Over at Dov Bear this past week appeared a back and forth between Jennifer in Mamaland and a Yeshiva Administrator, and a Tuition Wrap Up by Dov Bear. In short, Jennifer in Mamaland hates the tuition assistance dance of gathering numerous papers, disclosing every detail in detail, and begging for a reduced rate. She'd prefer a "short form". The responding Yeshiva Administrator doesn't like the dance he has to do to get parents to pay up the money that they agreed to pay in their tuition contract. And Dov Bear is calling for Yeshivot to run themselves more professionally and take collections seriously.
It sure would be lovely to have an honor system and one would think that when you are dealing with a Torah observant crowd, you could rely on an honor system. But unfortunately that was not the case when my husband was in elementary (his father occassionally did some research for the mechanech), nor is it the case today. Case in point would be a recent suggestion from one imamother member to another on how to keep the kids out of public school (which the mother was contemplating after her school closed down this summer) when the money for tuition simply isn't there:
Anyways, I say fight the fight and make sure they stay in torah schools. Tell the schools that your trying to get into that you are getting money from a relative-- make something up, and youll be able to pay in..october.. and then october comes and tell them you dont have it and pay what you can...they can't kick you out- can they? Iknow in new york they are really snobby and its sad. Where I lived, you pay what you could but with one or two schools in the community, they had no choice but to accept you either way. But I just wanna say that eduacting your kids to be religious, Gd fearing Jews should be number one priority for all of us. So I would do whatever I could to send them to Torah Schools. [sic]
Ah, lies, deception, and outright theft: The foundation on which to raise a "Gd fearing Jew." There is no question in my mind that Yeshiva administrators have their plate full when it comes to administering a scholarship system in a way that maintains dignity while trying to maintain some fiduciary duty.
So, the cat and mouse game is nothing new and because it is nothing new, I'd like to present an idea that is sure to be controversial with a capital C-O-N-T-R-O-V-E-R-S-I-A-L. Controversial as the following suggestions might be, they are industry standard practice and should be considered for their merit as the billing and collection games are simply ridiculous (and, yes, I've had a bit of an opportunity to witness this song and dance from the inside. Getting the billing and collections game under control would go a long way towards creating financially stable programming. Additionally, these practices will allow yeshivas (and camps) to create real, usable budgets which allow staff and bills to be paid on time, every time. The budget need not be a guessing game (and you can shave numerous staff hours in the process) when you know just just about how much money you have to work with because:
1. The school has collected most of the money before the first day of school (and builds in a premium for money they will collect later, offsetting possible bad debts).
In my research of private schools, I've noted that industry standard for private schools (especially pricier private schools) is to collect tuition in large lump sums. Ideally a school collects 100% of tuition due before the start of the school year, on August 1st. Different arrangements prevail for those who cannot pay in one lump sum, and extra fees are attached for parents who do not pay in one lump sum. I don't know if charging extra fees is halachically permissible, but I have seen some Yeshiva schools do so also. Some schools collect tuition in 3 larger lump sum payments, some in two. Collections are generally done well before the end of the year.
Now I realize that going to a one lump sum payment won't be popular for a number of reasons (and instituting lump sum payment plan(s), rather than a lump sum payment plan must be accompanied by a trust relationship), but it seems to me that if most tuition was collected before the start of the school year, schools could mostly end this cat and mouse game of collections. Furthermore, schools would basically know how much they have to work with and could plan accordingly.
Obviously, such a plan would be unpractical for parents currently in the system who are living month-to-month, but instituting such a plan for 1st time yeshiva parents is well worth considering in my opinion.
2. Tuition assistance decisions were made before school contracts for the coming school year are signed.
This also appears to be standard industry practice for schools that offer tuition assistance, as most private schools do. The admissions process works as such:
- Students apply for the following school year during late December, early January.
- Students applying for financial aid complete tuition assistance forms in addition to admissions forms.
- Schools send out letters of commitment and tuition contracts.
- Parents and students return letters of commitment, signed tuition contracts (and choose their payment plan), and a deposit for the coming school year.
- By August 1st, parents pay a majority of their tuition for the upcoming school year. Even where there are payment plans, the first payment is often the largest.
3. The amount available for tuition assistance is pre-determined before scholarships are provided and assistance is divided from that pot of money.
Fire away. I realize that industry standard might appear to be somewhat draconian and some might label it "goyish." But this cat and mouse game that Mr. Yeshiva Administrator over at Dov Bear is playing with parents who bounce checks or won't make good on the agreed upon amount is no better.