How to Find Free or Low-Cost Tutoring

Teacher helping child with work in class
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Tutoring services are a great way to supplement your child's education and help them succeed academically. But because many private tutors and corporate tutoring companies can get expensive, parents often assume that tutoring is not an option for their family. However, finding affordable—and sometimes even free—tutoring is easier than you might imagine.

In fact, some school districts even provide free tutoring options. This is especially important if your child is struggling in school or has learning disabilities. But do you know how to find these free and low-cost tutoring options? Find out everything you need to know to find low-cost tutoring services for your child. 

Benefits of Tutoring

When it comes to tutoring, there are many reasons a parent might want to find a tutor for their student. For instance, some parents lack the time or feel unprepared to help their children with their schoolwork, especially as they get into more advanced classes. Meanwhile, other parents find that their kids are more receptive to addressing their academic struggles with another person.

Plus, there are a number of other benefits to working with a tutor. For instance, tutors can help kids with subject comprehension, reinforce important concepts, boost self-confidence, encourage organization, and help kids build important study skills.

Tutoring also provides students with individualized attention and helps reinforce material and concepts for those who struggle to keep up or need more in-depth instruction and practice than their teacher provides.

More Tutoring Benefits

  • Offers kids an opportunity to learn at their own pace
  • Allows them to spend more time on concepts they find challenging
  • Improves study habits and organizational skills
  • Promotes retention and provides additional opportunities for practice
  • Improves academic performance
  • Builds self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Helps kids become independent thinkers
  • Promotes critical thinking and reasoning skills
  • Puts kids in charge of their own learning process
  • Supports in-class learning by supplementing what is done at school

It's important to remember, though, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to tutoring. Every student has different needs and challenges. So it's crucial that you keep these things in mind when looking for a tutor or a tutoring service. What's more, almost every student benefits from tutoring—even kids who do well in school benefit from the extra help that tutoring provides.

Free Tutoring Services

When it comes to tutoring, many parents often assume that they simply cannot afford the extra help. But under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), low-performing and low-income schools were required to provide free tutoring services to children who qualified.

Although the NCLB was phased out in 2015, it was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which allows individual states to make decisions regarding school education plans and tutoring. This means that your school hasn't necessarily stopped offering free tutoring for students.

Ask your school's administrators if they provide any free tutoring sessions to students. Your child's school might have access to other funding that allows it to provide free tutoring. Some teachers even provide free assistance for their current students through office hours and weekly drop-in sessions. In addition to talking with administrators about tutoring, ask your child's teacher if extra help is available.

If the school doesn't provide tutoring, churches and community-based organizations may be your next step. Some may provide tutoring at little to no cost.

Likewise, some after-school programs like those provided by the YMCA and other similar organizations offer homework help and group tutoring. Libraries are another great resource for free tutoring help. Many locations have homework help centers where kids can get assistance with their schoolwork from adult librarians or volunteers.

Low-Cost Tutoring Programs

If you cannot find a free tutoring service that's right for your family, or if your child doesn't qualify for free tutoring, you may want to look into paid options. Some of them are actually quite affordable.

Online Tutoring

For instance, online tutoring has emerged as a low-cost option that families are making use of. Plus, online tutoring services tend to be more flexible and require less of a time commitment for families.

Because online tutoring services often can be accessed from home, this allows parents the option to do other things rather than provide transportation to and from tutoring.

Additionally, some of the online tutoring available is extremely affordable, even for families that are on tight budgets. For instance, Chegg, an online tutoring service, provides online chat sessions for as low as $7. For $15 a month, parents can get unlimited chat sessions for their kids. For kids who need a little more interaction with a tutor, Chegg offers up to 60 minutes of video tutoring a month for $30.

College students majoring in education or those who are academically gifted in a particular subject are another great option for low cost tutoring. For as little as $15 to $25 per hour, you can get a student to tutor your child. What's more, your child may be able to relate with a college student more easily than an older adult.

Small Groups

Another low-cost option is to pool resources with other parents and hire a tutor to help a small group of students with a particular subject. For instance, three or four parents might go together to hire a math tutor for their students. Then, the students work in a small group with the tutor.

If the tutor charges $50 an hour, each student would potentially pay $12.50. Be sure to OK the arrangement with the tutor first, though. Some tutors have limits on the number of students they will take at one time, or they may already have an established fee per student for group tutoring.

Still, it's worth looking into, especially if the tutor comes highly recommended. Just remember, it's a group session, so your student won't receive much individual help or instruction.

What to Look For

When looking for a tutor, you should consider a number of different variables before making your decision. Start by determining the type of help your child needs as well as how much time and money you have to devote to getting extra help. Knowing what you need ahead of time will help you filter out options that don't help your child meet their goals.

Here are some other things you may want to consider when looking for a tutor or tutoring program. Keep in mind that not every tutor or service will have all of these characteristics. Instead, prioritize which things are most important to you and look for a tutor or tutoring service that meets your family's needs.

Key Characteristics

  • Offers quality tutoring in a location that is convenient for your family
  • Evaluates your student to determine their skill level
  • Communicates with your child's school or teacher (with your permission) to ensure their methods align with classroom expectations
  • Develops unique learning goals for your child
  • Works with your child to determine which strategies are helpful and which ones are not
  • Meets the instructional needs of children with behavior problems or learning disabilities
  • Implements effective behavior strategies to motivate the kids they are tutoring
  • Shares progress reports with you on a consistent basis
  • Maintains the qualifications or certifications you are looking for
  • Provides references or comes highly recommended by other families
  • Meets your child's needs and encourages your child to take responsibility for their learning
  • Creates a safe, fun, and supportive environment where your child improves academically
  • Provides a real-time tutor to guide your child (if you are considering online tutoring)

Overall, you should choose a tutoring program that offers the best tutoring at the best price to ensure that you can maximize the help your child is receiving. Also, find ways to supplement your child's tutoring experience.

For instance, look for books, videos, hands-on materials, learning games, physical activities, and other fun activities that help your child learn and retain different concepts. Ask the tutor for recommendations or talk to your child's teacher. Anything you can do to help your child succeed will be worth the extra effort in the end.

Making the Right Decision

Of course, finding the right tutor for your child may take some trial and error. Not only do you have to consider your family's budget, but you need to be sure the tutor you select will help your child meet their goals and can provide the correct instruction and guidance.

Likewise, a good tutor will be able to connect with your child and adjust their tutoring approach to meet your child's needs. Sometimes, though, you won't know whether the tutoring relationship is a good fit until your child has worked with the tutor a few times.

Allow the tutor to work with your child for few sessions before determining whether or not it's a good fit for your family. They need time to get to know your child, determine their learning style, and develop some techniques to help them succeed.

Also, make sure you have realistic expectations. Tutors are meant to help and guide your student. But your student still needs to do the work.

If your child is not putting in the effort needed to improve their grades, having a tutor will be of little benefit. So, make sure your student is taking the tutoring seriously and doing what's asked of them.

You also may want to ask the tutor to give you regular updates on how they think your child is doing and where they could improve. Additionally, it may be helpful to let the tutor know upfront that you are going to try out their services for a few weeks and see if you notice any improvement in your child's knowledge or grades. This way, they are aware that you're not making a long-term commitment to use their services until you both determine if it's a good fit.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to selecting a tutor, it's important to be patient throughout the process. Instilling new concepts and correcting poor study skills takes time. So don't expect changes right away. Be patient with both the tutor and your child.

Also, resist the urge to fire your tutor or give up before you've even given the process a chance. Unless there is an obvious personality conflict, it's best to give tutoring some time to have an impact on your child's performance.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Education. No Child Left Behind.

  2. The Health Impact Project. The Every Student Succeeds Act creates opportunities to improve health and education at low performing schools. August 2017.

  3. Moliner L, Alegre F. Effects of peer tutoring on middle school students' mathematics self-concepts. PLoS ONE. 2020;15(4):e0231410. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0231410

  4. The Princeton Review. Why choose online tutoring vs in-person tutoring?.

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.