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The value of an ASL sign:

[The actual cost of taking an ASL class]

When teaching ASL I find it is helpful if my students have a genuine appreciation for the value of what they are learning.

Have you ever thought about what a "sign" is worth?|

I realize that many students are taking classes from underpaid community education instructors, but for now let's take a look at the college environment. Have you considered how much it costs a typical student to be sitting in a college ASL class? 

I figured it out one day.  For a three semester-credit-hour course at a typical state university you are going to pay about $200 in tuition.  Some universities it is lower, some it is much higher. For example, at Sac State it costs around $485 if you take ASL 1 through the College of Continuing Education. 

But let's stick with the lower number of "$200." Then add in all of the other fees wrapped up in attending college:

Tuition: $198
Student Service Fee:  $45
Student Center Fee: $15
Health Center Fee: $15
Property Deposit $10  (Huh? I saw this and wondered when do I get back my "deposit."  I'll ask someday. But it is actually listed in the fee schedule I'm looking at as I type this up.)
Computer Use Fee: $15
Library Use Fee: $12
Then add in 15 trips to and from school at 30 cents a mile (yes I know the government rate is higher) for 10 miles to and 10 miles from school times 15 costs around $90
Parking sticker: $10  (Yes, it normally costs more than $10 but divide by two or three because it is just one semester.)
Paper: $1
Pen: $1
Textbook: $38

Total:  $450.00

I've had some experience with both semester and quarter systems.  Most "semester-long courses are going to involve about 15 weeks of instruction.  A one semester-credit-hour course will have approximately 15 contact hours of instruction.  Of that 15 hours, the first hour is invested passing out the syllabus and getting to know your students. You spend another hour on the midterm, and another on the final (if not the actual final...then the "review" for the final). So you might get 12 actual teaching hours with the students.  Of that you really only have 50 minutes because of the 10 minute period between classes. So make that a total of 10 teaching hours in a one semester-credit-hour course.  A three semester-credit-hour course will get you a bit higher percentage of classroom-contact-hour teaching time. If you stay focused you'll have at least 38 and maybe 40 hours to actually teach something. that 40 hours of instruction you are also going to need to let the students do some in-class practicing.  Realistically you are going to be able to cover 400 to 600 signs.  The larger the class, the lower the number of signs you will get around to teaching.  If you aren't teaching fingerspelling, numbers, non-manual markers, various adverbial inflections, ASL grammar, and so forth, you can teach about 20 signs per hour.  If you ARE teaching all of the goodies, having daily quizzes, throwing in a bit of history and culture, modeling the signs, providing guided practice (at the front of the class while you watch or interact), giving them small group practice time, and letting them ask whatever questions they have, ("What's a TTY?") then you are going to get through 10 to 15 signs per hour (in a beginning level course).  And that's okay!  That's the way it should be!  Thoroughly covering 400 to 500 signs during a course is much better than doing a slipshod job of covering 800 to 1000 signs.  For example, suppose you are teaching from the text "Learning American Sign Language" by Tom Humphries and Carol Padden.  That book has around 900 signs in it.  You need at least six semester hours properly teach that book.  Typically you'd break it into two semesters at 3 credit-hours per course and around 450 signs per course.

Now let's tie that into our earlier discussion of how much it is costing these students to learn ASL.
Tuition, fees, and incidentals per course:  $450
Approximate number of signs learned per course:  450

Cost per sign:  $1

If you think the amount "$1 per sign" is still too high, then you might also want to consider "opportunity cost."  That refers to the cost of "lost" opportunities that the student could be engaging in rather than taking your ASL course.  They could be out earning money at a job instead of sitting in your class. They could have earned $10 an hour just flipping burgers, but instead they miss out on that $10 because they are taking your class. Actually they miss out on more than that because you need to figure in the "opportunity cost" the of travel and "homework" time in addition to the hour spent in class.

During class each time you demonstrate a sign to your students an opportunity for them to receive the product for which they (and/or their parents and/or the taxpayer) have already paid.

Every time I wave my hands in the air to these students it is costing them a buck!  (And that's if they are "A" students and learn every sign.)  Suppose a "less skilled" student only learns only 75 percent of the signs taught in class? That person ends up paying $1.33 per sign.