Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Simply Don't Understand the Response

Earlier this year I posted a PSA for the West Orange Cooperative Yeshiva (WOCY) which was slated to open this coming September. The WOCY had rented a facility, hired staff, and enrolled students.

Recently, the Cooperative announced that some enrolled students flew the coop and the school would no longer open. Clearly, such is a risk in any small school.

What I can't understand is after renting a facility, hiring staff, and enrolling students, only to see the project collapse, how this can be the press release:

The West Orange Cooperative Yeshiva achieved an incredible goal of enticing the local yeshivot to match and even beat our tuition rates for many West Orange students this year. This is a wonderful accomplishment and really why we began this endeavor.

Based on this information which came from some of our student body as well as other prospective families, it became clear that there was minimal need for us to continue. More and more families that were interested in our school started signing at wonderfully reduced tuition rates that they were not offered in the past. In lieu of this, we will not be opening this year and fully expect the tuition assistance to continue in the future.

We are very thankful to our local yeshivot for recognizing the tuition crisis and reacting in a way that helps the community at large


While is is quite nice for the parents who wanted to only pay $XXXX, that they are now able to pay $XXXX (for school year 2011-2012) in the school of their choice, such cannot be why a school is organized. And what of minimal need? These are kindergarten students; students with 12 more years of schooling ahead of them. Are the established schools going to continue to offer reduced tuition for many years to come when there is no competition, and no real threat of competition because they can now call the parents' bluff?

And, where is the yashrut? There were staff that committed themselves to the school. And surely not every parent flew the coop. What of those parents who didn't intend to be looking for another arrangement in the 11th hour? What of sincere parents down the road who might like to form a co-op but will not be taken seriously should they try?

I simply don't see the silver lining here. But, perhaps someone will explain it to me.


JS said...

Thank you for this post.

I saw this information posted over on the 200kchump blog and simply couldn't believe it.

I think what the established school (Kushner) did was a bit underhanded, but understandable. The cooperative yeshiva is a threat and they did whatever was in their power to eliminate the threat. It reminds me a bit too much of the Godfather saying, "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" but the motivation is understandable, though incredibly frustrating for those who really want alternatives - not just because they're cheaper but because they offer a different (and hopefully better) educational model.

Kushner has effectively bought out a couple of parents for a few thousand in scholarship money and shut down any hope for an alternative for the foreseeable future. A lot (all?) of the motivation and energy to start a new program is probably gone as well. It's a smart "investment" on their part but I think the entire community is poorer for it.

What I can't understand is the school's response. Individual parents may be thrilled - an "established" and "known" product for a lesser price. Maybe for them it was a bit of a game of chicken. But, for the founders? For the staff? Are we to believe they were just bluffing the whole time? The response is mind-boggling.

I can only reach two conclusions. Either the founders were not as honest and idealistic as they led the parents to believe or part of the deal to get lower tuition was to praise the existing schools. Either way, this is really upsetting and doesn't bode well for other alternatives springing up and offering competition to existing schools who may decide to follow this "model" for shutting down any competition.

Yeshiva Facts said...

Isn't there a fundamental question here about how a few parents backsliding could put the school at risk? This project was started with the premise that parents were under extreme pressure and couldn't afford the high cost of tuition at their current schools. Presumably it is not one or two families starting a school but a whole community of families. If demand was so light that losing a few families put the whole enterprise at risk then where was the demand?

It is easy to blame the current schools for somehow undermining this school but if there was real demand and commitment there then there is little anyone could have done to stop the school opening.

Anonymous said...

Yeshiva Facts: I believe the demand is there, but no one wants to be the pioneers and not this late in the school selection season where substantial deposits have already been made elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

This is all anyone in Bergen County is talking about.

Mark said...

Anon 11:13 - This is all anyone in Bergen County is talking about.

This year at least.

Last year it was SACS.

The year before it was something else.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this was at all a matter of lack of yashrut. The school was struggling to attract students (especially since they started recruiting students 6 months after Kushner's open enrollment period). They may have had enough students to make it work but when Kushner offered some of the parents incentives to enroll at their school, WOCY became financially unfeasable.
The letter WOCY sent out was a poorly written one and it was written that way to save face.
I feel bad for the teacher hired as she had given up her position to accept this one. She knew the risks going in and luck wasn't on her side.
As for the leased space, it was in a shul that utilized the space for Hebrew school and was empty otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else finding the heatid promoters a bit obnoxoius?

tesyaa said...

Is anyone else finding the heatid promoters a bit obnoxoius?

I would use the word desperate, not obnoxious (desperate for any solution that will save them money).

Anonymous said...

Desperate? I think the other schools in BC are acting desperate. He'Atid is doing what any new school would do which is to promote itself.

It's the non stop bashing from legacy BC schools that shows how scared they are that He'Atid will be a game changer.

Anon1 said...

New competition can make the establish player cut prices to maintains its dominant position. But how long can this last after the competition folds? Parents and all other involved may need to take a longer term view.

Miami Al said...


It's the Prisoner's Dillemma

All parents are better off if everyone stays with the new school and the prices stay down.

All parents are worse off if the other parent/parents leave and leave them with the full price at the original school.

Therefore, parents are best if they collude to stay. If they can't/won't collude, then they are individually best if they negotiate with the incumbent school.

This is the non-iterative model, only one shot. Everyone takes the discount and leaves, except families that the school doesn't really want so doesn't make the offer to.

tesyaa said...

All parents are better off if everyone stays with the new school and the prices stay down.

Simple example which might be more complex in real life. You may not be able to pay $15K for Kushner but may be able to pay $11.5K. You may choose to pay $8K for WOCY because of the savings, but not a penny more because WOCY is unproven and requires a parental time commitment. Different families may have different needs and different abilities to pay.

For many, $15K is an impossibility, but those same people would never consider a startup cooperative school if they could get the $15K school for $11.5K.

AztecQueen2000 said...

And thus the cycle continues. Parents may complain about the blood form a stone practices at their kids' current yeshivas, but until they get the courage to leave (and here I mean LEAVE, not threaten to leave for a tuition cut, but actually leave) the situation will remain unchanged.
As a community we need to stop looking over our shoulders and worrying about "what will the neighbors think?" or "how will my kids find a shidduch?" We need to know that going outside the establishment for the good of our families is sometimes the best option.

I'm not jay wagner said...

When are we going to accept the fact that a Yeshiva (private) school education is not an economic reality in the midst of this depression? I am now viewed with suspicion & contempt for putting my kids in public school but what all the naysayers forget is a balanced checkbook is vital to economic survival. If it's a house payment or tuition guess which one will go first?

Anon1 said...

Someone ought to write a scholarly study called:

"Community social pressures vs. Torah imperatives"