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Friday, July 27, 2007

Tuition: Some Ideas Worth Considering

A Simple Jew pointed me towards this article from the Chabad website Crown Heights Info. Based on the comments on both this article and the previous installment, it is obvious that tuition and schooling is also a hot button item in the Chabad world too.

Of the 14 ideas presented, I have re-organized them categorized them as follows:
As always, add your comments.

Worth Trying

12) A bill for the future Some schools send their non-paying families a bill each year and tell them, “This is what you owe us. When you will be in a position to give, please do.”

I find the idea of a once a year bill reminding each family of the scholarship assistance that they have received to be an excellent idea. I do not personally know of a school that reminds families of the cumulative scholarship assistance that they have received every year. But, I recently met a lady who told me how her father "repaid" ever penny (!) of assistance that she and her siblings received growing up. A tzadik gamur? Probably. Something many families could strive to do in the future? At least partially, I'd hope.

Of course there are pros and cons to every idea. In general, I believe this is a very positive idea. However, I know there are families out there for which the cumulative tuition assistance is already in the hundreds of thousands. Receiving a "bill for the future" asking that the school be highly considered for donations when the bill is $25,000 is one thing. Sending a bill for $250,000 could be considered cruel and therefore halachically problematic.

Overall, I love the idea. But, obviously a posek would need to be consulted for extraordinary situations.

13) Signed IOU Other schools take this idea even further by making parents sign an IOU to be paid if and when they “make it.”

The idea of IOU's came up in the past (see minimum tuition post). This idea has already been rolled out successful in Cincinnati. Like many other communities, Cincinnati attracts a population of young and growing families who are pursuing residencies/internships and graduate programs. They benefit from school's tuition assistance programs in the present and often leave the community before they start earning a higher or more steady income. Because of this program, Cincinnati is seeing money that probably would never have seen.

All businesses should have a present plan and a future plan, and our schools are no different. Just because they can't bring in money in the present, doesn't mean they can't bring it in the future.

Part of the Long Term Puzzle

3) Educational subsidies/foundation for scholarships within each community
4) Better fundraising /better financial management Schools need to take on the obligation to raise more money. They also should have some over site committee that takes a look from time to time to make sure they are getting the most for their dollar.
5) Better formula for how much to charge each family
6) Tzedakah and Maaser as tuition to our own institutions

The above ideas are all part of the puzzle, but I still believe that we need more central/regional umbrella organizations responsible for future development. Efforts that are localized in the offices of individual schools produce far too much duplication. Jewish education is a "going concern," but individual schools and the current models may or may not be going concerns. Few carry a customer base large enough to attract large donors and the income that can be produced from a smaller pool doesn't do enough to inspire. In addition, returns will not be seen immediately and individual schools will loose interest because of this. There are kehillah models out there (Chicago comes to mind). Each regional area really should have its own "school district," but it shouldn't have to take Mashiach to establish them.

Worth Pursuing, But We'd be Silly to Count on it
1) Vouchers for school
2) Tax credit for tuition See below for a phone call you can make to help

I am a supporter of school choice and tax benefits for the tuition paying family. But, the chances of seeing vouchers in our lifetime is so minuscule that I'm frankly getting tired of the discussion. At this point I will just say. . . . . .someone just drop me a note when the average Jewish family starts benefiting from vouchers or when a bill goes to the Senate which would allow parents to itemize private school tuition.

Already Being Done
7) If you give extra ask for a voucher give to someone else If someone does give Tzedakah to a school they should ask for a receipt that could be used as a voucher towards tuition for someone who has a child in that school.
8) Adopt a child Those who can afford to should adopt the tuition of a needy child who would otherwise lose out.
9) Home schooling This option works for some, but would be a disaster for others.
10) School coupons Have parents buy school coupons to be used in local stores so that local vendors gain and the school makes a profit
11) Charity boxes Give daily Tzedakah in the school charity box

Number 7 is probably handled best by a gemach or something similar. I've heard from a reader that Baltimore has such an organization. Donors like to feel they are "buying" something and I've seen schools collect using method 8. I'm not sure if pushkes for schools generate more money, but the reminder is helpful.

It is nice to see "homeschooling" is no longer a bad word!

Unique to Chabad
14) Worth mentioning once more Schools like Yeshivas Tzeirei Hashluchim, in Tzfas, Israel which make it possible for every family to afford tuition and especially children of Shluchim.


PsychoToddler said...

We have school choice in Milwaukee. Makes a BIG difference.

SephardiLady said...

Another reason to move to Milwaukee!

Anonymous said...

The idea of a bill every year (if worded correctly as a reminder of the scholarship given your child x number of years ago) sounds like a good idea. If 10% of the people contacted given back 10% of the costs, it recoups the money spend on it.A wealthy 90 year old recently gave 400 million to Columbia University in part beacuse of a scholarship they gave him as a 20 year old undergrad.

Halfnutcase said...

again, I say set up a community chinnuch va'ad in charge of taxing each and everysingle family in the community. These funds will pay for the education. Will young families pay extra? yes. Will older people with an empty nest pay extra? yes. Will medium age families with 12 children be paying alot less than their children should be paying in tuition? also yes. However, everyone will be one or the other, and likely the amount that they benefite will not so much outweigh what they lost in their early years and their later years.

So it should all even out. Everyone benefites, and everyone pays, each in their own particular time.

Anonymous said...

Why are you worried about yeshiva education. It is mostly a scam or run by people who could not make it doing something else.

According to halacha it is a business that can be inherited not a communal property that is run by the community.

The hanhala are in business and for the most part are trying to give what they feel is best not what is best for the students. Many administrators have hidden agendas and us parents are held hostage to these folks.


Bob Miller said...

The above comment of July 29, 2007 6:51 PM is part of our people's sickness today. No matter how badly "anonymous" may have been burned---and who's to say he really has been---he's seeing only part of the whole and is unjustly attacking many fine Jews.

SephardiLady said...

I agree with Bob Miller. . . . and my husband was one of the ones who was burned. Yet, he still received a solid education in both Torhan and General Studies and you can't dwell forever on the pitfalls.

Personally I know many, many fine people in Jewish education and only wish to see Jewish education thrive.

Ariella said...

12) A bill for the future Some schools send their non-paying families a bill each year and tell them, “This is what you owe us. When you will be in a position to give, please do.

if it is, in fact, a "bill," then it is not a donation and should not be considred any more tax deductible than regular tuition is.

On homeschooling: many Lubavitchers homeschool out of necessity because they are on shlichus somewhere with no yeshiva. Down the road, part of their mission, is to put a Jewish school together. So they are not homeschool for the same ideological reason some do. BTW I am not reporting hearsay; I have many Chabad relatives on shlichus.

PsychoToddler said...

A tax is not a bad idea but there's no real way to make it mandatory. You could tie it to synagogue membership, but many people don't pay those dues, either!

Theoretically, your local Federation should be in charge of "taxing" the Jewish community as a whole and funding needy projects. Personally, I believe tuition should be ahead of other projects, like tennis courts, family parks, and philanthropy outside of the immediate community.

But the bottom line is that the pockets are only so deep, and everybody has a hand in them.

PsychoToddler said...

Another reason to move to Milwaukee!

What was the first reason?

atuitionsolution said...

Ariella - Chabad has started a wonderful virtual yeshiva for children of shlichim. I have spoken to some about virtual secular education and they seemed extremely interested.

Anonymous said...

there is value to anonymous 6:51. many of the brooklyn-based yeshivas and chassidishe yeshivos are in fact businesses. ytt, mir, kaminetz, edison, lakewood are some examples of yeshivas where virtually every job goes to a family member, whether they are the best man for the job or not.

RAM said...

That's a far cry from what he actually accuses them of.

Halfnutcase said...

Psychotoddler, the answer is simple. Include use of local mikvot and burial in the tax.

That way there is NO way to live an orthodox life in the community without paying it. (and between the two that should cover pretty much every age range.)

(oh, and once you've gotten the schools on board be it by force of through persuasion simply deny schooling to anyone local who doesn't pay. grandkids too)

its really harsh, but that should help make sure that everyone contributes to the best of their ability. It should mean that there is ultimately more money for everyone though and that every kid gets a school to go to.

Oh, and also reduce it down to a handfull of community schools, that way funds are used more efficiently.

Anonymous said...

How about financial counseling for families? Yes, I am Jewish, and I see the value and importance and even law surrounding being fruitful and multiplying. But I do NOT see where it is okay in ones psyche to say, well, I can have 9 kids, study all day, and hope that someway eveything can work out. There has to be a more constructive way of educating people on the importance of providing for oneself...even if it means studying PART TIME. (I am not trying to be judgemental...just more realistic. I have worked in the office of a yeshiva!)

Anonymous said...

tuition is the "Final Solution"....

What the Germans couldn't achieve the high tuition will.

The average frum family cant effort to have more than 3 or 4 kids.

That's the Final solution we are imposing on ourselves!!!!

Ben Amram