11 Feb Equity vs. Equality: Our Tuition and Financial Assistance

Here at Tiny Trees we are committed to making a high quality education affordable for families. We not only offer a low tuition but we also provide financial assistance for families who need it. We believe in equity in education where all children receive the resources they need to succeed in kindergarten and to enjoy an active & healthy outdoor childhood. Here’s how it works:

All programs have two prices, a regular price and a financial assistance price. If you look at our regular tuition and think “I can’t afford that” then you most likely qualify for the financial assistance price. Our regular price is 10% below market rate and our financial assistance price is 40% below market rate. Tiny Trees Preschool is also a provider for the Seattle Preschool Program – Pathways at Carkeek Park. This means if you can’t afford the financial assistance price than may qualify for FREE tuition at Carkeek Park paid for by the City of Seattle (Learn more here.)

Our prices are:

$720 (regular) or $500 (fin. assistance) a month for half day preschool from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, five days a week (M-F). Additional indoor after care from 1 pm – 5 pm with Seattle Parks and Recreation is available at most locations for an additional $550 a month. This is a great option for working families who want to give their child a vibrant, outdoor childhood but also need a full 8 hours of child care or who want a regular half day program.

$400 (regular) or $300 (fin. assistance) a month for half day preschool from 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm, three days a week (M/W/F). This is an excellent choice for families who want a part time program or who have their child enrolled in another preschool (bi-lingual? Montessori?) in the mornings and want to provide them with a nature is awesome education in the afternoons. This option also works for children doing half day kindergarten who want to be outside in the afternoons.

If you look at the regular price and think “I can’t afford that” then you most likely qualify for financial assistance. Financial assistance is determined by financial need (i.e. your family’s income.). Learn more and see if you qualify here. To summarize, for 5 days a week:

Tiny Trees Regular Tuition = $720/month (10% below market rate)

Financial assistance tuition = $500/month (40% below market rate)

These prices are based on the market price for Preschool based on a survey of 598 preschools in the Seattle area. This analysis was completed by our two board fellows from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business (MBA program), Marcus and Alex. You can read about their work here. We found that our outdoor model saves about 26-28% off the market price of preschool by not paying for a brick and mortar facility. Knowing that we asked ourselves two questions:

  • A quality education depends on great teachers. How much of our savings should we spend on professional development and higher salaries for our teachers?
  • Should a family that makes $50,000 a year pay the same tuition as a family that makes $150,000 a year?

On quality we decided to focus on professional development and hiring full time teachers with competitive benefits and paid at a living wage. We also created a program schedule where teachers have paid preparation and professional development time on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. There is another blog post to be written on program quality – but a key piece of data in this decision was this study that came out this summer in Tennessee. In it researchers found that low quality programs have ok short term benefits but minimal long term benefit for children. In other words, if you want to invest in great long term outcomes for young people you need to invest in great teachers. So we put a portion of our savings into training and empowering teachers.

On the second question we decided on equity where financial resources are pooled to support those who need them most. We thus chose two prices and build a financial model where we plan on half (50%) of our families paying a regular tuition price that is 10% below the market price and half of our families (50%) paying a financial assistance price that is 40% below market rate. We also have worked to make our process for applying for financial assistance simple and clear.

What this means is that families in the “forgotten middle” – those who make too much to qualify for state subsidies but too little to afford preschool on the open market – have access to great schools in their neighborhood.

For families who can’t afford our financial assistance price we are excited to have been selected as a provider for the Seattle Preschool Program – Pathways. Under this program 16 students at our Carkeek Park location will receive FREE tuition paid for by the City of Seattle. To qualify you must make below 300% of poverty ($72,000 for a family of 4) and live in the Seattle city limits. You can learn more and see if you qualify here.

When Tiny Trees began this journey our goals were modest. We expected to offer preschool at maybe 20-25% below market rate. Under this plan we are able to offer families a discount of 40% and with the help of the Seattle Preschool Program FREE tuition for the lowest income families. That is a big step and one we could not have taken without your support. Thank you to all of the families and volunteers who have helped us create a school where everyone is welcome. A school where learning doesn’t have to break the bank. A school where kids get a great education and the childhood they deserve – one full of play, exploration and wonder in the natural world.

By Andrew Jay, CEO Tiny Trees Preschool



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