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Is Tutoring Cost Effective?

Tutoring is expensive. But, there are several factors that relate to cost besides here-and-now price. It is the ultimate (sometimes long-term) bottom line that you need to calculate to determine if hiring a tutor is cost effective.

But, what does "cost effective" mean? One way of looking at the term "cost effective" is to determine if the value you receive in return for your investment is larger than the investment. For example, if tutoring sessions cost you $100, but you passed an employment test that allowed you to earn an extra $0.50 per hour; then you would see the return for the money that you paid for the tutoring in less than two weeks (based upon your increased hourly rate of pay). Tutoring with that kind of pay back would be cost effective, and the monetary benefit would be easy to calculate.

Other pay backs for tutoring might not be as easy to calculate, but equally substantial. For example, if tutoring costs you $200 but enables you to increase your score on the military ASVAB Test so that you can get into the military service months earlier...and get into the military training program that you really want...then you have:

* the payback of an unknown number of months of military pay and benefits that you would not have received
* plus the value of the training you receive
* plus the value of a better paying civilian job once your enlistment with the military is completed

Clearly the return for this tutoring would be very valuable and substantial, although the exact amount of monetary benefit would be difficult to calculate. In addition, the value of the personal benefit; i.e., training and working in an enjoyable career compared to working in a less enjoyable career would also be difficult to calculate.

Another example: A students' parents pay $400 for tutoring that enables the student to pass the high-stakes, required-for-graduation state test. In this case, the student 1) graduates on time, 2) enters the job market and becomes 3) economically independent a year sooner by graduating with classmates.

Job prospects from having a High School Diploma also provide better entry level jobs than a GED certificate...therefore, better pay. However, the value of personal pride, satisfaction and self-esteem of graduating with peers (as compared for giving excuses to every friend and acquaintance for not graduating) are difficult to quantify with a monetary value...but are worth a lot.

A third example: $1,000 invested in test preparation tutoring that helps obtain a score on an ACT or SAT college entrance exam that earns a partial or full scholarship can pay off in yearly college financial aid that is ten times (or more) the tutoring cost...for up to four excellent return that makes tutoring a cost-effective investment. And, getting into a higher ranking college may mean increased job prospects four years later. Lots of difficult-to-quantify returns...

In addition, the cost of not receiving something of value that could have been acquired and enjoyed is called "opportunity cost." And, it is the opportunity cost (of loosing out on benefits) that factor into determining if the investment in tutoring is worthwhile. So, be sure to factor opportunity cost into the equation when considering if the paybacks for tutoring justify the expenditure. Opportunity costs can be wide ranging, and reflect personal value and monetary value; so only you know what a specific opportunity cost means to you.

Another way of looking at opportunity cost is... Is the loss of some benefit that tutoring might have obtained for you greater than the cost of the tutoring? If so, consider tutoring to be a tool or a resource, as well as an investment; and go for the benefits. Decide not to go for a personal benefit that was in your grasp? Then consider the long-term unpleasantness of having to justify (to yourself) the fact that you didn't try.

Long-term regret, having no monetary value at all, may be one of the most costly outcomes of failing to try. So, consider your personal situation...the potential benefits of learning and performing at a test-passing level...and make the decision to enter into a tutoring relationship based upon potential gain, based upon opportunity cost and based upon what you will end up saying to yourself for years if you didn't try. If personal benefits are likely, realistic and possible, then "Go for the tutoring."


Wow, very true words. Great read!
Good info, well-written.


Joseph C.

Tutor, Mentor and Coach