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Sunday, November 25, 2007

JO Review: Tuition Vs. Vacation

In the last post I looked at Rabbi Shmuel Feust's answer on tuition vs. camp, where camp was deemed a necessity. The second question posed to him at the Agudah convention Tuition Forum is as follows.

Question: Can a person who doesn't pay full tuition take a vacation?

Answer: In one community, the tuition committee monitors all the parents--when they go on vacation, where they go, what type of hotel they stay in. The following year, the interviewer can tell them how much they spent on their vacation.

"Vacation" may mean going out of town for a couple of days, or it could mean taking a trip to Eretz Yisroel, Acapulco, Florida, or Palm Springs. The tuition committee would have a basis to say that you have no right to take such a vacation unless you pay full tuition. If however, you wanted to go to the mountains and stay in a bungalow colony for a week or two for health reasons or change of scenery, that may well be different.

I see value in taking low-key family vacations to national parks or historical sites. I personally have no interest in vacationing with the neighbors be it in Acapulco or in a bungalow colony. But that is neither here or there.

The Rabbi was very vague with his answer. I imagine that is because vacations are abused and there are sometimes cases where families need a break and it is affecting shalom bayit. However, I can't understand why sleepaway (not day) camp would get a "yes," while taking a low-key family vacation gets a luke warm "maybe."

There really should be a guide for applying for tuition reductions that lets you know when you should just forget about it and lets you know what type of expenses you are allowed to make should you apply. Maybe one could trade camp reductions for tuition of x dollars for lesser amount to take a road trip to a national park and camp out in Motel 6's along the way?

14 comments:

David said...

This is a sign of the messed up incentives: right now, tuition is very high, and oodles of people get reduced rates for submitting to intrusive examinations. The small number of full tuition children make up the difference for all of the reduced tuition children.

Wouldn't it be better overall for tuition to be lower, and then have fewer discounts? That way, a smaller percentage of the community would need to ask for tzedukah...

HearingLawyer said...

SL-
I think you said it yourself with the difference between camp and vacation - there is no brightline test for determinig what is low key and what isn't, so RSF couldn't give an absolute answer. Also, it could be that given the long summer break, RSF views being in a camp environment as being a bigger deal than taking a vacation (i.e., not being in camp could cause greater harm than not taking a vacation). Just a thought.

Here is one thing I don't understand at all, though. How does someone ask a shaila about whether they can take a deduction on tuition for anything? Isn't it a contractual matter between the school and parent? Notwithstanding what RSF said, can't the school take the position that is not a matter of halacha?

miriamp said...

Vacation, vacation... what's a vacation?

But really, this goes in line with a previous discussion about how can you have savings tucked away and yet not pay full tuition? How can you have a 401K and yet not pay full tuition? How can you send your kids to camp, take a vacation, etc.

From my perspective, a lot of it is really none of the tuition committee's business to tell you how to spend the rest of your money, but on the other hand, they do need some way of figuring out whether a given family "deserves" a scholarship. Providence has a third party company collect information on a standard form, and then they have some sort of formula that accounts for family size, etc. There might be something on there about camp, but there is nothing about vacations. They don't ask if you had any serious heating/plumbing issues or had to have the asbestos removed or the electricity rewired in your home.

They throw the numbers they collect into a blender, umm, the formula, come out with a tuition amount that you pay, and then you get to decide whether you'll paint the house, fix the leaky pipe, take a vacation, pay for summer camp or put food on the table with what's left over. If you make bad decisions, you either starve or your credit card debt increases.

(And as a side note, no, I also don't send my kids to camp. When the local boys' day camp director called to find out if I'd be sending my son, I told him that since I'm home anyway, I was saving my money for tuition. He's a Rebbe at the school, and I think this is his summer parnassa... but I have to think of my own family's finances first. The girls' camp may be similar, and some high school girls usually run a preschool/younger grades camp, but again, I'm saving my dollars for tuition.)

Mike S. said...

On the other hand, as a full tuition payer and small time yeshivah/day school donor (I expect to donate more when I stop paying so much tuition), I don't want to see those who need help reduced to complete penury before getting a scholarship. On the other hand, I must confess to a certain amount of unhappiness when I hear that my children's friends' new car, vacation, toy, bat mitzvah party or so on of which my kids are jealous and about which they are upset when I tell them we can't afford to match said luxury are associated with friends whose parents have told me of their generous scholarships.

I don't mind paying my bills, and I want to be charitable, but sometimes I feel like a sucker.

aryeh-baltimore said...

Mike S. I hate to grossly generalize, but from talking to people, I've found that the BT's tend to be the suckers, while the FFB's know how to work the system. Most BT's I know are sweating how much frum life costs, and FFB's (even those with jobs) never seem to have issues. Talking to them, I find that most FFB's know how much tuition they need to pay to keep the schools off their backs, but they think full tuition is a joke that nobody really takes seriously.

Also, FFB's are connected to the community, often with extended family, so the school won't ostracize them for not paying the full amount. BT's are on the edges of any community, with no family support structure, so schools think they can rough them up for money. There's also an assumption in the FFB world that BT's are wealthy (since they went to college), and that the parents of BT's are not only extremely wealthy, but all too happy to help pay for tuition.

HearingLawyer said...

Aryeh-
I'm not sure if you intended this or not, but your comment comes across as a negative stereotyping of FFB's as being crafty and scheming people who "work the system" to the detriment of BT's (who are naive and clueless), and, frankly, sounds a little ridiculous to me. Also, your statement that "[t]here's also an assumption in the FFB world that BT's are wealthy (since they went to college), and that the parents of BT's are not only extremely wealthy, but all too happy to help pay for tuition" is more than a little ridiculous. What could you possibly be basing this statement on? Talking to a few people? I am FFB (as are most of my friends) and I have never ever heard anthing like this being said. Frankly, if anything I have heard the opposite (i.e., people understand that BT's sometimes have little to do with their parents and/or that they gave up a lot, such as a career, in order to become frum). I am sorry if I sound harsh, but your comment seems like nothing more than an attempt to insult just about everyone and drive a wedge between people who are fortunate to be FFB or those who are even more fortunate to have the z'chus of being a Baal Tshuva.

SephardiLady said...

I don't know that this is a BT vs. FFB issue. (There are marriages between BTs and FFBs also). Most FFBs, as well as most BTs, I know are worried about how to finance education. Some of them just assume that scholarships will be available. Others have found out it ain't so easy. And I know few BT kids whose parents expect to be paying their children's bills after they get married.

Miriam-I will be getting to retirement in two more posts because that was the final question posed. I will save what I have to say for that post.

Anonymous said...

"oodles" - I guess thats frumspeak for "many" (I have never heard that word outside the frum community)- receive scholarships - try getting one in Bergen County, NJ

Tamiri said...

I have never heard the FFB vs. BT issue. However, for some reason, it "seems" that in the MO schools my kids attended, the families who leaned more towards Conservadox were wealthier than the MO. Just a generalization, perhaps this is what Aryeh meant? We used to joke that they could make more since, um, the day of rest wasn't always pure rest....

Dave in DC said...

I would never allege any FFB conspiracy on tuition, but I think Aryeh makes a valid (if provocative) point in the perspective differential between BT and FFB on scholarships. I have heard ample first-hand anecdotal evidence where BTs attach significant social stigma to applying for aid, where FFBs consider day school sticker price to be merely the starting point of negotiations for all but the wealthiest families. Given the high percentage of students receiving aid, it's fair to say that the FFB attitude is closely to the truth on this point, and BTs who allow their conscience or compunctions to interfere with their application for tuition assistance are pulling the wool over their own eyes.

DAG said...

Just a note, I firmly believe that the primary recipient of the Maaser/Tzedaka that a family gives SHOULD be their children's school ESPECIALLY if they receive a scholarship.....

jewchick said...

Re: BT vs. FFB - in my elementary school it was mostly the BT kids who were on scholarship. Granted, my school was a kiruv-oriented place, so maybe it was different.

MiriamP - Having a 401k is very different than going on vacation. I think the reasons are clear, but in case not - it's physically impossible for most people to work their whole lives, and a 401k is what these people will live off of as adults so that they do not depend on the community. As opposed to vacation, which is generally for entertainment.

mother in israel said...

Tamiri, I would guess that the poorer Conservative families sent to public school.

SephardiLady said...

Jewchick--You could write my next post. :)