those out.
For now, we have set a general course and direction for TRCA, and we are praying for all of you as you consider whether joining TRCA is the right fit for your family this coming school year.