Providers of adult learning are under increasing pressure to operate as a commercial business.
Tim Symons, Manager, Short Course Operations at Melbourne’s Centre for Adult Education shares his top tips for pricing courses.
1. Get to know your customers
This can be easy or difficult depending on where your centre is located. Go deeper than demographic information such as gender and age to find out what your potential students are interested in. You can use surveys or focus groups to ask people why they might come to your centre and what their learning needs are. Courses that match these needs are more likely to be a success.
2. Swap class interest registers for class waiting lists
Instead of developing a list of course topics and then trying to find people interested in enrolling, reverse the process. Identify people’s interests, then develop a course to suit. Ideally you want a class waiting list, which is a sure sign that the course you’re offering has hit the mark.
3. Identify who’s holding the purse strings
Knowing where the funds are coming from to pay for your proposed class is important. It could be an individual or the government paying the whole cost or a mixture of the two. Each brings different expectations to bear on what you offer. Don’t assume your potential students won’t be interested in paying. Pricing courses too low can lead to the perception that they are lower quality.
4. Analyse the market
Identify who else is offering courses like the ones you have in mind. You can use the Internet to find answers to questions that help you determine the likely success of your course and pick up tips on how other providers have done it.
5. Understand your competitors
Identify whom else you will be competing with by offering this course and how much they are charging. Try to determine how similar or different their offering is to yours.
6. Set a price
List all the costs associated with running the class – staff, rent, advertising and promotion, products given to students, GST etc. Then calculate how much you’d need to break even. Or if you want to make a profit on this class, set a target, and then factor that into your calculations. Compare the price you’ve come up with against your competitors’ costing.
7. Go to market
Use whatever tools you’ve got to reach your potential students. Use your usual methods of promotion – your organisation’s website, social media, email lists, course guides and press releases. But also think creatively about how to reach your potential students in places where they gather.
8. Track progress
Check whether what you did worked and whether you achieved the goal you set yourself. If you didn’t, investing time to work out why can be valuable for all staff involved.
9. Ask for feedback
By capturing client feedback – whether it’s in class, through social media or by using incentives to encourage people to share their insights – you can gain valuable information that helps you make better plans and decisions next time round.
10. Be prepared to adapt
Organisations that thrive are those that adapt to change. It is possible to continue to provide social benefit to our communities while adopting a user pays system. It’s a matter of balancing delivery of classes people want, with your organisation’s goals of giving learners a voice and maintaining good quality programs.
These ten tips are based on a recent ALA webinar provided by Tim Symons, Manager, Short Course Operations, Centre for Adult Education, Melbourne. A recording of this webinar is available to ALA members from the ALA website.