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More About the Calculator



The Back on Track Cost Calculator enables schools and programs to make more informed decisions about the resource and funding allocation necessary to operationalize the three phases of the Back on Track Through College model.

The cost calculator is a multi-purpose tool. It is designed to assess actual costs or projected costs, to assist organizations planning to start a new program, and existing programs wishing to expand its programming by adding Postsecondary Bridging and First-Year Support phases.


The cost calculator includes the data generated from our average cost model for diploma granting Back on Track programs, which you as the user are free to edit in order to more accurately reflect your program’s unique cost profile.


The cost calculator provides the user with additional analytic information through an administrative dashboard that disaggregates program costs by partners, and allows users to assess resource allocation according to the different cost categories. 



Major Assumptions Underlying the Diploma-Granting Cost Model (click to view)


  • Based on an annual per student cost for each of the three phases the model.
  • All three-phases of the model are fully operational during a 12-month period. (i.e, school has students engaged in enriched prep, postsecondary bridging and first year supports).

The Three-Phases:

  • Enriched preparation and first year supports operate on the academic calendar year for diploma-granting.
  • For GED programs, delivery of the three phases is more flexible, although aligned with schedules of postsecondary partners.
  • Postsecondary bridging costs assume a three-month engagement, although different students may be participating in postsecondary bridging at various times during the year.


  • A student: teacher ratio of 20:1 and that salaries are based on certified instructor.
  • A student-counselor ratio of 50:1 for students in all three phases.

Indirect Staffing Cost Allocations:

  • A 70-20-10 percent allocation across all administrative in all three phases.

Postsecondary Partnership Contributions:

  • 30% reduction in tuition for dual enrollment courses
  • Additional fees waived
  • Limited administrative staff time to support the partnerships
Instructions For Using the Calculator
Key Things to Know about the Calculator (click to view)

Here are a couple of pointers to consider when using the calculator:



Pre-Populated Cells and Manual Entry. The cost model is pre-populated with information from the average diploma granting and GED models. As a user of the tool, you have the choice to use the current estimates or to use your own cost figures. 


Blank Cells. The calculator also allows you to delete the average cost and leave the cell blank. Any number of cells may be left blank.


Adding Staff. Users can add staff by clicking on the add item budget found at the end of staff listings


Scrollovers. Users can access descriptions of the corresponding budget line item by clicking on a  help button  embedded throughout the calculator.


Dropdowns.  The right triangle denotes a cost category that expands to show a list of itemized cost options the user can amend to reflect the realities of their programs.


Design of the Calculator (click to view)


The Back on Track Cost Calculator is divided into three major parts--Base Data, Staffing Costs, and Expenses.

Base Data:

  • Enter student enrollment data for each of the three phases: Enriched Preparation, Postsecondary Bridging, and First-Year supports.
  • Enter the allocations of time for indirect (administrative) staffing across the three phases. The average cost model assumes an allocation of 70%-20%-10%. You may change these to whatever percentages align best with your programming. 
  • Enter staff benefits as a percentage of salary.

Staffing costs:

  • All staffing information for the different phases is entered in the ‘Staffing Costs’ section of the tool. As guidelines, please note the following when you input your program’s data:
    • Full Time Employee (FTE) Allocations. For employees that are not full time, please enter the proportion of time worked by that employee during a year. For example, if a “nurse” only works one day each week, then enter 0.2. 
    • Indirect Staffing: Administrative (Parent Organization). The calculator provides you with the option to enter costs for staff provided by your parent organization; that is, district, charter management or community based organization. 
  • Each broad category under the staffing (in bold) subsection expands to show you specific staff positions incorporated into the cost model. These categories are:
    • Indirect Staffing
    • Indirect Staffing—Administration; and
    • Indirect Staffing—Administrative (Parent Organization)
    • Direct Staffing
    • Direct Staffing—Teachers;
    • Direct Staffing--Others; and
    • Direct Staffing-Community College Provided
  • The average cost model for Back on Track Designs assumes a student-teacher ratio of 20:1 and a student-counselor ratio of 50:1 for students in all three phases.
  • All instructors in diploma-granting model are assumed certified; GED instructors are not.
  • The average cost model assumes that teachers spend 95% of their time in Enriched Prep and 5% in Postsecondary Bridging, but you can change these to reflect the realities of your program.


This section of the Back on Track Cost Calculator captures additional expenses (dual enrollment, transportation, assessment fees, etc.) incurred by the model.

  • Each category under the expenses (in bold) subsection expands to show the services embedded in the average cost model. These expense categories are:
    • Student Support Expenses (Transportation, Student Incentives, and Dual Enrollment);
    • Professional Development Expenses;
    • Facilities Expenses;
    • Supplies Expenses; and
    • Miscellaneous Expenses.
  • Under the “Student Support Expenses” category, data is entered based on the number of students receiving those services, and the per-student cost incurred by the program or the parent organization, i.e., the charter management organization, the district, or the postsecondary partners.
  • Student transportation is usually paid for by the parent organization for the Enriched Prep phase only. Some programs also cover the cost during the Postsecondary Bridging phase.
  • Student Incentives, offered by several Back on Track designs, include basic materials and services required to succeed in college (e.g., transportation to the postsecondary institution, textbooks, technology, emergency assistance, etc) to motivate students to complete a postsecondary program.

Interpreting Your Results

Budget Results (click to view)

Under the Budget Results, the user will get a high-level summary of program expenses per phase, and per-student costs per phase.

Summary of Program Costs, By Partner (click to view)

The calculator disaggregates costs by the parent organization (District, Charter Management or Community Based Organization) and community college. The data you entered in “Indirect Staffing: Administrative (Parent Organization)” and “Direct Staffing--Community College” is aggregated, analyzed and reported in this section of the administrative dashboard.

Administrative Dashboard (click to view)

The administrative dashboard draws on data from the cost calculator to provide student-staff ratio, average salaries of teachers and professional development, and a summary of program cost by line items.

Calculator FAQs

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