Ask the Experts: Dealing with Parents Who Owe Tuition Payments

How do you deal with parents who owe you a significant amount of money but won’t communicate? I never see them, since they just drop their child off. I don’t want to embarrass my student.

When a parent or guardian of a minor child registers their dancer—whether online or in person—they should be required to accept your payment policy terms. This should include details about late charges or consequences, such as: “After 60 days, the student will not be allowed in class, unless payment arrangements have been made.”

The longer a balance is left unpaid, the harder it is to collect—especially when a student has been allowed to participate in classes past the time limit in your stated policy for accounts overdue. The parents’ unwillingness to communicate requires that you take a different course of action. If multiple phone calls and e-mails go unacknowledged, send your communication by mail—certified mail, to confirm receipt.

While refusing to allow a student into class can seem drastic, it is often what elicits a response from the parents. If parents are having financial issues, they may be embarrassed, frustrated or unsure how to approach you with this concern. In this case, you may want to discuss a payment plan option with the family.

Accepting debit/credit cards as a payment method has significantly reduced our past-due accounts. In the future, require all students to provide a backup method of payment.

Our personal connection to our students can make these types of conversations uncomfortable, but learning to run a business and hold people accountable financially is important for the future success of your studio.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.

Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety

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