Some members have inquired about the decision to increase our Exam fees this fall 2017: from $350 up to $550 for a 2-day Level Two exam, and from $550 up to $750 for a 3-day Level Three Exam (with an earlybird discount of $50 for each exam).
Last winter, the Board conducted a review of our Exam costs and expenditures, and realized unfortunately that we tend to bleed money through the Examination process. There are some obvious contributing expenses: paying Examiners, including their pre- and post-exam work, their mileage to and from the Exam site, and also because Exams rarely fill completely. Level Three Exams are particularly a challenge for us because we always have two Examiners on a L3 exam given the hazards in the class of water -- no matter how many candidates there are. Several L3 exams in recent years have run with only 2-3 candidates and 2 Examiners. A great ratio, but an expensive one. If candidates pay $550 each, this covers only half our overall costs for the exam or less. A similar yet less dramatic loss occurs at the Level Two exam level. We try to be supportive of members getting their L2 or L3 certification and will sometimes schedule last-minute exams upon request, or run an exam even when it has low registration or candidates drop out at the last minute (which happens frequently, and when there is a valid medical reason we will transfer their fees to a future exam less only an administration fee, meaning we are supporting the candidate but the cost of the exam they dropped out of increases).
Additionally, there are a lot of hidden overhead expenses in running an Exam. Administrative fees are a factor which is rarely taken in to consideration -- organizing exams, schedules, registration and paperwork takes up a lot of admin time. Our liability insurance, which is thousands of dollars per year, is not factored directly in either. Finally, in the past year the SKGABC commissioned a multi-thousand dollar review and revamping of the Examination process and we are investing additional time and resources in to the ongoing professional consistency of our Examiners and Trainers this fall.
The Board also took in to consideration the examination processes of comparable organizations, such as the ACMG, and noted that while it is a jump for our fees, examination fees for lead guide certifications in other outdoor industries are on average considerably higher than $550 and $750. We ultimately decided to make the increase in order to make the Exams break even and allow us to continue to invest in the quality of our guides. As a nonprofit, we really don't make money on the Exams, and may even still lose some on Exams that don't fill. But this will help ensure that over the course of the year things even out. We are also looking at creating some new training offerings for L2 and L3 guides who want to continue to expand their technical skills, and this is something that is actively being discussed this summer and fall.