Monday, March 20, 2006

Tuition Tops $17,000
Should I repeat that?

The newest tuition prices in my community were just published and they are enough to make a person choke on their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once again, tuition has risen to astronomical rates. The entrance price (kindergarten) is just over $10,000 and the exit price (high school) is right around $17,000.

The tuition cycle is vicious. As prices increase, more families look to opt out or actually find alternatives. They may make aliyah (praiseworthy, but it still leaves more fixed costs to be shared by less students), they may try homeschooling, or they may even consider public schools. Costs do not fall when a school looses two or three or even five students per class. All that happens is that costs remain the same or (more likely) increase as salaries do not remain stagnant, and tuition rises.

I already know that prices will continue to rise next year. No, I don't have a crystal ball. But, I already know a good handful of families with school age children who are making aliyah. Hopefully, instead of the 5-10% increases of past years, there will be a lower increase. But, when the tuition is already between $10,000 and $17,000 at this school (other schools range from nearly $10,000 to over $15,000) the situation looks quite bleak.

I have no doubt in my mind that we will have to consider alternatives for our own children at some point in the future. And, I hate to think that we could end up as part of the problem. B'li neder, we would continue to send donations to the schools. But with a ma'aser requirement that doesn't even near a single kindergarten tuition, our little bit is starting to look like nothing.

Unfortunately, a solution seems to be nowhere in sight. The schools view each other as fierce competitors, rather than organizations that are all in the same boat and could benefit by cooperating with each other to some extent. Each school continues to maintain an administration that looks like a small army. And, struggling parents seem to overworked to get involved.

I firmly believe that if we want to be make a dent in this very real crisis, that we will have to start consolidating schools, which, naturally means compromise. I also believe that we will need to make tuition a community responsibility, rather than a burden on parents alone.

Jewish education is the key to the future. Jewish education is not negotiable. But, at $17,000 a head, one can't blame people for looking for alternatives.


Jack Steiner said...

This is a problem everywhere. It is a sad comment, but true.

There comes a point at which you wonder how long you can keep filling the vessel, or more to the point, it really is an excellent source of birth control.

I'm Haaretz, Ph.D. said...

Gevald--where do you live??? I hope I'm not too close :) or I'll be packing before my kids hit grade school.

Another (sad) alternative is to leave the NY metropolitian area. The schools here assume higher income and a higher standard of living so they feel justified hiking up tuition. Elsewhere, where general living is more modest, I believe tuition reflects that.

queeniesmom said...

one of the HS in the area was $18,000 this past year. That didn't include building fund, journal dinner, etc. As much as my friend loved the school for 1st son, she's looking for another school for the 2nd son.

Haven't figured out what we'll do when we hit that stage but it's a very large concern. We're maxing out now and our kids are still in elementary school. Moving isn't an option.

Lottery anyone?

Seriously, you are on the right track. Look to smaller communities who have learned to cooperate and let's end all the fifedoms, which are being led by so & so who is more .... we've created a system where every sect and subsect has to have their own "better, more frummer" school. All these schools are thin little layers, just like on an onion. Together all the layers of the onion stay intact but once you start pulling on the layers the onion collapses. I fear our schools are just like the onion. Unfortunately, collapse is near for both the parents and their respective schools.

Don't know if anyone will listen as the heirarchy is bound and determined to maintain the status quo. They know they are right and have told us so.

Random thought - has anyone ever seen their school's financial records?

Orthonomics said...

PhD--I don't live in New York (thank G-d). I wish we could go to less expensive territory, but it just is not possible. My husband's job is here and he likes his job. He doesn't make tons of money, but he feels good about what he does and respected, so that is priceless.

QueensieMom--I have seen one set of financial records in my life that I believe are accurate. In fact, those records are for a prior year for the school that is now $10-$17K. I don't think there is any foul play. I do think that the school is top heavy, but unless they start shaving staff, I'm not sure there is any area that would offer significant savings.

We basically have a modern school and a more right wing school. I don't think there is any interest in combining them. But, I really think that ultimately that is the only solution because as it stands now, the high tuitions are driving people to alternatives, shrinking the schools, and leaving more costs to be shared amongst fewer students.

Charlie Hall said...

I compared the tuition at the three prep schools in my neighborhood to that of the MO day school here:

The YU high school for boys put its tuition online:

I think the tuition at the girls school is the same. As a faculty member at a YU division I would get a 75% reduction in the tuition for my kids. (I've had several parents offer to let me adopt their kids so they could get the discount.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting email on the comparison between the prep schools and YU. What blog was the comment attached to? It seems like an interesting discussion.

Charlie Hall said...

The comments were from this blog:

Anonymous said...

Historically, when has there been a time when every Jewish child has gotten such a great and extensive education like some expect each of them (esp. the orthodox ones) to have today, as a birthright ? I am talking about something like having circa twenty years of f/t good Jewish and secular education (okay, in some cases maybe only fifteen years or so). In past years kids went to work at young(er) ages and only the elite had such lengthy and superior education. As much as we are pro-education, perhaps history will repeat itself and things will revert in some ways to the way things were years ago, in some instances. It could be in terms of home-schooling, kids working or even maybe some going to public school and having Jewish studies on the side. Hopefully things won't get too bad, but it wouldn't be the first time history repeated itself.