Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Own Comments On Rav Schachter's Tuition Shiur

Some Things I Liked:

1. Here, there, and everywhere sleepaway camp has been called a necessity. While I am sure that others have questioned whether or not camp is a luxury, I believe Rav Schacter is one of the few to go on record and call camp a luxury. He even mentioned how he spent different summers with different aunts and uncles. So not only did he defy "conventional wisdom," but he essentially gave a stamp of approval to alternative plans.

2. There are schools that ask on the scholarship application about the child's own earnings. Rav Schachter called this "unreasonable" saying " it will squash their incentive to make money." Too bad the question of how much to take from a second job/third job/wife's new job was not asked. I think the same (economic) concept can easily apply to adults.

3. He mentions that we need to mentor people on how to manage their money, i.e. teach skills. I couldn't agree more and, although I don't like "big brother" type intervention as a general rule, I sometimes wonder if a mandatory mentoring program for those who are applying for scholarships who seem to be headed into a deep hole should be required for the sake of the entire kehilla, not just the family themselves.

4. I appreciate the explanations of what constitutes ircha and priorities in giving, especially with the needs of other communities seem greater than our own.

5. The recognition that attrition is a possibility. I think for a long time the conventional wisdom was that people will find a way. (Do see last section for an additional comment on attrition).

Something That Needs More Explanation

Rav Schachter mentions numerous times that this generation of yeshiva/day school students is less committed than the previous generation. For the life of me, I can't understand why this is true (although I am trying). So many families have placed a second breadwinner into the marketplace, not to pay for any luxuries, but to eek out a little bit extra tuition after paying the marginal taxes and day care for younger children. There are grandparents helping pay for tuitions of numerous grandchildren, as their own children can't meet the full obligation. How many parents have racked up tremendous debt to pay for schooling?

In addition, I'm worried if nearly universal, across the board intensive Jewish Education is resulting in decreased commitment. That can't be good.

The Big Picture

Rav Schachter starts of his talk with a short analysis of how tuitions came to rise so rapidly (better paid staff, small classes, and larger families). He also mentions job layoff a small time later, imploring members of the kehilla to to help secure jobs for the unemployed.

I get the feeling that those in leadership do not quite understand the full extent of the financial crisis being faced by the Orthodox community (tuition being only one of a number of other issues) the same way that I am some readers (Mark comes to mind) are seeing the crisis. I get the feeling that leadership sees the problem as a combination of (1) not enough charitable donations being designated towards Day Schools combined with (2) too many household expenses, many of which are unnecessary (Rav Schachter singled out cell phones and IPods for kids, as well as lavish bar mitzvahs and weddings), that is being currently exacerbated by (3) the current wave of unemployment resulting from the current recession.

Note that I used the word exasperated in regards to the terrible job losses. Job loss is only one macro issue and the other macro issues that I believe are being completely overlooked, have been looming large for a long time. They include the following:
  • The proliferation of credit which allowed families to continue propping up a lifestyle that was really outside of their reach. Despite the lack of availability of cash, families were able to pay for tuition and other luxuries via home equity lines, cash out refinances, and credit cards). Now these sources of "cash" are increasingly unavailable and families are finally having to realize their current needs in cash. . . . and they don't have enough.
  • Numerous families not only tapped into their homes, but also have high levels of consumer debts, which continue to grow and for which the increasing interests payments are crowding out discretionary spending.
  • Lack of savings. Saving early and saving often creates a passive and continually growing source of passive income. This income can fund future needs and even lessen the blow when things don't go quite right (job loss, decreased profits, layoffs).
  • And speaking of lack of savings, I think there is a growing realization that perhaps savings is necessary to pay for future needs. (I predict it won't be long before Jewish publications are running stories about the "Retirement Savings Crisis").

Some Other Questions

If there really are no expenses to cut and increasing class size is not secheldik (I am unsure that the studies Rav Schachter refers to vis a vis class size are applicable in many frum schools as many classes that are being run are already smaller, sometimes significantly smaller, than the study samples), I would like to know what is acceptable? I'm personally afraid that unless something is declared "mutar" even as an experiment, that we will continue to collapse under the weight of our institutions. And I would note that if schools collapse that cutting salaries (I believe MTA did announce 15% salary cut for Rebbeim) won't be the least of our issues.

And lastly regarding the threat of attrition, does the Rav believe that public schooling is the only threat of attrition? I, for one, do not believe this to be the case.

Your comments and my apologies if anything is misconstrued as irreverent. I'm just trying to explain things as I see them. While I don't think the full situation is being understood, this is the first time I have been informed of numerous public venues regarding the financial crisis and I've been running this blog forum for a few years now and receive plenty of emails from all over.


Anonymous said...

IIRC he mentioned that a scholarship committee should not take into account the mother's choosing not to work.
Joel Rich

Orthonomics said...

He did mention this. I know that many people object. I don't know what his wife does. I'm personally still in amazement that anyone with 9 children not only was able to always work, but make money working. (Legal) Day care is extremely expensive. Combine day care with both Federal and State marginal tax rates + Social Security Tax Rates, it is very difficult for women who have children that are not in school full time to make much.

This is a hot button issue. As far as I am concern, the tuitions have pretty much pushed most women into bringing in something.

Anonymous said...


I believe you are correct about the MTA rabbeim. Off the top of my head, Mayanot either did that or cut staff, or both (I haven't heard one way or another yet, but there were rumors of both), and Ramaz cut salaries as well. I believe that SAR is sticking with a salary freeze, but I've also heard rumors of aides or nonessential staff cut in the elementary school, and I'm aware of at least one person in the business office who is leaving and whose position won't be filled.

As for day care- that's a darned good question. Particularly because I'm pretty sure that, outside of certain specific deductions (I think it's currently $5k/year/family), you can't do daycare remission pretax (though I don't know how it works if your place of work provides free daycare). Primary and secondary tuition remission, on the other hand, is not taxable.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that you are irreverent because I don't think that this rav (and he is not in a class by himself) is in touch with what is going on. This is the real problem today. The rabbonim are not in touch with the people.
A child with an iPod is a child with a $200 toy. Not spending the money will not result in a greater ability to pay tuition.

Anonymous said...

SL, plenty of professional women with children make money even after daycare and taxes and expenses. Note I say professional: doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc. It's not an easy life but it's possible. If ladies don't want to leave their babies, that's a luxury.

Orthonomics said...

JLan-You are reffering to a Flexible Spending Account for childcare. One can take $5000 pre-tax for childcare for one child. Unlike the health flex spending account, I don't believe it is pre-employment tax, just pre-fed and state tax.

You can also take a tax credit when filing your tax return (note, you still need to fill out the child tax info no matter how you file if you are using software, or it will bounce that flex spending account into taxable income).

The tax credit usually amounts to $600 for the first and second child. Some very low income earners qualify for a larger credit.

Anyon calculating whether or not they will be making money after they work can add back in their credit after subtracting out taxes.

The credit is also available for camp expenses. It is not available for sleep away camp.

Anonymous said...

SL- you're correct about an FSA.

Incidentally, I have heard that the credit may be used for sleepaway camp, but that in order to do so the camp has to specify costs- that is, it needs to split costs into "day camp" costs and "boarding camp/evening/night/living expenses" costs, and that if it does so, you would be able to deduct the day camp portion of it. Ask a tax professional before you try it, of course, as I am not one. (I'm also not familiar with any sleepaway camps that itemize in the same fashion).

Orthonomics said...

JLan-I hope I'm correct:) I work with a company and we advise people on these issues regularly.

As far as I know, overnight camp cannot be included. I imagine if there is an itemized bill there could be some standing. But these are the instruction regarding camp:

"The cost of sending your child to an overnight camp is not considered a work-related expense. The cost of sending your child to a day camp may be a work-related expense, even if the camp pecializes in a particular activity, such as computers or soccer."

However, this little tidbit surprised me regarding boarding schools (it is an example of what qualifies as Care for a Qualifying Person):

"Example 2. You place your 10-year-old child in a boarding school so you can work full time. Only the part of the boarding school expense that is for the care ofyour child is a work-related expense. You can count that part of the expense in figuring your credit if it can be separated from the cost of education. You cannot count any part of the amount you pay the school for your child's education."

Obvious it would be quite hard for an average Joe to explain why the need boarding school to be able to work. But, interesting none the less.

There are plenty of ifs, ands, and buts built into the regulations, but in general day care, nannies you pay employment taxes on, day camp, and after care count.

Ezzie said...

SL - I know you've touched on it before, but perhaps a post on FSAs would be a great thing for a lot of people.

We just had a fun story with ours from last year, where we had put away for tuition at the end of the year - only I got laid off before we got up to that point. We were told (by my old HR) that babysitting didn't qualify to get the credit back, so I was going to lose the $2,300 or so still in the account at the end of the year.

We then found out this past week that that was NOT true, and any babysitting qualifies so long as the person has a Tax ID (or SS#). [Interestingly you need not fill out the Tax ID on the form - it's optional.] We quickly contacted our old babysitter, filled out the form, and sent it in yesterday before the 3/31 deadline to submit a claim for reimbursement.

Ezzie said...

nannies you pay employment taxes on

If I just had a babysitter we dropped a kid off, it would *not* qualify? That's not how it was presented to us last week [the person who told us the info used to work on FSAs for a company].

Orthonomics said...

If you drop your child off that is a "day care center." The term Nanny normally refers to someone you employ in your home, in which case you need an employer id number and you need to register with the state as an employer and make payment for unemployment, as well as withhold SS, Medicare, and any applicable Federal Taxes. You also file a Schedule H.

I don't think you need to worry. But, the code does specify that if one is only working for part of the year, but pays daycare for the entire year, that they can only claim a portion. . . . however, if one is actively looking for a job (as I believe you are) then there isn't an issue.

Nonetheless, if you file using software, make sure that you fill out the 2441 for dependent care credit or your FSA Dependent Care amount will bounce up to line 7 and become taxable.

Also, I did make an entire post on Medical FSAs.

Perhaps in honor of tax season I should post a few pointers and things to think about.

Ezzie said...

It was actually for the part of the year where I was working, so that's not an issue. And we brought her to the babysitter in 2008 (in 2007 she came to us), so that's good... Thanks. :)

I know you did one on the Medical FSAs, but (especially for young couples) a post on the Dependent Care Accounts could be quite useful, as it's easy to know whether it'll be worthwhile. A lot of couples pay anywhere from 750-1250 a month for childcare, and they hit the 5000 max pretty quickly. It would be a good way to save $1000-1500 or so in taxes.

Anonymous said...

Marvin Schick has a great post on his blog about the very pricy suburban jewish yeshivas in places like bergen county, nj and that the high prices these yeshivas are charging are driving parents to alternatives

Orthonomics said...

Thanks anon-I'm going to check it out before heading to bed.

Ezzie-I believe my husband and I hashed out some scenarios regarding the FSA. I recall that for two kids, the difference between the credit and the FSA was small (assuming 15% fed tax bracket, and between 6-8% state). However, for one child only, if made better sense to go with the FSA especially if you were in the 25% tax bracket, for which we are not.

However, the self-employed and contractors among us that haven't hit having a regular income have to be careful because of earned income.

Orthonomics said...

Just a request to concentrate comments on issues addressed in post, although, yes, I am still amazed that one could have 9 children and still manage to make enough not to completely eat into the other income, unless of course family members were helping with day care.

I know women can make money, but it would take an incredible amount of after-tax money to pay for care for a large number of children who are unable to care for themselves while both parents are out of the house.

OK.. .. back to the rest of the post.

Commenter Abbi said...

SL: 9 children is an extreme scenerio, but the problem with the logic of "It's not worth it for me to work" when you have 2,3 or 4 children is that a woman who doesn't make an effort when her children are young will never move up the ladder and yes, will have a much more difficult time making a decent salary when the children finally do get into school and there are a signiicant number of hours when she could work; then, she has no resume or hasn't worked anywhere for a significant amount of time to accrue raises or build a 401k or anything.

I don't think it's simply a matter of what you bring home at the end of the month. It's a matter of woman's career, earning potential and retirement savings over the long term.

I think it's worth it for women to work just to cover childcare when the children are young, so they can build their careers, possibly save for retirement, and be able to ramp up when the children get to school.

It's difficult, but women are in a much more secure place doing it this way then simply saying "it's not worth it for me to work".

Anonymous said...

I think you mean exacerbated, not exasperated.

Dave said...

Maybe my standards are too low, but I'm thrilled by what I'm reading about Rav Schachter's talk. Whether or not he hits each point on the head or not, the fact that he's focusing on it at all, and that he recognizes that there are children at stake here (as opposed to just telling people to stop complaining and cough up the cash) is refreshing. It's not solving the problem, mind you, but it's we're going to discuss the elephant communally, it probably has to be a more frequent topic of discussion by Rav Schacter and his peers.

Leah Goodman said...

rosie said: A child with an iPod is a child with a $200 toy. Not spending the money will not result in a greater ability to pay tuition.

That kind of thinking is a part of the problem.
what's a couple of video games and an ipod? just a couple hundred dollars - not much of a difference, really. but if every parent whose child is receiving a scholarship could put in another $200 each year, the crisis would be a little bit less serious.


Getting your pasta ten cents a pound cheaper HELPS. Sure, it's not going to save you a million dollars a year, but if your pasta costs 40 cents a month less, and your deodorant is a dollar a month less, and you buy your kids' diapers for $5/month less, it starts to add up.

Check out this mother of 4 who spends $800/year on groceries:

A lot of her suggestions don't work when you're Jewish, but if you look at what she does, you may get some ideas for yourself. Sure, $800/year is unrealistic for a Jewish family, but it's not unrealistic to shop smartly and cut out extras so that you can better meet your obligations.

Anonymous said...

Commentator Abbi makes a good point about why it may be important for a mom to stay in the workforce even if the net income after child care is very small. It's hard enought to be job hunting at 40 or 45 or older and really, really hard if you don't have solid experience.

The current financial crisis also demonstrates that it is important for both spouses to have careers - and preferably in different fields to increase the odds that at least one will keep a job during a recession or depression (or during the illness or disability of one spouse or after the death of a spouse). It's fine to take off a few years after your education is complete and you've got some solid work experience and good references, but it's very risky to have a permanent or long-term stay at home situation unless there is a lot in the bank.

Lion of Zion said...


"A child with an iPod is a child with a $200 toy. Not spending the money will not result in a greater ability to pay tuition."

that $200 doesn't disappear if the ipod is not purchased. $200 less on an ipod means $200 more for tuition. i.e, $200 less that other parents or donors have to cough up to cover that difference.

perhaps in being more fiscally responsible we should take into account the impact of our decisions not only on ourselves but on others.

Anonymous said...

SL: I sometimes wonder if a mandatory mentoring program for those who are applying for scholarships who seem to be headed into a deep hole should be required for the sake of the entire kehilla, not just the family themselves.

I don't think the schools have an interest in financial education because it would sap part of their ability to collect who-knows-how-much of the tuition that is being raised via credit cards and home refinancing. Presumably people going through financial counseling will learn that paying for tuition via "alternative financing" is a bad idea and will start to say no when the school suggests they pay tuition with the credit card.

intensive Jewish education resulting in decreased commitment

This is appalling. Where is the value for the money we are spending??

Anonymous said...

I imagine Rebbetzin Schachter may have worked part time when her 9 children were young, though I have no actual knowledge of this. I do know a rebbetzin who is a mother of 5 who has always worked in demanding fulltime corporate jobs. Look, no one is saying that being a working mother is always so fantastic, but if I didn't work I'd be even more worried about tuition than I already am. I don't see the situation changing, and I don't see switching my kids from yeshiva to public school, so what is my option? Tuition assistance should be a last resort. It's tricky because forcing a woman to work instead of giving assistance would require intimate knowledge of a family's situation, but really, don't you think working mothers would rather stay home too? Why should some mothers get the luxury because of scholarships that working mothers are helping fund by paying full tuition?

Anonymous said...

I wonder what percentage of American women are highly paid executives or are highly paid professionals. Although most children who attend private schools today are children of wealthy people, with the exception of children who are privately schooled for religious reasons, the average American child has a mother with an average salary and education and goes to public school.
Basically for families to be like what tessya is advocating, the very nature of the frum family would have to change to later marriage, heavy college expenses, fewer children, and professional working mothers. That is as likely to happen as relocating all frum Jews from expensive cities to cheap areas of the country. It is unlikely to change in the near future.

Ezzie said...

LoZ touches on an important point (and it was a little sad to see R' Schachter leave it out, but he was focusing on one side of that coin) - that any money not paid in tuition is money someone else is paying. The same is true of Pesach, or Sukkos, or rent, or whatever someone else may cover for a person.

Yes - people should not be afraid to ask for scholarships if they truly need it, but we must recognize that *someone* is covering that. The all too often mentioned tack by people that "well, we'll get this, and we can't worry about tuition later - we'll just have to ask for a scholarship" is killing schools as well. Certainly, the intention is not to make others pay, but the person is only looking at how they can save their own money, since they're struggling.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with the current process of giving out tuition aid is that is discourages people from earning more money and from saving more. The system penalizes those who are responsible and save money and/or work hard to have a higher salary. The system needs to be changed to encourage better behavior (which will also lessen animosity from those that get killed for doing everything right).

Some of these ideas are pretty crazy, but I thought they were interesting enough to share:
1) Free community-sponsored day care. The yeshiva (or yeshivas) should sponsor free day care for young children. The condition would be that the women have to work and contribute a portion of the money to the yeshiva. I would estimate the yeshivas would come out ahead in this scenario as they could use their own facilities and faculty and get a system going where parents earn more money and contribute more. Even if the system is a loser when a woman's children are young, she's now working and will contribute after her kids are in yeshiva and not in daycare.

2) Interest free loans. Instead of giving breaks, the schools should give interest free loans to be paid off within 30 years.

3) Sponsor bar/bat mitzvahs for each child. Have the same party (decorations and such can be different) sponsored by the yeshiva for each and every child. The party would cost far less than the parents' would normally pay and ensures no one feels bad if their parents can't afford a party. Parents are then expected to pay more to the yeshivas.

4) Offer debt consolidation. For parents in serious financial trouble the yeshivas should consolidate their debt for them and provide financial counseling. This prevents a bad problem from getting worse.

5) Sponsor cheaper group vacations, pesach hotels, etc. Buy in bulk and offer to people in the school. People spend for these things out of pocket and try to hide it. This reduces costs and hopefully puts more in the yeshiva's pockets.

ProfK said...

When you say "the very nature of the frum family would have to change to later marriage, heavy college expenses, fewer children, and professional working mothers" it's not the word "change" that applies but the word "revert."

The model that we have today of very young marriages, loads of kids, no college for many so no college expenses and mothers who still have to work but don't have the training/skills to qualify as high paid professionals is a fairly new model. My generation, coming of age in the 60s, did not have babies getting married and immediately making lots of other babies. The Holocaust immigrant generation that is our parents understood that college was a way to climb out of poverty and make something of yourself--they sent us, and the yeshivas could only nod their heads in agreement. Boys and girls were attending City University and other colleges in the city in droves, yes, while many of them were also in yeshiva. And they went to school 4 nights a week. High tuition was not so much the impetus for women to become highly educated as having something to fall back on if a husband died or got sick or could not make enough money.

So no, we wouldn't be changing the basic form of the Jewish family: we would be reverting back to what that form was not so many decades ago. Let's be honest and admit that this new form of family structure is itself part of the cause of the financial problems we face today vis a vis tuition and other areas of Jewish life.

Anonymous said...

JS - I really like the idea of thinking out of the box to come up with some solutions. The interest-free loan idea is fantastic. If they went into this with the assumption that some percent of people won't pay back, at least thye end up with more money paid than if they gave all those people scholarships. (They can get something rather than nothing from most people.)

ProfK said...

Thank you to SL for asking me to post a link to my posting on one aspect of R' Shachter's talk.

Orthonomics said...

While we are suggesting the women become better educated and work more, what about all the men who are still plotzing around in their mid-20's, early 30's? What about all the men who enter the job market for the first time a good 5-10 years after their female counterparts? What about all the men who "start businesses" but don't actually make much of anything?

Yes, perhaps many of the womenfolk could be better education (although sometimes this can backfire too when heavy student loan debt is taken on in addition to the costs of working). But, from my own vantage point I see far more girls taking on work at far younger ages. Many of these girls work their way through school while they take on the majority of the household responsibilities after they are married. They work, they cook, they clean, they shop, they carry babies, they give birth to babies, they take responsibility for most of the childcare including many evenings and Sundays.

Sorry, I'm not seeing where the women are faultering in holding up their end. Perhaps the biggest fault is demanding so little from the men in terms of education and taking care of the house.

(Was that harsh???)

Anonymous said...

The point is that two incomes are needed to even have a chance at paying full tuition (which should be everyone's GOAL -- who wants to be a recipient of charity?) Even when the husband is educated and earning decent money, a mother still needs to work to help shoulder the tuition burden. A man who doesn't work makes the family a single income family, just as a family where the wife doesn't work.

rosie said...

Change or revert, it is only going to happen in small increments. For example, although I did send my daughters to seminary and they had a nice time, I am basically now, anti-seminary. I feel that girls should learn something marketable instead of how to out-frum all the eligible men and then become old-maids who really can't support themselves. I just don't think that very many young Bais Yaacov girl, if given the choice between grad-school or marriage and kids would choose putting off marriage and kids in order to finish their education. I do see that nurses training which is 2 or 3 years to get into nursing and the BA can be finished while on the job, or some type of technician training could at least help a woman support herself. I think that if more parents opt out of seminary and put frum girls as a group is training programs, they could have decent jobs. It is pretty sad to see girls take teacher's aid jobs. I doubt that very many heredi women want to spend 12 years between college, medical school, and residency before getting married and it is a real challenge to raise children while being in school that long. For those who listened to Rabbi Willig's lecture on birth control, it appears that while women can delay birth for the sake of health, capping families does not appear to be a Jewish idea.
There are superwomen who can raise kids and be high powered professionals and go to college and do it all flawlessly at the same time. There are others who would find it challenging to drop off the kids at day care every morning and get to work looking normal. Not every woman is efficient and organized and has lots of strength and energy.
Like SL said, when are we going to work on men's parnassa? Kollel for everyone is also a more recent trend.

Orthonomics said...

tesyaa-I'm running out to a client, but I am going to give this subject its own post.

I think there are huge differences in approach between families where the wife is the one who is underemployed/unemployed/sahm than when the husband is underemployed/unemployed/sahd.

Anonymous said...


Its not harsh, its the truth. Much of the crisis would end if men had high paying jobs + a nest egg earned before having children (like many women do now). The easiest way to not get into debt is having savings.

The hard part is convincing the "leaders of the community" that males should go to college before they get married. For MO its more common, but in the more right-wing circles college is to make the parents happy (if you go) with no thought to the future and how it will help earn money.

Anonymous said...

I imagine Rebbetzin Schachter may have worked part time when her 9 children were young, though I have no actual knowledge of this.
IIRC he says on the shiur that she did work.
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

SL, I don't want anyone to think that I'm beating this to death, because I'm not. But if you are going to start posting about SAHMs v SAHDs, you are getting into gender roles in general and the unfair distribution of housework and childcare between mother and father. SAHMs may notice this less than working mothers because they may take it for granted that the husband should do less because he's working. This is far bigger than any economics discussion ... this is a gender disparity that the women's movement has failed to have any impact on. And maybe I'm pessimistic, but I think this may be a human fact that is very hard to change.

Anonymous said...

JR, I meant she may have worked part time specifically as opposed to full time.

aml said...

SL: Will you explain what you mean by this? "In addition, I'm worried if nearly universal, across the board intensive Jewish Education is resulting in decreased commitment. That can't be good."


JLan said...

"SL: Will you explain what you mean by this? "In addition, I'm worried if nearly universal, across the board intensive Jewish Education is resulting in decreased commitment. That can't be good." "

Aml- SL is referencing R' Schachter's comment that his generation was very dedicated and could do public school but that this generation would go off the derech if they were pushed into public school.

I think that he's horribly wrong about the dedication of his generation in particular (he was born in 1941 and is therefore part of the pre-baby boom generation), considering the number of families that I know where someone of his generation went off. I also think he's wrong about public schools being worse for this generation, though I'm also not sure that the idea of public school + talmud torah works as well as some have started suggesting. In my opinion, though, the most charitable way to read his comment is not a problem with this generation so much as the idea that the world is a very different place and that keeping kids from going "off" requires a more firm commitment than it once did due to more prevalent influences.

Avi said...


this is a gender disparity that the women's movement has failed to have any impact on.

We're still nowhere near a 50/50 split today (and I'm not sure everyone would consider that the ideal anyway), but every sociology study I've seen shows dramatic improvement in the male/female distribution of the second shift over the past two decades. What data have you seen that suggests otherwise?

Anonymous said...


purely anecdotal evidence. But why is a 50/50 split (except for obvious differences like breastfeeding) not the ideal?

Orthonomics said...

aml-Badly written sentence. I am just saying that we are really up a creek if increasing Jewish education has resulting in a decreasing level of commitment (which I am not convinced is the case, but am willing to hear the case made by those who believe it is so).

Anonymous said...

JS - I really like the idea of thinking out of the box to come up with some solutions. The interest-free loan idea is fantastic. If they went into this with the assumption that some percent of people won't pay back, at least they end up with more money paid than if they gave all those people scholarships. (They can get something rather than nothing from most people.)

It may be a good idea in principle, but practically, it doesn't really help at all because of a few major problems -

1) Too many people will take advantage of the loan. After all, who doesn't want an interest free loan? So, we are back to the current system - determining who is worthy for the loan (as we do for tuition assistance today).
2) Even if very few take advantage of the loans, how will the school pay its expenses? Will they give IOU's to the teachers, the electric company, the cleaners, until they get paid for those loans?
3) A larger percentage than you would think will simply never pay. Around here, one of the schools put liens on a few houses for unpaid tuition. Those people also stopped paying their mortgage, were foreclosed upon, and the school being the 5'th or 6'th lien down in priority got nothing - zero dollars for a $60,000+ debt.
4) Tuition assistance should always be thought of as a loan anyway. If times are good in the future, that money should be paid back. My father, for the one year he was unemployed in the early 70's couldn't pay tuition and we were admitted via assistance, but after he got a job, he paid regular payments for many years until he paid it all back - every penny.


Lion of Zion said...


yeshivot are not banks, catering halls, etc.

many can't even get their act together and provide a half-decent education. let's not give more tasks to fail at.

rosie said...

I think that the off the derech level of kids who attended yeshiva is about 15 to 20%. I don't know how anyone would compile exact statistics but that is what it seems. This is not counting those who are still shomer Shabbos but not as chumradik as their parents. There is an ongoing debate in the Jewish Press about the more relaxed frumkeit of the 50's in America that produced the very committed generation that followed. For all we know though, many who were raised in those relaxed frum families who used public education, gravitated toward Conservative Judaism. By the 70's a significant %of Jews were intermarried. Again there is not way to get an accurate percent. The off-the-derech types today don't seem interested in other mainstream (but non-frum)types of Judaism and many seem to also leave the path of sound behavior.
It seems that frum Judaism needs to regain focus because the yeshivas are turning off many kids. Now that the "troops are coming home" (yeshiva kids coming home for Pesach) I am hearing about all the bochrim who didn't make it through the year and now must make other choices outside yeshiva. In most of the cases, had the parents paid full fare, the kid would still be in yeshiva, even with failing exams.

Ariella's blog said...

SL, does the tax credit (or is it a deduction?) for childcare phase out in higher incomes? You would know better than I. But if it does, it would mean that the woman who is earning earning enough to warrant high childcare expenses would, likely not be able to get the full credit. And even the max allowed does not cover what childcare actually costs.

The observation on buying cheaper pasta, etc. made me think of the description of how a young couple sinks into debt in George Eliot's Middlemarch. The wife simply did not see the point in cutting back expenses and would not refrain from buying what was "dear." Living beyond their income starts with her dream home, that she refuses to give up, and intensifies with her continuing to buy luxuries. (She manages to do this even without tuition bills or other frum expenses) Yes, the wife is the one blamed here, and the husband's error is giving in to her and compromising his integrity --in a very subtle way --for the sake of paranassah.

Anonymous said...

Rosie - what do you mean by leaving the path of sound behavior? I think there is a myth (or at least a great deal of exaggeration) that kids who leave are deviant drug addicts, etc. Some may simply find the one size fits all world of some yeshivas and communities too confining, or they may simply not believe, as hard as they try. Unwavering faith in any religion is very tough when viewing all the suffering in the world over so many millenia.

rosie said...

Some kids who leave do go on drugs (or they go on drugs and then leave)and some just leave religious life but are otherwise normal. What you don't see much of is formerly frum Jews becoming Conservative or Reform like prior generations did. While I don't agree with those movements, a person is more likely to retain at least some religious practice if affiliated with something.
And I do agree with the rest of what you said that not all people who are raised in a religion will believe in it as adults. The insistence on conformity squelches the creative desires of many people and they eventually feel that the frum community has no place for them. Some who leave were never accepted to begin with. Whatever reason that people leave, it does not appear that they attempt to practice Judaism within another group.

Orthonomics said...

Ariella-I could be wrong but I do not believe the depedent and childcare ta credit phases out. Most credits do phase out including the child credit and education credits.

But, the childcare credit never exceeds $2100 (2 children, lowest income earners). Most people will pick up $1200 max because of the levels it phases in.

Interesting you mention the wife being blamed for finances in literature. The Ben Ish Hai has a book for women and really gives the women a great deal of responsibility for preserving the husband's parnasah through things like, yes, inexpensive cooking.

Anonymous said...

I think instead of the schools looking into the parent's pockets to see how the parents can pay. They should take a survey on how much ppl actually make and then see what is reasonable to charge. This concept of calculating expenses and then going to the parents to pay is ridiculous.. If the amount that parents can pay is not enough for a state of the art building with the lab and that lab.. then do something else..
Furnish a teacher's basement into a classroom and pay her a bit extra for the utilities. Do school events in the local shul.. send all school notes by email... use cereal boxes and the like for arts and crafts.. parents should send their kids with hand towels to dry their hands (this is what is done in israel)
Not every parent can bring in a high figure salary.. it will still be hard even if both parents work..
This has got to stop.