Section 3: Challenges and Solutions

The purpose of this section is to describe some of the typical challenges that arise and how programs overcome those challenges. While there is never a one-size-fits-all path to overcoming challenges experienced by Higher Education Institution (HEI) tutoring partnership programs with K-12 schools, the solutions offered come from the real-world experiences of leaders that have experienced these challenges in their own contexts. The information in this section comes from interviews with leaders of higher education programs working on tutoring programs in K-12 schools.

Common challenges and suggested solutions include: 


  • Challenge: 
    • Existing HEI tutoring programs are rarely funded through significant (or any) general fund dollars from their HEI. Without a base of consistent funding, the tutoring program faces ongoing funding uncertainty which limits the ability to plan, execute, and scale effectively.
  • Solutions: 
    • Consider operating as a tutoring contractor for your local school district instead of as a volunteer organization.
      • This elicits shared funding and therefore shared responsibility for high quality programming.
      • Note: traditionally teacher candidates cannot be paid as part of their practicum, though there are examples of teacher candidates tutoring students at their practicum site. 
    • Leverage grant writing resources on campus for support with applying for funding and building capacity of staff in the tutoring program.
      • Apply for philanthropic, public service, and research grants.
      • Specifically consider work-study and AmeriCorps funding 
    • Advocate with your HEI leadership to provide base funding through the general fund to ensure program staff are able to plan and implement effectively. HEI leadership is often seeking ways to better engage and support the local community.
    • See additional funding considerations here.

Overwhelmed Systems 

  • Challenge:
  • Solutions: 
    • Use the Tutoring Quality Improvement System (TQIS) self-assessment to understand where your program can more closely align to Tutoring Quality Standards and follow the guidance provided in your self-assessment report. For specific areas of improvement, review the relevant sections of the Tutoring Toolkit and this HEI Playbook.
    • Choose one program element or standard area at a time to improve, creating opportunities for ongoing, continuous improvement. Align the areas of improvement to your other strategic priorities. 
    • Contact The National Student Support Accelerator at for additional support.
    • Engage with other HEIs to learn about their tutoring programs. 


  • Challenge:
    • Logistical challenges, including scheduling and transportation, can overwhelm leaders of programs to the point that they pause on service delivery. 
  • Solutions: 
    • Engage K-12 schools early. Programs that learn about scheduling needs in the semester prior to tutoring beginning are much more capable of ensuring tutors can attend programs.
    • Include a budget for transportation in your funding model.
    • Consider offering virtual tutoring or hybrid tutoring to lessen the burden required by transportation. 

Coordinating Multiple HEI Departments

  • Challenge: 
    • Not one HEI in these interviews operated their program through a single department at their HEI. Generally, a single department within a university does not have all the resources to deliver a high-impact, sustainable tutoring program that accomplishes the full list of benefits. Tutoring programs are typically primarily housed in one of two places on a university campus, and sometimes programs are occurring simultaneously in both places. In both models, the department is challenged by not having what the other department offers.
      • Schools of Education deploy teacher candidates to tutor K-12 students, sometimes in conjunction with their field experience placements. Their instructional resources and support for tutors are strong, but they lack the operational infrastructure and staffing necessary to create sustainable programs with deeper connections to the university. 
      • Volunteer or Community Support Offices hire tutors through work-study and/or other student employment funding sources to work with students in K-12 schools. Their operational infrastructure to hire tutors and connect them with the broader K-12 system is stronger, but they lack the instructional resources and subject matter expertise to ensure tutors deliver high-quality instruction to students. 
  • Solutions:
    • Consider fostering a formal partnership across the School or Department of Education and Volunteer or Community Support Office at your HEI to maximize available resources. 
      • Fulfill instructional functions through the school or department of education.
      • Fulfill operational functions through the volunteer or community support office. 
    • If your HEI does not have both of these functions on campus, consider extending the partnership to a neighboring HEI that does have the function your institution does not have.