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Why Our Model Makes Financial Sense for a School District

When Science Outside started, we made a big decision to adopt a per teacher/per district pricing model. This means that when a teacher purchases a product, they can use that product with all of the students they teach in perpetuity. When a school district purchases the product, they can use it for all of the students taught by one teacher of their choice. Also in perpetuity. This makes the cost far less than the much more commonly used per student pricing model.

Let’s look at an example: Twenty years ago, I purchased a paper lab manual for $39 per student. For a typical class of 25 environmental science students a year, it would cost $975. That is what I would have to pay for every class for every year. Let’s take a look at what that lab manual would cost if we taught 100 students per year for 5 years and purchased a lab manual for each student.

100 students/year x 5 years x $39 per copy of the lab manual = $19,500

That’s a price many school districts just wouldn’t pay. Especially in addition to the textbooks they have to purchase. Because of limited school budgets, per student pricing puts pressure on teachers to spend hours photocopying copyrighted work (illegally) just so they can better educate their students. Legal Disclaimer: Science Outside definitely discourages this behavior.

In contrast, a $299 lab manual purchased today can be used to teach all 100 of my students for many years to come. You can distribute digitally or print out paper copies legally for all of your students. You won’t have to hold a book open trying to copy pages individually while inhaling ozone and being bombarded by UV radiation. Maybe you want to stay cutting-edge and can get your district to spring for the most recent edition every 5 years, so let’s use that assumption to calculate the per student cost.

$299 lab manual cost

----------------------------------------- = <$0.60/student

100 students/year x 5 years

That’s less than 60 cents per student. And the total cost for teaching 500 students is still $299.

$39/student vs. $0.60/student

$19,500 - $299 = $19,201

That’s the difference between the per student and per teacher/per district pricing models.

School districts should allocate more of their budget to science supplies and other educational materials. Educational resource providers should also keep prices as low as possible. We can’t control what school districts or educational providers do, but we can do our part by setting a better example.

The initial purchase price of a lab manual or case study may look high, but a quick analysis shows it is far less than what the big publishing companies have been charging us for decades. We hope that they follow our lead in reducing the costs of providing educational resources at affordable prices for teachers and students everywhere.

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