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Smart Strategies to Keep Classes Affordable for Students

Brian Rahill

September 26, 2022

Prices may be rising everywhere, but your mission hasn’t changed. You still want to provide personal enrichment and quality education opportunities to people in your community and beyond. That means you need to offer affordable classes while supporting the financial stability and long-term success of your program.

Achieving that balance might not be as difficult as you think. To start, expand your thinking beyond the list price of the course. We’ll share some tools and strategies you can use to keep classes affordable for the greatest number of students even if you do need to raise prices.

Promote Early Bird Pricing

Promoting classes early creates stability for students and instructors by helping to fill classes early. But early-bird discounts offer even more benefits. They reward loyal students and give bargain hunters a way to get your class at a discount. All of this helps you keep classes affordable.

Our research shows that people tend to register within 40 days of the class start. Offering a discount for those who register at the early end of that can help build momentum. As they register, others will start to see that there are only a few seats left. This shows that your class is popular and this social proof may drive even more people to take action and register. The result is fewer canceled classes and more happy students.

There are three ways to use this strategy: 

  1. As a thank you to loyal students. Send out messages to your email list promoting your early bird pricing exclusively for people on your list. 
  2. To cast a wide net. If you want to expand your pool of potential students, you can also share this messaging on social media and your website.
  3. To reduce perceived risk. If you’re offering a new class, early bird pricing can make students more likely to commit to trying something they’ve never done before because the lower price-point feels like less of a risk.

Whichever strategy you use, make sure your message includes a clear cut-off and tells students how much they will save by registering early. 

Set Up Payment Plans to Keep Classes Affordable

Payment plans are an effective way to make big-ticket classes more affordable. They let you offer higher-priced classes with less risk to you and your students, let students take classes based on their needs (not short-term budget concerns), and signal that you understand those needs. You may even attract students who couldn’t afford the class otherwise.

Payment Plan Details

If you’re a CourseStorm customer, payment plans are built into your registration software and are simple to set up. We manage the technical details so you can focus on supporting your students, not collecting payments. If you’re not a CourseStorm customer, you may want to look into a third-party solution to avoid managing spreadsheets and chasing students for payments.

Offer Group Discounts

Group discounts provide a double benefit. They make classes more affordable for students and they help you fill seats. Plus, encouraging students to take classes with friends and family can build a stronger sense of community. 

There’s no need for messy spreadsheets or complicated tracking systems to offer group discounts. Just share a class-specific promo code to give the discount to anyone who enters it at checkout. You can share promo codes on social media, through email, or on the page where the class is being listed. 

Try messages like: 

  • Bring a friend and save…
  • Learning is more fun with friends. Here’s a XX% discount if you bring a friend along.
  • As a special thank you to students, we’re offering…

Partner With A Local Business

To defray the cost of a higher-ticket class, consider partnering with a local business. Businesses will sometimes sponsor classes that serve their target customers or build skills they want employees to have. They may give you funds to help pay instructors, buy materials, or reduce the cost of tuition.

You could partner with local businesses to sponsor computer classes or CPR certifications. Invite a restaurant to sponsor cooking classes, or ask a local boutique to host a “paint and shop” event where students do an art project and then have time to browse the boutique after hours.

Essentially, this is a marketing tool for the business, so make sure you give them plenty of opportunities for exposure. You can: 

  • List the class as “Class Name sponsored by Company name”
  • Include the company logo on marketing materials associated with the class
  • Provide the business with graphics and social media content so they can promote the class as well
  • Affix “donated by” stickers to any materials the business funded
  • If the donation is big enough, you might even write and send a press release to the local news outlets.

For extra goodwill, it’s nice to pass around a thank you card and ask students to sign it. You can send this to the business for them to display. If you’re a non-profit, make sure you also send a donation receipt to make the accounting process easier for donor businesses.

Balance Class Affordability With Value

As you work to make courses affordable, keep in mind that they’re also valuable. They teach students important skills for life, help build community connections, and offer fun and entertainment. 

All of those outcomes have real value for students, and that’s worth paying for. Instead of focusing exclusively on price, build marketing messages to help students better understand the value they will get by taking the class.

Here are a few ways to start: 

  • Share statistics. Example: “Communication skills are the #1 most in-demand soft skill employers are looking for. Acting classes build communication skills by…”
  • Highlight research-backed benefits. Example: “Research shows that writing about positive experiences is associated with an increased sense of psychological well-being.”
  • Point to Outcomes. Example: “This course will teach you how to manage your time and productivity to help you be more effective at work.”
  • Mention instructor credentials. Example: “Jane Smith is a certified master gardener and has won the state gardener’s blue ribbon three times.”

Look for ways to incorporate keywords and phrases that connect the class to its value for students. Phrases like…

  • “Learn practical strategies…”
  • “…avoid common mistakes.” 
  • “Explore unique approaches to…”

And don’t forget to highlight any certificates, certifications, or other official outcomes expected from the course. 

Support Long-Term Success With Affordable Classes

Because prices are rising in many areas, students probably won’t be surprised to see that registration fees are higher than they’ve been in the past. While the strategies offered above can help, keep your long-term goals in mind. You want to be able to offer the classes students want and need over the long term, so don’t be afraid to raise prices if needed to support the health of your organization. Balancing affordability and value will help you do that for years to come.

Brian Rahill

Brian is a scientist-turned-education technology executive. He has founded and led technology companies for more than 20 years and uses his analytical mind and experimental approach to spur growth in small and medium businesses and start-ups. He is passionate about using technology to enhance access to lifelong learning.

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