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Cost Comparison of Learning for Life and Commercial Curriculum Supplement Programs for Inner City Youth

January 10, 2006

I have reviewed a wide variety ofprograms directed at improving the academic plight of inner city youth. Programs sponsored by federal and state agencies as well as programs offered by a large number of non-profit organizations supplement the public schools with special activities after school, on weekends and during the summer months.I found two commercial training firms that offer curriculum supplements that compare with Learning for Life. Learning for Life is clearly the "benchmark" among these curriculum supplement programs. It is by far the largest program in terms of the number of students enrolled. It has been used for fourteenyears. Commercial competitors' programs cost up tofour timesas much as L4L.


Learning for Life was introduced by the BSA in 1991 as a "charitable program" to benefit inner city youth who would not otherwise benefit from being in the Scouts. From its inception, L4L has been a "classroom program," with program elements being woven into the regular curriculum. L4L was developed using (tax-free) donations from the public. It is maintained today by the same (tax-free) donations. It generates (tax-free) income from the sale of licenses to schools, from the sale of program materials and from an annual registration fee. Schools spend roughly $12.50 per year per student tolicense L4L.

Phillip Roy is a commercial training company that sells a wide variety of products for use in schools. "Life Skills Online School" is a curriculum supplement program for middle and high schools. The annual license fee for this course is roughly $21.40 per student per year, 70% more than the license fee forL4L. Character Development Systems,LLC is another training company that develops curricula for public schools. They offer a curriculum supplement program titled "Social Responsibility Training" that is to be used in elementary, middle and high schools. It does not charge a licensefee, but requires that each participant use a special workbook. The cost of these workbooks is about $47.50/yr,nearly four times the license fee for L4L.At least you have the workbook to use.

L4L was developed and continues to be maintained by (tax-free) donations.The profits from L4Lare likewise tax-free since the BSA is a registered non-profit organization. It should come as no surprise that it can beat commercial vendors. After all, they must pay development costs using investor dollars, not donations.They also must pay taxes on theirlicense fees and the materials they sell.Someone should contact the appropriate law enforcement agencysuch that they can investigate what maywell be illegal competition by the BSA with commercial training companies.

Detailed Description of"Life Skills Online School" Offered by Phillip Roy (

"Life Skills Online School" consists of 150 lesson segments. These are accompanied by online exercises. These 150 lesson segments are to be integrated with conventional curriculum items at the middle school and high school levels at the discretion of the teacher. Phillip Roy charges a "start-up fee"of $3795 for a school to use this program. This covers lesson plans for the teacher along with 77 sets of workbooks and CD-ROMs for students along with the initial year license. Payment of the licenseunlocks access to the online resources forthe teacher and all students in the school. There is no restriction on the number of classes or students in the school who may use the program. After the first year, Phillip Roy chargesa license fee of $1250/year to continue using theprogram. The school is allowed to make unlimited copies of both the workbook and CD-ROM for its students.

In order to compare the cost of "Life Skills Online School" to the cost of L4L, I applied the same proration factors that I used to analyze the L4L cost structure. (Details available for those who are into details.) I further assumed that a school could use this program for five years before it became obsolete. I distributed the start-up fee over those five years to come up with an average licensing feeon a "per student per year" basis. The annual licensing fee on this basis is $21.36/student/year. Note that this is anestimate that was based on the same proration assumptions that went into the analysis of L4L. The actual licensing fee would depend on the number of students in the school, in the same way that the actual licensing fee for L4L depends on the number of classes inthe school.

This is a "canned course." By that I mean that it is offered "as is." Phillip Roy does not offer teacher training, and the teacher is given no real guidance as to how and in which grade the material is to be used. The course offers nothing for the elementary grades.

Detailed Description of "Social ResponsibilityTraining"Offered by Character Development Systems, L.L.C.

I contacted Dr. Lane Lasater, President of CDS, and asked for details regarding their SocialResponsibility Training program.Shedescribed it as a curriculum supplement program with specific segments directed to each grade of elementary, middle and high school. I asked her to compare it to L4L. She wasn't familiar with L4L, but took the time to review their online presentation. She said that the two programs looked comparable, although she couldn't be certain without a detailed review of their materials. CDS does not charge a license fee. It does require participants to use their workbooks,that cost $21/semester. In addition, they require teachers who use the program to participate in a 3-day training seminar that costs $550.

In order to compare the cost of "Social Responsibility Training" to the cost of L4L, I assumed that a school could use this program for five years before it became obsolete. I further assumed that a teacher wouldhave a class of 20 students. This permits averaging the cost of teacher training over the five year life of the course. This results in an average cost ofworkbooks of $47.50/student/year. This fee coversthe license fee for the course and the actual publication cost of the workbook. If one further considers the latter cost to besmall, the licensing cost is ~$47.50/student/yr.

Of the two commercial products, this one appears to be closest to L4L in terms of content and approach. It's obviously the most expensive as well.

Materials Offered by Other Non-Profit Organizations

A vast number of non-profit organizations offer programs for inner city youth. Most are programs offered after school, on weekends and during the summer. A couple of these organizations offer materials that can be used in the classroom. The materials are not comprehensive, however. In addition, it was not my intention to review all offerings only those commercial offerings that were similar to L4L.

Programs Offered by the Federal Government

The federal government offers more than twentyprograms for inner city youth. The Department of Education offers the TRIO program. TRIO is actually three programs.Talent Search serves the needs of elementary school children; Gear Up addresses primarily middle school kids; Upward Bound deals with high school students. The objective of all three programs is to keep kids in school and to prepare them for college or vocational education. Talent Search served 382,541 elementary school children in 2004; Gear Up served 1,400,000 middle school students in 2004; Upward Bound served 62,000 high school students in 2004. Thus, the number of students served by the TRIO programs isabout the same as are served by L4L. The average cost of these grant programs in 2004 was $40 per student per year. These programs are not viewed as a clear alternative toL4L since none of them are comprehensive classroom programs.

Impact of the "Registration Fee" Charged by the BSA

The BSA charges each student in L4L a $10/yr registration fee. This is the same fee charged those who participate in the Traditional Scouting Program. This fee can be viewed intwo ways. First, it can be viewed as an "administrative fee" to cover record keeping expenses. For L4L that will include maintaining class registers and records of those who complete the program. It will also include keeping track of graduates to see how many go on to advanced studies. This is an important statistic for sales purposes. The second way on can view this fee is to call it a "hidden license fee." If one does this, the Phillip Roy courseis now competitive with L4L on a "cost basis." The CDS course is still much more expensive than L4L.


I believe that this information supports the contention that the BSA, a non-profitorganization, is competing withfor-profit corporations. This is clearly illegal. The L4L programcannot be offered as a licensed program by the BSA.

Scouting for All Researcher




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