Why are CEUs so expensive?

By October 21, 2014 CEU 3 Comments

Why are CEUs so expensive

Let’s talk about money. (At least we’re not at the dinner table, okay?)

There have been several posts talking about the costs of apps, which are becoming a much more popular tool to use in therapy. Since many therapists pay out of pocket for the apps we use in therapy, we’re often looking for the best deal (free if possible). However, there’s no such thing as a “free” app, because apps are complex and time intensive to create.

I noticed a similar conversation happening around CEUs. In forums I see therapists looking for the best deals on CEUs, at times having little regard to the quality of the continuing education. These comments are saddening, because I believe our code of ethics requires continuing education, so we become better therapists. Our clinical competency is an ethical dilemma we seldom discuss.

I sent out a survey through my newsletter in September to glean information about people’s thoughts on CEUs. One of the questions I asked is how much you would value a one-hour webinar with CEUs provided from our national associations. The answers I received were not surprising based on the conversations I’ve seen on social media regarding CEUs. Many respondents valued one-hour of continuing education at $20 or less with several people stating the value was zero dollars. Which really begs the questions, why are CEUs so expensive? and why/how do we form our value assessments of CEUs?

CEUs are expensive to provide

There is time and cost associated with providing CEUs. I would like to provide you with three reasons you may have not considered regarding the cost of providing CEUs.

First, becoming an approved CEU provider with the national associations is expensive.

Whenever I have spoken to a therapist and shared this information, the reaction has been the same, “Oh wow, I had no idea!”

This information has been updated based on the comment below: To become an ASHA CEU provider, the provider would have to pay several fees, including an $825 application fee and $550 annual fee. Let’s play those numbers out in an example:
If the CEU provider offers courses at $50 each, they will need 27.5 people to register in order to break even for the application fee and annual fee. In subsequent years, providers won’t need to pay the application fee (however, renewal fees may apply later).

To offer a first course as an AOTA CEU provider, the fees are similar. Application fee is $600 and annual fee varies from $425-1025 based on number of participants each year. For a new CEU provider, the fee would probably be $425. There are no additional fees per course. So in order to break even during the first year the CEU provider would need 20.5 people to register at $50 each.

APTA is structured differently, as APTA does not approve continuing education providers or courses. APTA is different in yet another way; they don’t license or certify PTs or PTAs either. State licensure boards hold the responsibility to license PTs and PTAs and manage competency/CE requirements. In my state there is not an approval process for CEU providers that charges providers money; however, there is a set of criteria CEU opportunities must meet.

It costs money to produce continuing education

Marketing is expensive. Marketing can be done via association advertisements or purchasing lists for direct mail (that’s how all those CEU fliers end up in your mailbox). Check out some of the fees associated with advertising through the associations or purchasing direct mail lists:

  • ASHA charges 21 cents per a name with a minimum of 1000 names per order. The costs for a minimum order would be $210, which means 4.2 people will need to register just to break even for this method of advertising. That doesn’t include the costs of producing and printing direct mail or postage.
  • To advertise in the ASHA Leader with a half page horizontal ad, the cost is $3,640 for one month (or $2,910 if you advertise every month for 12 months). Looking again at our example of $50 per course, 72.8 people who need to register in order to break even for one advertisement.
  • AOTA charges 12.5 cents plus $30 processing fee for mailing lists. Purchasing 1000 names would be $155, which means 3.1 would need to register at $50 each to break even.
  • AOTA’s OT Practice magazine charges $2209 for a half page horizontal ad (or $1876 monthly for 12 months). To cover the cost of advertising 44.18 participants would need to register at $50 each.
  • To order 1000 names from APTA it costs $239 plus a $25 processing fee, which means 5.28 people must register at $50 to break even.
  • To purchase a half page horizontal ad in PT in Motion is costs $3,310 (or $2,315 monthly for 12 months), which is equivalent to a break even point of 66.2 registrants at $50 each.

So why don’t CEU providers market via social media? They do, and it’s not free either. It costs money to promote ads via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Someone’s time and energy goes is spent to create ads and determine how to effectively distribute them. Even monthly newsletters costs money. Gray Matter Therapy pays a fee each month to distribute the newsletter.

CEU providers are often big participants in continuing education themselves, whether that be through reading recent journal articles (which have their own fees associated), purchasing books on the topic, or attending conventions, conferences, and other CE events.

How much should CEU providers get paid?

Many people have spent years becoming an expert in a particular area and through continuing education events, share their expertise with you. They do it because they love the topic and have a passion for education and patients.

But they also do it for money. Education is a part of their job. If they didn’t spend time educating, they could spend time using their talents in another way that would make money.

So just how much should a CEU provider make? Is it fair for an instructor to charge $50 a person for an hour CEU event with 25 attendees? That means they are making $1259 an hour, right? Not quite. There is a lot of time, preparation, marketing, and other fees associated with providing continuing education.

Given this information, how do you think we could foster a lifestyle of continuing education that is both cost effective for participants and values the presenters’ time and expertise?

Rachel Wynn
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Rachel Wynn

Speech-Language Pathologist at Gray Matter Therapy
Rachel is a speech-language pathologist and creator of Gray Matter Therapy. She started making noise as a patient-centered care advocate in 2013. She believes great care happens when patients are informed and engaged.
Rachel Wynn
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  • http://www.asha.org/ce Ellen Fagan, Director, ASHA CE

    Thank you for your informative post about the value and associated expense of producing a CE offering. I just wanted to clarify the fees related to becoming and maintaining status as an ASHA Approved CE Provider. There is a one-time application fee of $825. After that, ASHA Approved Providers pay an annual fee ($550 in 2014) and that fee allows them to offer as many courses as they like for ASHA CEUs. The $250 and $50 fees you mentioned are charged to organizations that team up with an Approved Provider to offer a course ($250) and subsequent offerings of that same course ($50 each). Those are called cooperative relationships. Approved Providers do not pay per course; only cooperative parties are charged per course/offering. Organizations offering more than 2 courses a year should apply to be an Approved Provider since it offers more financial benefits. ASHA Approved CE Providers receive discounts on mailing label and ad purchases. Approved Providers’ courses are listed free of charge on ASHA Course Search (look on asha.org and click on Find a Course).

    • http://www.graymattertherapy.com Rachel Wynn

      Ellen – Thanks for the clarification. That information is different than what I understood when I called to confirm the CE Provider fees. Thanks!

  • Patty Banas

    The yearly fee we providers pay has gone up to $700 for 2015. Other costs include the fee for the venue, coffee, tea. etc. A gallon of coffee goes for $32-38 here in WA state. There are many hidden costs. My PT friends pay much more for 1 and 2 days courses. They are often paying $400-$575 or more.