The Cost of Spelling Bees

Preparing and participating in spelling bees can take numerous hours and large amounts of money throughout the years of preparation. This often is overlooked by the population that is able to participate in spelling bee’s competitively because it is a truth that they are overwhelmingly a part of higher than average socioeconomic classes.

While some people will cite that other activities can be drains for money and that nobody seems to care that they cost a lot- sports and music being examples- this is not about those activities. Words and languages are things that should be widely accessible to those that wish to learn about them. And the fact that other activities cost more money is a form of whataboutism that doesn’t do anything to account for the disparities in education that differing income levels can yield.

According to an article by TIME, a Utah survey reported that parents spend about $2,300 on sports an year. This is a relevant statistic. Barring lacrosse and hockey, the maximum amount spent on a sport was about $6,000-$9,000. The average cost of a music lesson is about $50-$80 dollars, according to this website. The average musician doesn’t have too high costs to purchase a singular instrument. Both of these are lower than the average cost of a lesson for a speller.

I believe that the ability to pay in order to receive a higher standard of learning is something that acts as a roadblock to those that are not able to access the same resources and that it is important that this issue be addressed.

While it is a little difficult to identify the cost of spelling accurately for everyone, I have done my best to provide an estimate. All of these numbers are as accurate as possible and they will vary depending on whether a student is coached or not.


Cost of Coaching
I chose to exclude the names of individual coaches but I have instead included them as numbers. These numbers were all found online through search engines and are as accurate as the websites that I found them on.

From a vast amount of research here are the rates of some coaches that I was able to find.

$215/hour (14 coaches)
$200/hour
$130/hour
$110/hour
$100/hour (2 coaches)

Average: $150
Median: $215

$75/hour (2 coaches)
$65/hour
$50/hour (2 coaches)
$35/hour
$25/hour (2 coaches)

Range: $25-$215

A small note, the cost of coaching from any one person does not at all correlate to the quality of coaching service.

The table below represents a weekly schedule of one class using the average cost per hour of coaching ($150) in a continuous year of coaching. I will approximate 50 weeks of coaching (allowing for vacations as well as missed lessons)

Years1 Coach/student2 Coaches/student
1 year$7,500$15,000
2 years$15,000$30,000
3 years$22,500$45,000
4 years$30,000$60,000
5 years$37,500$75,000
Average cost of coaching (may vary depending on coach)

While most people do have one coach- and not all spellers will be paying $150- it is in the ballpark range of how much coaching can cost a family. While I’m not disparaging either those that choose to go this route in terms of the amount they charge or even those that choose to pay, I want to call attention to the fact that spellers that are not able to pay these fees are often unable to keep up.

To those that may say that coaching is unnecessary- this is a patently untrue statement in the majority of cases. Spelling bees require a large investment of time and discipline, and it is difficult for young children to achieve this on their own. Parents that may have long work schedules are not able to provide the hours to aid students.

In this day and age, as spelling bees have grown increasingly competitive and the word difficulty has skyrocketed, many people rightfully feel that coaches are necessary to guide them in achieving their goals.



The Cost of Preparatory Material
The next cost that I have factored in is (sometimes) one off costs for preparatory materials as sifting through all 476,000+ words of the dictionary is a daunting task for anyone. These aid students in preparing for spelling bees by guiding them towards wordlists that are specifically honed. Some of these I have used, and others I haven’t used, but I’m mostly angling for an estimate.

Books:
Words of Wisdom: $46.00
Unabridged Dictionary: $30 per year
Blitz: $79 x3
Ementor: $219*
New Nat’s: $175 x4
Ementor: $219*
Verbomania: $99 x3
Words from the Champs: $30.00
How to Spell Like a Champ: $11.60
SpellPundit Annual Fee: $600
*Not factored into cost

The Cost of Preparatory Material

50 + (30*5) + 80*3 + 175*4 + 100*3 + 35 + 12 + 600*5= $4,500 (approximately)
Again, not everyone is paying this much, but the sheer cost of preparatory material is another barrier that impedes those that are unable to pay for them.


The Cost of Nationals
Now that you’ve got to Nationals, the costs don’t end there. While you can stay at nearby hotels, the cost of transportation makes up for the money saved and hotels in the region will often cost similar enough amounts.

Cost of Attending Nationals:
$400 per night (generally 5 nights)
$30 in food per day
$250 in travel per person
$60 with each additional member of the family for events
$125 for the banquet dinner
$100 in miscellaneous costs

400*5 + 30*5 + 250*4 + 60*2 + 125 + 100 = around $3200

Barring, if you did choose to RSVBee to participate at Nationals, there is an additional cost (which, once again is a barrier to low income students that want to participate in nationals)

RSVBee: $1500

A caveat, many qualifying spelling bees do pay some amount of money, but this is rarely consistent. This doesn’t account for those that qualify through the RSVBee program.

In summary, the cost of spelling bees are a barrier that disallow students that are unable to pay these amounts to receive equal opportunities in spelling bees. Even if one ignores the cost of coaching (perhaps 3 years of one coach- 22.5k), each visit to Scripps can cost upwards of 3,000 dollars.

However, for many, the costs often are outweighed by the benefits of coaching and the results that it can yield. This a not a piece claiming that either the coaching system is bad or that I am disparaging it- it is merely to bring attention to the fact that such obstacles do exist.


Word Lists + Any Way That I can Feasibly Help
I will admit that I have been able to afford coaching and materials as well as attending Scripps without any significant worry for the cost of them.

I want to make Spelling Bees and preparation more accessible for students that may not be able to afford such exorbitant costs for numerous materials. I will be taking commissions for generating wordlists as long as they are not too excessive and not too frequent at absolutely no cost. They will be posted up on my website as I receive requests. The guidelines are below. You can reach out to me through my email: siyona39@gmail.com or through the contact form on this website.

Guidelines for Requesting a Word List (please follow these so that I will be able to complete them)

– Describe the topic in as much detail as you would like and you will receive a word list with an equal amount of detail (ex: Latin words, flower words, words with roots in them, medical words, animal words)

-Indicate the level of difficulty you want them to be (School Level, County Level, Regional Level, National Level, Night Finals+)

– I will be generating lists up to 100 words.

– They will strictly be words only. I will not be providing definitions etc.

-Expect a turnaround time of a week from when I respond to the request.

Furthermore, feel free to reach out to me if you want any free resources such as Paideia, CWL, Root Word lists, etc. if you have been unable to find them.