Responding to months of criticism over increased learn-to-swim fees, the American Red Cross announced Tuesday it will significantly reduce those costs. The new pricing includes two tiers, and incentives to offer additional Red Cross training.

Starting June 1 (March 1 for those who wish to opt in early), Red Cross learn-to-swim program providers who offer the organization’s lifeguard training course will be charged an annual fee of $300 per pool property, which covers up to 150 swim lesson students. Additional students will be priced at $1 per student.

For operations that do not offer the lifeguard training, the annual fee is $350 per pool property, which covers up to 100 students. Those providers would still be charged $1 for additional students beyond what the annual fee covers.

A pool property is consider a single facility whether it has one pool or multiple pools, said Steve Glockenmeier, vice president of product development, Red Cross Preparedness Health and Safety Services.

The annual fee for both tier 1 and 2 will include learn-to-swim certificates and program marketing materials such as banners and posters (with an estimated value of at least $50). Organizations that offer other Red Cross programs also will have the opportunity to receive additional discounts through special incentives and credit. The price reduction announcement coincides with the launch of the updated Red Cross lifeguard training program.

“We want to be able to provide the best program at a price that will enable everyone to offer it,” Glockenmeier said. Any facility that can’t afford the new fees may apply for learn-to-swim scholarships. “We remain fully committed to reaching the underserved areas,” Glockenmeier added.

This new pricing replaces the existing policy of $5 per swim student, which caused significant frustration among Red Cross program providers when it was announced abruptly in June 2011. For many facilities, the announcement came in the midst of established budget cycles. Prior to that, local providers were being charged a range of prices, or nothing at all. The goal was to create a uniform system that would recoup the costs of development, Glockenmeier said.

But many agencies have been unable to meet what amounted to a significant cost increase, and providers have been struggling to find alternative options, or ways to work with the Red Cross. “We understood that for some, that was a big adjustment,” said Glockenmeier. “Some were paying nothing at all ... budgetary wise it was a very large adjustment.”

Still, the Red Cross has not been immune to the financial challenges of the recession or increasing costs. That made it necessary to change prices, said officials, including Glockenmeier and Connie Harvey, Red Cross manager of aquatics programs. Fees will go toward supporting continued development and growth of aquatics programming. That covers developments such as the expanded use of online platforms, a feature of the new lifeguard training program.

“We want to make sure … there’s reasonable expectation that you’re getting the same experience [nationwide] and that materials are reflective of the times we’re living in,” Harvey said.

The revised pricing was developed based on feedback from operators through local representatives, meetings and a December 2011 online survey, sent out in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.