Sliding Scale Guide

The following has been adapted from this article by Alexis J. Cunningfolk, and sliding scale models put out by the nonprofit organizations, Embracing Equity, Both/And, and AORTA. Sliding scale models such as these invite individuals to move away from binary thinking to lean into the responsibility and vulnerability of their intersectional power identities. 

Reduced Rate

Consider this Rate if you:

  • Earn below $25k, or are experiencing unemployment without support or disability benefits.
  • Qualify for public assistance.
  • Work in marginal or criminalized sectors, not by choice.
  • Your family holds minimal to no assets, or more debt than assets.
  • Occasionally support your family of origin or chosen family with basic living expenses.
  • Lack family support or are the sole support for dependents.
  • Face substantial debt from everyday expenses or have considerable medical or immigration-related costs.
  • Are an elder with limited income, an underpaid community organizer, or face employment challenges due to incarceration history.
  • Encounter discrimination impacting your income, are indebted from education as a first-generation college student, or have historical roots in marginalized communities.

This rate supports individuals frequently struggling to meet basic needs or navigating a financial crisis.

Standard Rate

Opt for this Rate if you:

  • Earn an annual income between $25-40k and are employed.
  • Are single and/or have no dependents.
  • Can manage student loan payments comfortably, whether currently repaying or already cleared.
  • Benefit from employer health insurance and/or other employment benefits.
  • Have reliable daily transportation.
  • Can afford to take time off work for illness or leisure without jeopardizing your financial stability.
  • Have the capacity to handle unexpected travel needs, such as family emergencies.
  • Are connected to inherited wealth or have had significant access to wealth.
  • Your family owns significant assets, some fully paid off (investments, property).
  • Have had your education or living expenses (rent/mortgage) substantially funded by others.
Additionally, this rate is appropriate if you are sponsored by a small nonprofit organization or small company to take the course.

The standard rate is the foundational cost of the course. 

This rate is designed for those who generally meet their basic needs with some room for discretionary spending.

Redistribution Rate

This rate is for you if you:

  • Earn above $40k and are gainfully employed.
  • Own your home or have significant investments, including retirement savings or inherited wealth.
  • Enjoy leisure travel/travel for recreation.
  • Have access to family resources in times of need.
  • Choose part-time work or are pursuing full-time education by choice.
  • Possess a high degree of potential earning power through education, privilege, or other advantages, even if not fully utilized.
  • Have family educational background and manage student loans with relative ease.
This rate and/or the patron rate apply if you are sponsored by a large nonprofit or a for-profit business or organization.

This rate is for those comfortably exceeding their basic needs with ample discretionary funds, who can thus contribute towards equitable economic distribution.

Patron Rate

Embrace this rate if you:

  • Enjoy a high income, privilege, and access, above the Redistribution Rate thresholds.
  • Are passionate about supporting the course’s mission and enabling broader access for those at the Reduced Rate.
  • Wish to actively participate in redistributing wealth and breaking down economic barriers within our community.
  • Understand the value of investment in social justice, education, and community support, and seek to lead by example.
  • Are able to contribute well beyond the cost of the course, offering substantial support to the course’s sustainability and its goals of inclusivity and equity.
This rate and/or the redistribution rate apply if you are sponsored by a large nonprofit or a for-profit business or organization.

This rate is a call to those who are in a position of significant economic advantage and wish to act as patrons of the course, helping to spread the work and support others. It’s a testament to a commitment towards creating a more equitable and just society by leveraging one’s own resources and privileges.

“[A sliding scale] is intended to be a map, inviting each person to take inventory of their financial resources and look deeper at their levels of privilege or systemic barriers. It is a way to challenge the classist and capitalistic society we live in and work towards economic justice as a community. The goal is to create an organization where everyone is able to fully participate and the organizers are compensated fairly.” —Little Red Bird Botanicals

“At the end of the day, the sliding scale thrives on trust. Trust is a pretty amazing thing. I trust you to be honest in your assessment of your economic reality. Since the sliding scale is a tool of accountability, it is an ongoing conversation and I remain committed to helping folks figure out how to talk about their own economic experiences, since it has been such a helpful language to learn on my own journey.” –Alexis J. Cunningfolk, Worts & Cunning Apothecary

“If it feels uncomfortable, it should. Our discomfort is required for justice.” –