Sunday night, I went to register for the annual ISTE conference in Chicago, excited that the conference was so close to my own home that I could drive there. Excited that I get to present on digital literacy with a powerhouse team that included Kristin Ziemke, Teri Lesene, Donalyn Miller, Sara Kajder, and Franki Siberson.
I booked my hotel a long time ago, talk about sticker shock, even with the ISTE negotiated rate, it came to $862 dollars for four nights. I knew parking would be on top of that. I knew meals would be on top of that. I knew I was looking at more than a $1,000 conference experience. A cost that I pay for myself like so many other educators. A cost that in my head I try to justify and yet it takes my breath away.
So as I went to register, the cost according to ISTE would be $565 for me. $565. …I was in shock to say the least, so I tweeted out the following
And then watched all of the comments come in; people who like me couldn’t believe the cost. People who were saddened they couldn’t go. People who told me what the cost should be.
Quickly a pattern in the conversation occurred; are conferences outpricing themselves for regular educators to attend? Is there even space for educators to come to these conferences any more or are they so outside of our ranger that our presence is no longer needed?
The following day I was contacted by ISTE who explained that part of the reason why my registration cost was so high was because of an email mistake on my end. Upon further inspection, the price for me now to attend would only be $440. But $440 for a conference registration is still a lot of money. Is still really high. And so my questioning continued.
Today I received the following email from ISTE, who once again did an awesome job of trying to be a part of the dialogue.
I hope you know how much we value educators like you here at ISTE. I have worked for ISTE for the last 13 years and wanted to personally reach out to you in response the concern you shared on Twitter.
Each year, we strive to present the highest quality professional learning experience for educators at the best value. At the scope and scale of ISTE with both educator-driven content and a robust expo, we definitely have constraints and price realities that are not a factor in more intimate venues. Still, we understand the value in having more accessibly priced options and will be introducing a series of focused regional events later in the year, that will come in at a much more modest price point.
This year, we are thrilled to be in Chicago for our annual conference, within reach of educators across the midwest — a region where we have not been in quite a while. As you might expect, hosting an event in Chicago comes with some added expenses over and above even a typical conference year. We tried to pair our pricing model up with new discounts such as a presenter discount and member loyalty discount to make attending as within reach as possible for as many as possible.
ISTE is working diligently with the host city and venues near the conference center to create the best experience at the best price possible for our educators. Air travel is less expensive in and out of Chicago (than other ISTE conference destinations), so we are hopeful that this will help offset the registration price increase for many attendees and their bottom line costs will not increase.
We also provided additional value for members and presenters, responding to requests to include as much content as possible within a single registration price, eliminating additional individual costs for workshops. We’ve added a flat fee premium registration option for pre-conference workshop content, and folded the workshop content during the main session days (M-W) into the regular program at no additional fees. We’ve also and added a full day of crowdsourced content on Sunday, and we hope this helps attendees make the very most of their time at ISTE.
I hope that by explaining a bit about the cost increases we’re up against and how we’ve tried to mitigate them, you’ll have a better understanding of the registration fees for ISTE 2018 . I understand from our registration team that the pricing you received was due to some email login confusion and that you weren’t receiving the much lower presenter pricing that you should have been. If you’re still having any issues with pricing, please let me know so I can help you get it straightened out.
Regarding education funding, at the core of our mission is advocating for ed funding at the national and state level, and in fact our CEO and chief learning officer have spent two days on the Hill in the last few weeks meeting with congressional staff to discuss the need to safeguard ed funding in the next budget, particularly for professional development. Next week we are co-hosting an Edtech Advocacy & Policy Summit brining educators together to do more of this important work.
I know you’ve been a frequent ISTE conference attendee and speaker, and that you’re also very generous in sharing your expertise for the ISTE Blog and member magazine. All of us at ISTE are extremely grateful for your dedication.
I appreciate the outreach, but I also wanted to open up this discussion to those it affects. What do you think? I sent the following response back and am still torn; can I justify a conference expense of more than $1,400 to my husband, to my kids, to myself? Why the disconnect between educators and conference pricing? Who are they really trying to get to come? Because it certainly doesn’t feel like educators like me.
I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me and explaining your philosophy and what is happening behind the scenes. I hear you, I do, but the reality is this, even with the corrected price, my hotel for 4 days is $862 – that is the ISTE negotiated rate. I can drive there, which means parking is an additional cost, as well as meals for those four days. If I eat for $40 a day, which would be a miracle in Chicago terms, I am still looking at more than $1,400 for a four-day conference experience. That is with my member and presenter discount. That is an incredible amount of money for one educator to pay to attend ISTE and that is only based on me getting discounts because of presenting and being a member. That is simply an amount that is so beyond the scope of most people’s budget, even school districts.
I get the ramifications of holding it in Chicago because it allows Midwest attendees to finally make it, but it also feels like ISTE is not as in tune with what educators need. Knowing how expensive Chicago is, the registration fee should have been lower to make up for the increase in cost of hotel and food. Creating regional events are great but will not have the same level of presenters because they will not be going at the same rate since the benefit for them is not as great as going to the national conference. I love that you are advocating on a national level, but how about implementing more steps in your own pricing as well? Could there be a discount for being an in-classroom teacher or coach? Could there be a discount for having attended multiple years? Could there be an actual presenter discount rather than just locking in early bird pricing?
I fear ISTE is losing touch with the everyday educators who are the ones creating the change. Who are the ones bringing in the tools. Who are the ones that would benefit so much from being able to attend.
This is a discussion that has taken place on both Twitter and Facebook, I am grateful for your response but also saddened at how many stellar educators even within the Chicagoland area are telling me they cannot go because of the cost.
As for me, I am still deciding. I want to go, I love ISTE which is why I put in proposals and am a member, but at the end of the day it is hard to justify that big of a cost.