Thursday, December 08, 2011

What To Do When The Money Doesn't Exist?

Hat Tip: with thanks to a loyal reader

A mother at Imamother writes the following (two excerpts):

I'm supposed to register my second child for school next year and even if after the humiliating questionaires and grilling they agree to give us a break, I wouldn't have enough to pay the school and I have no idea what I am going to do. I am putting off having a third child indefitiely ONLY BECAUSE the cost of tuition is prohibitive. this cannot be what sarah schneirer had in mind. I don't have the guts to put my kids in public school although it grows increasingly tempting. What options are there if the money simply DOESN'T EXIST and there is nowhere to get it from? I am constantly fighting a sense of panic. This issue is controlling our finances, our family planning, our emotional health...this is WRONG! Especially in today's economy, where people need to be happy with whatever job they can get, how does anyone in the frum community pay more than one tuition? who has a spare 10 or 20 or 30,000 a year after living expenses? WHAT DO I DO??


[. . . . . . ]I AM getting a tuition break. full tuition would be nearly $7000. But for my next kid the most I can do would be 2500 and the school won't take that. I have a friend with girls in the same school who ligitimatly can't pay because the school she works for is behind in paying her. her kids are getting kicked out. schools are toughening up, and not giving breaks and grace periods like they used to because they are also short on cash. also the exedous from brooklyn to lakwood means fewer young families and fewer kids in the schools. that means fewer tuitions. so they need whatever money they do have coming in and they won't give up on it so easily. Our school got a new tough as nails administraotr and you have to go through a song and dance just to get an appointment with him and even if you do, he has heard the same sob story ten thousand times. the fact is we just can't afford it the same way we can't afford to buy a house and qwe can't afford a new car. we can't afford private school. I looked into homeschooling. I don't think I can pull it off. I don't have the patience or the orginization or the space. I may have to look into it again, but not everyone can be a teacher. even for their own kids.

Additional info: The husband works a "dead end" job, has no degree/vocational certificate and what he makes only covers about half their living expenses. The mother freelances, but hasn't experienced great success.

Wow, this is a really difficult situation with no "good solutions" in the here and now. Reading between the lines, the underemployment on the part of both parents makes the oft suggested individual solutions (moving, aliyah) problematic. It also makes the "obvious" alternative of homeschooling, suggested as it should be, difficult because the parents need to be investing in their own earning potential, skills, etc.

I regard homeschooling/group schooling as one of the most doable alternatives for centrist/modern Orthodox Jews in the upper middle income brackets (esp. where income is earned primarily by one parent). It is one thing for a family staring another 5-digit tuition bill in the face that falls on top of another 5-digit tuition obligation to decide to home school. It is quite another thing for parents who just don't have much disposable cash regardless of where they send their children to school. This is just my opinion, but I think it would be very, very helpful to have some real money to work with if taking the homeschooling route (especially in a world that can be described as hostile to the very idea).

So what are parents like these to do when their well has simply run dry and the schools are not able to accommodate? Are there any practical solutions in the here and now for parents that don't think they can home school?

I always love flexibility and many options. Flexibility seems to be sorely lacking here. It is hard to know just how limited the family's options are or if they are limiting their own options unnecessarily. I do believe that no matter what schooling route they ultimately go in, or regardless of if they grow their family, the parents must invest in their own earning potential. .. from developing a marketable skill set to developing the skills that are keeping them from seeing the possibility in homeschooling.


alpidarkomama said...

The homeschooling option is not necessarily more doable to those in an "upper middle income bracket" or to centrist/MO Jews...

According to recent income tables, we actually fall into the middle lower class. But our lifestyle is very simple, our wants are very few, and all of our needs are met. And homeschooling is F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C. :)

We're also more on the yeshivish side of things and really haven't gotten much flak at all for homeschooling. We've actually had several ready-and-willing rabbis/tutors say they'd love to help when our children need more than just the two of us for their kodesh studies.

What do you mean by needing "real money" to work with?? Learning resources can be found for very reasonable prices, and many can be downloaded and re-used by all the siblings. My out-of-pocket costs certainly don't exceed about $800 for the basics for my 4 kids, ages 4–8.

I think what helps more than anything is living in a community where the cost of living is fairly low and the community in general has a fairly simple lifestyle.

Zach Kessin said...

I think you have to say "OK WE are going to balance our budget and everything is on the table" If you can't afford private school, then will you can't afford it, just like with any other item, it is no different from buying a new car or a fancy vacation.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad. And real. And think about all the people who "can" pay tuition" by skimping on retirement saving, the dentist, tzedakah, and many worthy things. And how many Jewish children are not being BORN because parents can't pay tuition - this is the tragedy of our times, when there are singles who are missing out on utilizing their childbearing years, even the marrieds who want more children are not having them!!! What is the answer? I think the frum community needs to do something urgent, immediately. #1 thing, OPEN THE BOOKS. Let's see what schooling costs, what could be saved etc. Yes, I wanted a school nurse when my asthmatic daughter was in school, but now she is in a different school with no nurse and we work around it. That salary alone cost the school thousands of dollars that could have reduced tuition for 40 families by $500 a piece. Another obvious option is to have playground activities and lunch take place in the middle of the day and be supervised by rotating mothers, who get a tuition break for doing it. This way, morning teachers leave earlier and afternoon teachers come later, and salaries can reflect that. Davening at a girls' school can take place for all older students in a lunchroom with a couple of mothers to supervise, and kodesh teachers can work from post-davening and on for fifth grade and up. The school should use the building in the summer to run a low-cost camp if possible. There are many ideas, but we are held hostage by people who are hiding something. Anyone asks you to donate to a school: ask them to see the books if they have nothing to hide.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:10 - very unrealistic - teachers don't get paid by the hour and even if they did, saving a few dollars every day is not going to cut tuition in half.

Giving up a school nurse will not appreciatively reduce tuition; nor will cutting out gym class; but those are both sacrifices that negatively affect children.

Mothers who would provide coverage in exchange for a tuition break are ALREADY receiving tuition breaks, so what's their incentive? And teachers won't accept a salary cut for having their hours cut - to be fair, their salaries are small as is.

Yes, there is waste in the system, but nothing that's going to make a real difference to people who are already maxing out their credit cards, working "dead end" jos, etc.

Public school + tutoring is the obvious answer - I don't know why homeschooling is more appealing, except that it keeps frum kids in an insular bubble, ensuring they'll be raised as a new generation of intolerant, insular people.

Anon 7:12 said...

Just to clarify, I believe homeschooling is a viable option for those who would consider it in the absence of financial need - people who ideologically or pedagogically are equipped to educate their children at home. One of the imamother commenters recognizes that she is not equipped. Homeschooling just to avoid public school is a mistake, if one is not otherwise suited to homeschooling.

Anonymous said...

The writer says she doesen't "have the guts" to send her children to public school. Is it because she fears what the neighbors, friends and family will think or is it because she fears that her going to public school will make her children unmarriageable? will be pregnant and on meth by grade 6? Will be exposed to ideas she doesn't agree with - i.e. evolution? equality? tolerance?
If we knew what her fears were, it might be possible to address them.

In the short term, the fact remains that only some people are going to be able to do a good job of home schooling. For the others, aliya or public school is going to be the only option. In the long-term, if the community doesn't stop encouraging people to marry and have kids before the get educated/trained in a manner that will permit them to support a family (including tuition) then something will have to give. We can't have it all - no public school and early marriages, lots of kids combined with parents with no higher education. Heck, even with parents who are maximinzing their earning potential, you can't expect to have lots of kids and private school. Not everyone can be a high earning lawyer, cpa, hedge fund manager, etc.

Anonymous said...

Why does this mother want her children to go through the same school system that left her and her husband unprepared to support a family, completely stressed out, fearful of exploring other options (i.e. public school) and unable to have the additional children she desparately wants to have?

Anonymous said...

I think every engaged kollel couple should read this post. I know such couples and they have a completely unrealistic understanding of what financial desperation means becausse they have never experienced it personally. There is no solution for the parents here, but there is a solution for future young couples: maximize your secular qualifications so you can support your family.

The writer does not mention grandparents. Can they help?

psychobabbler said...

Anon 7:12,
Yes, giving up a school nurse or other "extras" wont by itself cut tuition in half. However, if you keep taking away the non-essentials, eventually the school tuition will be reduced.
When looking at some of the schools in my area I was able to see dozens of ways they could cut tuition. Do they have extras? Do they send out flyers each week? Are they in color? Are they full of pictures of the kids? One school I know of sent home flyers printed on over-sized paper (costs more than normal sized), full of B&W pictures of the kids, EVERY WEEK. Parents would get pictures of all the classes, not just their own child's. (Oh, and this was almost all one secretary did!)
Growing up, I did not have fancy projects in school, huge colorful bulletin boards that were rotated, or huge major trips. Somehow I was able to learn!
Each would only save the school a few dollars here and there but if they passed along the savings to you as the parent, wouldn't you be grateful? Keep adding them up-- eventually much of the waste can be gotten rid of.

Conservative Scifi said...

They are in a very difficult and challenging place. I hope things work out.

Assuming her husband's "dead end job" exists in Israel and they speak Hebrew well enough, Aliyah is probably their best option (other than public school, but that is likely socially unacceptable).

If he can make about the same proportionate amount in Israel, the expense of private schooling will disappear.

They will receive the monthly child allowance of 431 NIS (and 252 NIS for each additional child they may choose to have).

They might be able to get tuition assistance, which could help one of them get additional education leading to more lucrative employment.

They can get some financial assistance for the move as "Sal Klita" payments (probably around 33,000 NIS).

Combining these benefits, the absence of a private school tuition, and the "dead end" job would probably make Israel more affordable for this family. If they take advantage of some education benefits or the mother starts working when the youngest child enters first grade, their income will go up even more.

Anonymous said...

Since Mom says public school and home schooling are not options, why doesn't Mom get a real job instead of sticking with the unsuccessful freelancing? Once the second child enters school, why can't she work full time? Even in a low-paying job, that should bring in enough to pay one more tuition plus any additional after-school child care costs and whatever additional costs are associated with working (e.e. commuting, dry-cleaning). At the same time, Dad should go back to school at night. The mom states in the posts that she always wanted to be a stay at home mom. Well, tough.

Anon 7:12 said...

Each would only save the school a few dollars here and there but if they passed along the savings to you as the parent, wouldn't you be grateful?

I don't want schools to cut extras - sure, they should eliminate obvious waste like fancy brochures no one reads, but what makes you think the savings are significant, or that they would be passed on to parents?

I want yeshiva kids to have more gym, music, art and academic enrichment. Fifteen minutes' recess twice a day is not enough activity for elementary school children.

A full time nurse is a plus, and may be an actual necessity in a larger school. Many kids take medications throughout the day.

The "extras" that yeshiva kids get today equal Laffy Taffys and Twizzlers as rewards and for "Shabbos party". Candy is not an acceptable substitute for gym, art, and music.

Why are people so hell-bent on yeshiva education that they willingly deprive their kids of legitimate developmental activities? Why do you think public schools mandate gym?

Dave said...

There is only one real way to cut Day School expenses, and that is to cut staff.

Based on the 990s I've seen (only some of the schools file 990s, the rest hide behind a religious exemption that they kinda-sorta fit), there is way too much administration, at too high a salary.

But that isn't going to drop the prices to the point that this mother needs them to drop.

Homeschool or Public School are the most realistic options -- higher paying jobs are hard to get without skills in any economy, much less the current one.

AztecQueen2000 said...

Here's what no one is addressing--the mother in question is talking about tuition for NURSERY! If I were going to cut costs and live on a budget as a freelancer (meaning that I can stay home with my children), I wouldn't even consider putting my child in school at that age. It's not only that we've mandated private school, it's that we've mandated it for younger and younger children. It has now become the norm for children as young as two and three to be in some sort of full-day, full-week preschool program. Few of these are eligible for tuition cuts. Not to mention that children this age are well below compulsory enrollment age. If she kept her child home for the next two or three years and saved up, she might be able to put a down payment on the first grade.

Alexis said...

I regard homeschooling/group schooling as one of the most doable alternatives for centrist/modern Orthodox Jews in the upper middle income brackets (esp. where income is earned primarily by one parent).

I don't. I regard quitting your job to homeschool as one of the most foolish decisions a woman can make (and it's usually the woman)--and I saw an imamother thread where someone proposed to do just that. Stay at home parenting is a huge financial risk. (Fair warning: I've done it.) Homeschooling increases that risk by extending your time out of the workforce to the point where you will probably never get back in. Suggesting that women do this in large numbers and rely on their husband's incomes is fiscally reckless given the reality of modern American employment. And, yes, the possibility of divorce. It's great to say, "We can live on one income!" But you assume that income will continue to be there.

The tuition problem is a mess. It's absurd where we are in a situation where women (generally) feel they are financially better off to quit work than to stay. But don't disregard the long term financial consequences of that decision.

Orthonomics said...


I appreciate you contributing to the conversation and I hope you will continue to critique my points where you disagree.

My concern about the economic situation of the family has less to do with their earnings (clearly, families with lower incomes can and do successfully educate their children in the home) and more to do with how the income is distributed. As per her presentation, the husband is underemployed and his income can't cover the household expenses.

I don't believe that male underemployment--with a root cause of lack of academic/vocational training-- and successful homeschooling are a good mix.

When I speak about some "real money" to work with, I'm recognizing a some things including:

1) Education/Skill Set: The parents themselves lack in the education department. I don't know that they have the resourcefulness to take $800 and make a curriculum. As it is, the mother states that she can't work full time because she needs time (alone) to get the house in order before school ends. I'm certain that with effort, new skills could be acquired. But it takes time and time isn't on their side.

2) They live in one of the major Jewish hubs (Brooklyn, I believe). There is no two ways about it, the Jewish community of greater NY isn't supportive of homeschooling, or [choose another educational model], or late entrance into school. I believe that having some "real money" to take and make the experience as easy and enjoyable as possible would be helpful. Money to go places, do things, make homeschooling enticing in the face of the criticism they may very well face. "In town" communities are very different than "out of town" communities. It is just my opinion that homeschooling in Brooklyn, when you didn't purposefully set out to homeschool, would be a more successful endeavor with some "real money" to work with.

I think homeschooling can absolutely be a fantastic solution for some. I just don't see it as a good solution here. They are not operating on the offense, they are very much on the defense. They are very much in a place of desperation. I think the frum community would be well served by resources/support that make homeschooling a more viable alternative for families. But I don't see a home education/co-operative schooling renaissance being borne out of desperation.

Anonymous said...

Living on one income is risky not just because of the risk of loss of that single job, but the possibly catastrophic loss of health insurance coverage. My family has been through job loss this year, and despite some major anxiety, we are fortunate that we did not have to worry about how we would pay for health insurance, since the second spouse's job also offers benefits.

Very good point that homeschooling keeps a mother out of the workforce for many years, if not decades, whereas a mother who returns to work when the youngest is school age will have a much shorter SAHM phase.

psychobabbler said...

Anon 7:12,
You are forgetting the issue at hand. Yes, Laffy Taffy's are no substitute for real enrichment. And I never mentioned candy in school But we are talking about cost-cutting measures. No school I have ever been at (until graduate school) had a nurse on premises. Yes, I made it all the way to graduate school in a real university without ever having music and no art past junior high.
I never mentioned cutting these programs, however, they may not be necessary and should be part of an "optional" after school program that comes at an increased cost. I mentioned fancy art projects as part of the regular curriculum. I mentioned fancy bulletin boards and brochures/handouts.

If the kid needs medication during the day, perhaps the parent should find some alternative? Sign a waiver and designate one person (principal?) to hand out your child's meds. Or come into the school yourself. But that is besides the point, again. We are trying to find ways schools can cut costs.
Would you be willing to pay for all this extra art, music and gym you desperately crave? If this mother cannot afford basic tuition, why would you want to increase the school's costs?
My point is that cost cutting measures are possible and feasible. We cannot afford it as it is---why increase costs?

Anon 7:12 said...

If the kid needs medication during the day, perhaps the parent should find some alternative? Sign a waiver and designate one person (principal?) to hand out your child's meds. Or come into the school yourself.

Penny wise and pound foolish - if a mother has to come to school once or twice a day to deliver medication, how can she hold down a job? Now there's another family who'll need tuition assistance.

Would you be willing to pay for all this extra art, music and gym you desperately crave?

Sure I would - or more likely, I'd use public school if I couldn't afford the extras, where, despite massive cost-cutting, many of the "extras" are still considered necessary.

Tell me, why do you send your kids to yeshiva? So they can learn Judaic subjects? A private morah after school would be cheaper. So the kids can be with only other frum kids? So they'll stay frum when they grow up? If I told you today that there's a 20% chance even your yeshiva educated kids would be OTD as adults, would you believe me? It's true. So I'd take my chances with public school, if I couldn't afford the education my child needs and deserves.

Anonymous said...

AztecQueen: Excellent point. I would also add that while she is home with her pre-school age child, she provide child care/baby sit for a few other kids so she can save some money or at least pay more of the other child's tuition.

Orthonomics said...

AztecQueen-I didn't realize she was addressing pre-school. Pre-school is generally full fare (I consider it optional). For pre-school she could have the child home. But the tuition problem come elementary still remains.

CJ Srullowitz said...

The biggest obstacle to fixing the Tuition Crisis is that it's not really a "problem." The phenomenal growth of yeshiva education in this country is a success story that would make our great-grandparents weep with joy.

Nonetheless, where we stand now there are serious issues, with no good solutions. Yes, some cost cutting here and there can (and will) be done. Yes, reducing administration headcount and redistributing administrative duties to full-time teachers can (and will) be done. Yes, larger classrooms will eventually (and unfortunately) be reintroduced.

However, none of these line-items are going to cut tuition in half. I doubt they will reduce tuition by even a third. Maybe 15-25%. If that's enough to encourage you to have one more child, then your "savings" just went out the window.

My heart bleeds for people who are underemployed, undereducated, underwater on their mortgage, and unable to do much more than scrape by on raw nerves and frustration. I do feel their pain. But I also find that a large number of middle income earners (high income earners in the non-frum world) complain just as vocally, which is unfair. A lot of people feel entitled to a yeshiva education for their kids which doesn't require real sacrifice.

In any event, the only real solution (besides Aliyah) is forming a Kehillah. This would accomplish three things: 1) it would make our contributions tax-deductible. 2) it would spread the payments out over four decades rather than unevenly distribute them. 3) it would allow for investment which will help the funding grow organically.

It will require only one thing from us. One tiny thing. Achdus.

Miami Al said...


"Would you be willing to pay for all this extra art, music and gym you desperately crave? If this mother cannot afford basic tuition, why would you want to increase the school's costs?
My point is that cost cutting measures are possible and feasible. We cannot afford it as it is---why increase costs?"

Yes, many are willing to pay for this, those are the full paying parents AND the donors. Those people will NOT send their children to a mediocre school for a 30% tuition savings.

Sure, the people not able to pay might say they would accept that, but those people don't keep the lights on.

To make this work you'd need a two-tier system:

A) Full tuition Yeshiva Prep School with all the bells and whistles for parents than can (and are willing) to pay for that

B) Low cost, no-frills, cheap crappy school for those that can't afford option A.

Option B not be sustainable on the people that send there, because they are in America's underclass, where work is less reliable, and slow months will have non payment. Option B would have to be community supported.

The Catholic Church has used this model for a while, the Independent Catholic schools (not supported by Tithes) compete with secular Prep Schools and charge accordingly.

The Parrish Schools have lower tuition and are supported by Church funds.

Can you find ANY Rabbinic leader willing to endorse this type of model? If so, can you find any Rabbinic leader willing to say that we need a communal fund supported by communal tzedakah to support communal needs?

As long as each school does it's own fundraising, and American Jews are no longer willing to cross subsidize Yeshivot for poor Jewish children (when they were immigrants, wealthy non-Orthodox Jews supported these schools, but that was before non-Orthodox Jews knew that Ultra-Orthodox Jews considered them "Jewish goyim.")

Also, asking upper-middle class and wealthy Jews to support a school designed to keep Jews poor is going to be a losing battle. The Catholic schools in poor areas offer a superior product to the public schools in dangerous areas, the Jewish schools seem to offer an inferior product (from the non-Frum POV), making raising money for it a losing battle.

Good luck, this family is screwed by their poor education. The one saving grace is when they collapse and are thrown on the public school system, their children will be given more of an education to succeed than their parents were (or are currently choosing for their children).

Anonymous said...

CJ: You mention several points as to what will be necessary to preserve the yeshiva system, but you miss a few: delaying having kids until the parents are educated/trained/established on a decent career path; fewer children for some and for most, giving up the fantasy that you can be stay at home mom (putting aside someone like SL who can do serious and lucrative freelancing work from home) and still have the luxury of private school. It also means giving up other luxuries such as big/lavish weddings.

anon426 said...

I was in exaactly your position this year and my 2 older kids are now in public school. Someone else is subsidizing the day school tuition of the younger child.

So here are a couple of points. Homeschooling was not an option.

1) it really does take guts to send your kid to public school especially if the school population is not - ahem - diverse as in our case. It was worked out great for my kids however. Every time I dealt with the school adminisration I was reassured that they really know what they are doing and that my kids would be ok.

2) Not having the kids in Jewish has taken a very real toll on their yiddishkeit. However, if your home Jewish life is stronger than ours was (is), you can weather the storm. Given the ramifications to your family's spiritual life, sending your kids to public school is NOT like buying a cheaper version of (house, car, etc.) or taking no vacation. But this decision also has ramifications for your kids' educatoin and in our case, was for the better.

3) One of the hardest things is deciding WHEN to make the leap. You can't wait until the week before school starts and you get the letter from the tuition committee. You can't suddenly tell your kids "Hey, guess what!? You're going to a completely new school, in a completely new environment, where you don't know anyone, etc." You probably WANT to wait until you get that tuition letter just for your peace of mind, BUT you know in your heart that it's not going to be doable. Just one of the things that makes the leap very hard.

3) I am incredibly impressed with the education my kids are geetting in public school. Their teachers are great, the schools are great. They LOVE the shorter school day. They are more motivated than they have ever been in school.

4) Tutors are not cheap. If you can't afford day school, maybe you also can't afford tutoring. Eight hr/week of tutoring (4 kids @ 2 hr/week) at a modest $25/hr is still $200/week! At least in our town that is close to at least a couple of scholarship-based tuitions per year.

CJ Srullowitz said...

"Can you find any Rabbinic leader willing to say that we need a communal fund supported by communal tzedakah to support communal needs?" -Miami Al

Funding the talmud Torah of your children is first and foremost a responsibility of the parents, not the community. Only after the parents have become delinquent on this obligation does a communal responsibility kick in.

Moreover, the "blame the rabbis" call is a bit tired. Pulpit rabbis have limited success in getting their congregantss to shut up during Krias HaTorah. What makes anyone think that rabbis can impose their financial opinions on anyone?

It is instead up to the Baalei Batim to take the reins on this one, and, among other things, reduce their lifestyles (as Anonymous 11:29 points out). Even those who can afford it should live a little more modestly so as not to raise the bar on everyone else. And if everyone would band together and agree to form a kehillah, a lot of money could be saved.

qsman said...

I'm going to pipe up again as a school finance person. it's been a long time since my last guest post.

We DON'T know what's going on with this person. Speaking for myself, We WILL work with people who have limited income, but time and time again we hear the wailing and crying, only to discover:
The person bought at the height of the market and has a $2500 mortgage, then a home equity on top of it
new cars
trips (like Succos in Israel for 10, not the weekend getaway)
a family of 1-2 where the mother does not work
not disclosing assets or real estate holdings (we have some accountants who attend the meetings and have a real nose for this),
under reporting income from a home business (if you operate on cash, who's going to know? We can tell what's bogus),
reporting $20,000 income as a "buger flipper" with 7 kids (and over 7 years, something is not right here)
Paying less than minimum tuition yet sending kids to Israel on credit cards

Forms with just $25K in the income field, no supporting tax or explanations.

The amount of shakrunus is astounding. Every year there is some new story that leaves me shaking my head.

I must end by saying that the majority have a legitimate need and provide proper, honest justification.

Avi Greengart said...

This sounds like an income problem, not an expenses one. I'd encourage them to take turns going back to school at night. It will put them further in debt now, but should pay off long term. They should also go to schools they attended and lecture the kids - and teachers - on what happens if you follow their non-career path.

But in the short term, their choices are pretty simple: home school (if this really is preschool, that's a no brainer) or tell the school that $2,500 is literally all you have to give. If that is not enough, you will be forced to put your kids in public school. And if they say, "fine," then do it. You can't afford private school, you can't afford private school. Put the $2,500 towards tutoring, or ask for someone to tutor your kids as chesed. I suspect you'll get more takers by offering nothing (in this world, anyway) rather than trying to pay below market rates.

Anonymous said...

School nurses in NY are provided by the state/city currently, it would not lower tuition to not take advantage of this.

By state law, nonpublic schools are guaranteed an “equitable” level of health and welfare services compared with their public school counterparts. It is up to local government to interpret what equitable means. Services have traditionally included school nurses and busing.

In 2004, New York City passed a law to clarify that definition. According to the law, enacted when the Bloomberg administration first proposed cutting nurses from parochial schools in 2002, a school with 200 students or more is entitled to a school nurse; sometimes schools with smaller enrollments are also eligible.

Miami Al said...


Suggesting that we need to communally pay for a cheaper school option for poor people (instead of "scholarship" at schools they can't afford) is so foreign to the socialist ethos elected by 20th Century Frumkeit that it needs SOME support for it.

Sure, according to the texts, Talmud Torah is the responsibility of the parents. According to the Minhag of American Orthodox Jews, it's been a communal one, so simply pointing out the textual rules doesn't change reality, nor does it necessarily trump to accepted Minhag without leadership.

Dave said...

Family financial options get complex enough that there aren't simple "this way is better than that way" rules. There are just risks, benefits, and tradeoffs.

A dual income household is just as trapped as a single income household (actually, slightly moreso) if both incomes are needed to meet necessary expenses.

Similarly, a single income household where the income is in a high demand/low unemployment field (which do exist even in this economy) is far safer than two jobs where there is a labor surplus.

The biggest benefit of home schooling for the frum family is that it scales perfectly with family size -- in fact, it becomes more beneficial with larger families. Income does not.

So while home schooling for one or two children may be a net-negative over getting an education for a job that can cover private tuition, it is far easier to home school than to find a field that will cover private tuitions for a family of five or six children.

In this case, if home-schooling really is out of the question, then I think they're going to have to go with public schools. While the children are in the early grades, use the money you would have been able to spend on their Day School tuitions to pay for adult education, and get into fields that pay more. That may make it possible to shift to a Day School as the children grow older, if not, it would pay for tutoring and other expenses, or possibly make aliyah a practical alternative.

But the situation as described means they are going to have to do things they would prefer not. As the Steinisher Rebbe said, "Men ken nisht alle mol haben vos me'vilt, ober efsher ken men haben vos me'darft."

tesyaa said...

The biggest benefit of home schooling for the frum family is that it scales perfectly with family size -- in fact, it becomes more beneficial with larger families. Income does not.

So while home schooling for one or two children may be a net-negative over getting an education for a job that can cover private tuition, it is far easier to home school than to find a field that will cover private tuitions for a family of five or six children.

Dave, come on! Don't you think it is harder to homeschool 5-6 kids than 1 or 2? That a family that has the ability to homeschool 1-2 kids might fail miserably trying to homeschool 5-6?

And consider that many homeschoolers in this country use public schools for high school, or pay to hire tutors for subjects that parents are unable to teach (I cannot teach high school physics, even though I took high school physics).

Even for motivated, competent families, homeschooling may not be a panacaea.

For the family of the original imammother poster, aliyah seems like the only answer (I cannot imagine these families choosing public school). Even aliyah is not a real answer, though, for people with family commitments such as elderly relatives here in the U.S.

I'm afraid there are going to be a lot of frum kids (especially girls) truant from school entirely, either sitting at home doing nothing, or under the guise of inadequate "homeschooling".

Dave said...

Dave, come on! Don't you think it is harder to homeschool 5-6 kids than 1 or 2? That a family that has the ability to homeschool 1-2 kids might fail miserably trying to homeschool 5-6?

Harder, sure.

It's also harder to make lunches for 5-6 kids than for 1-2, but it still scales better than going to a restaurant.

Alexis said...

Talking about cutting art and music is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. You're talking about cutting a couple of teacher positions. It's bupkes. Catholic schools traditionally also worked by having a low cost supply of teachers. As nuns and priests disappear, their costs are going up, and lay teachers in Catholic schools are low paid (not that teachers in RW schools are raking it in as it is. Look at Chassidic schools: low tuitions and they don't pay their teachers.) Jewish schools will never achieve parish tuitions because we demand TWO fully paid sets of staff.

If you lowered MO tuition from $15K to $9K you'd still have a fairly large number of families who could not afford to pay, at least when multiple children were involved.

We want to maintain an entire school system on top of the one we're already paying for. We're not going to be allowed to opt out of paying for that one, and we're not going to be able to divert funds from it. (Even if we ever got vouchers, and persuaded the government to pay for kids who were already in private school and not escaping failing schools, the value of vouchers isn't enough to pay for what we demand today.) Complaining about individual parents misses the point.

CJ Srullowitz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CJ Srullowitz said...

Al, Since when is it the minhag hamakom for the community to provide a yeshiva education? Last time I checked my tuition bill, I was paying for my kids, per kid. We have a pay as you go model - with scholarships.

I'm not following you.

Anonymous said...

Dave says "A dual income household is just as trapped as a single income household (actually, slightly moreso) if both incomes are needed to meet necessary expenses." They might be just as strapped but the single income household is in a far, far more dangerous position. In the dual income household, if someone loses a job, gets disabled, etc. the family loses half its income. In the single income household if the breadwinner loses his/her job, the family loses all its income. In the dual income household, there are two employers to look to for health insurance. If the family is getting their insurance from one employer and that employee loses her job, the family can switch insurance to the other spouse's empoyer. Not so in the single worker household. I have a friend who left the workforce young because hubby wanted her to be a stay at home mom. Years later, he got disabled and had to stop working in his 50's. He now gets social security disability (about $1500/month). He also gets Medicare (you can get Medicare after you have been on ssdi for 2 years). In the meantime, she is a woman in her mid-50's with no health insurance and no income and because she has been out of the job market for over 20 years except for a few years as a part-time teacher's aid, has no prospects for anything other than a minimum wage job. She could try to brush up on her secretarial skills from 25 years ago, but getting a job in that field will be really tough for a woman in her age group with a gaping hole in her resume. One serious illness will wipe out their remaining savings, leaving nothing for their "golden" years, which aleady looks bleak given their modest assets.

Dave said...

They might be just as strapped but the single income household is in a far, far more dangerous position. In the dual income household, if someone loses a job, gets disabled, etc. the family loses half its income.

Yes. But if you need 100% of both incomes to meet your expenses, you are out on the streets if either one loses a job.

It also makes relocation trickier, since you need to find two jobs in the same region instead of just one.

You are obviously best off if either spouses job would support the family entirely (including insurance) -- among other things that means you are able to save a great deal of money. But even then, if both worked for the same employer (or in the same division or office complex, for large corporations), they are still more exposed than if they were in separate fields.

Moshe said...

I'm for the Aliyah idea. Look into it. I'm not saying it is for everyone, but there are jobs in Israel and the cost of living is a LOT less (even with the high cost of living). People have one (or no) car(s), kids don't go to camps, no trips to Israel for the whole family, schools are free or far cheaper than in the US, University is a measly $2200 yearly (no, I did not leave out a zero), shul membership is about $100 yearly in most shuls and lastly, felafel is much cheaper :-).
On the other hand - gas is very expensive, most food costs more (with the exception of fresh produce and felafel), and people feel a need to fit into the charedi or dati leumi community - which are not a good fit for many Americans. Housing prices are also skyhigh right now, but they are on the way down.

Natan said...

Please, not the "make aliyah" argument again. Cheaper tuition is NOT a good reason to make aliyah. As you say, many things there are much more expensive than they are in the US, which closes the gap on how much you save on tuition. Contrary to popular belief, BTW, food is much more expensive in Israel- dairy products are ridiculously overpriced, for example.
Israel is a whole different world, and not the easiest place to live, and should be moved to only if someone really WANTS to move there, not just to save money on tuition. I do disagree with your statement that the DL community isn't a good fit for many Americans (I don't know anything about the charedi community). From my experience, it's a perfect fit for many Modern Orthodox Jews from English speaking countries.

Anonymous said...

SL, you suggest that the parents should be "developing the skills that are keeping them from seeing the possibility in homeschooling." While homeschooling is great for some and
some parents are terrific at it, this not something that everyone can simply develop a skill set in. Parents who are not cut out for home schooling would be doing their kids a great disservice. Have we come to the point where we believe kids are better off home schooled just to keep them away from the goyin, even if it means a lousy education, rather than use some of the wonderful free public schools that are available either where you live or simply by moving a short distance? If you are a great teacher and your kids are suited for homeschooling, then go for it, but it is not something that every parent should be considering. (BTW, the parents who can't pay two $7,000 tuitions because they did not get good enough educations to get decent jobs, are also possibly not the best candidates to be home schooling their children, particularly beyond the early grades.)

Miami Al said...


I explained myself horribly, here is what I am trying to suggest:

In Europe, the Jews educated similarly to the rest of the Europeans. The wealthiest Jews employed private tutors for their children (this form of education survived in the American South until the Civil War). The children of the poor received whatever education was communally funded, which was NOT 13 years of Yeshiva education + 2 years in Israel, a very basic education in reading Hebrew and prayers.

In America, the private tutoring system of education died out with the growth of school systems, and wealthy Americans moved toward private schools instead of private tutors, and parochial schools provided an alternative to the growing American public educational system.

In the Orthodox Jewish world, the growing ranks of wealthy stayed in the same school system as everyone else. Even in areas with extremely wealthy Orthodox Jews, none of them broke off to form Jewish prep schools, they worked within the Jewish Day School system.

While this, in theory, sounds VERY egalitarian, it's not. The wealthiest 5% of the school often is MUCH wealthier than the rest. The people that control the board from their donations is simply in a different socioeconomic world than the rest. As a result, the school they want for their children is MASSIVELY different.

This creates a situation in which the poorest of Frum Jews and richest of Frum Jews might share a private school, but the richest Jew is setting the agenda for school programming, the poorer Jews are on scholarship, and the upper middle class is getting killed.

The wealthy are certainly paying for their children and then some, HOWEVER, the percentage of "and then some" is declining. The schools have tremendous levels of amenities, which has caused per-student costs to skyrocket. This is pushing more and more people into the "I can't afford" it camp.

If you had a cheap Yeshiva for poorer kids with communal subsidies, and an elite Day School for wealthier kids, you wouldn't have this death spiral.

For example. A wealthy parent decides that the want a Fencing program at the school, and agrees to pay for the coach to run it. The kids participating pay for their own equipment, so the well-off kids are in it. Maybe, in a two years, another parent offers to fund equipment for everyone, now everyone is in fencing. Now, two years after that, parent one's kid graduates, and with it the funding of the teacher (since they paid for it for four years, they didn't "endow a chair" to pay it in perpetuity). The school doesn't want to give up the "free equipment" from parent two, so they keep the program going. Two years after that, parent two's child graduates, and the school has now had a Fencing program for 8 years, but nobody funding it.

That's why combining the wealthy (who want and can afford EVERYTHING for their kids), and everyone else (who want EVERYTHING for their kids but need to pick and choose what they can afford) is a disaster.

That's the "Minhag Hamakom" angle -- the very Day School/Yeshiva system as evolved here.

You're NOT paying for your kids education, you're paying their tuition bill, which is:

The lesser of:

Cost of School / Total Students * (1/tuition collection rate) * Number of Children in your family


What the scholarship committee decided that you can afford.

Shoshana Z. said...

It's hard to know where to start. Let me begin by saying I am a veteran homeschooling parent of four children - ages 12, 10, 8, and 5. I hold a BA in Middle East Studies and my husband has a master's degree in social work. We are a one income family. We never put our children into school because even with one child we knew that we did not have the disposable income to pay tuition. And we were not willing to forgo having children simply so that we could pay the tuition bill for the two who were lucky enough to be born first!

We have been home schooling for 8 years. It has been a struggle at times, especially at the beginning when we faced a lot of social criticism from the community.

But we have grown into it as a family and it is the best thing that ever happened to us. In fact it is much (!) easier home schooling 4 children rather than 1 or 2 because it provides a group dynamic that makes the whole thing more fun and creative. And it is extremely false and judgmental to believe that underemployed or under-degreed parents cannot teach their own children.

If, in fact, the goal of Jewish education is to instill a love of Torah and mitzvot, gain Jewish skills, caring for the Jewish people, and children committing themselves to a Judaic-centric future - then homeschool is a great option. Additionally, my kids are getting a top-notch secular education and know very clearly that they are expected to be able to take care of themselves as adults and to make responsible fiscal decisions now and in the future.

I have lots more to say, but I will save it for future comments. Or maybe a guest post of SL is interested.

CJ Srullowitz said...

Al, Thanks for the clarification.

Nonetheless, I think that you overstate the case somewhat when you say that "the schools have tremendous levels of amenities, which has caused per-student costs to skyrocket."

Even if you cut down on all the so-called amenities, the simple mathematics of hiring enough teachers and paying the gas and electric would keep tuition 70-80% of where it is now. Hardly a "gamechanger." Inflating class size to 30 or higher would reduce tuition considerably, but would create a host of other problems.

There are no-frills, or at least lesser-frills options. Many of them are in a place called Brooklyn. The real issue is that people want a low-cost education while living in a high cost town.

Orthonomics said...

Shoshana Z--Either would be fine. I'd like your comments.

Anonymous said...

Stop saying "make aliya." The salaries here are a bit more than 1/4 of the salaries in America, for all sorts of jobs like doctors and speech therapists and psychologists. So if in America you make 100K, and pay 15K in tax and 30K in tuition, you have to live on 55K. In Israel, you make 30K and pay 2K in tax and 5K inelementary school tuition, you have to live on 23K. And high schools charge a lot - $4000 per kid. Braces are still expensive. I made aliya, and I am drowning. Food and gas is a killer. A medium-sized apartment in a building with an elevator is 400-500K in urban areas with schools that Americans can fit into. School ends at 1:30, so it is not easy for moms to work - and we've given far more than $100 to shuls this year. Just because you move to Israel doesn't mean you stop buying shoes and diapers. It is a real struggle to make it here on low salaries, and many people can't keep their jobs in America when they live here. Make aliya for the right reasons, not because you think you'll manage better.

Miami Al said...


"Even if you cut down on all the so-called amenities, the simple mathematics of hiring enough teachers and paying the gas and electric would keep tuition 70-80% of where it is now. Hardly a "gamechanger." Inflating class size to 30 or higher would reduce tuition considerably, but would create a host of other problems."

I think you haven't actually looked at a school budget.

The rising COSTS function from:

Tripling of administration on comparable schools over the decades has brought costs up considerably over the decades. This gets dismissed as "a few hundred dollars per student," but when you back it out WITH fringier, with support staff, and with budget, plus the 1.5x-2x multiplier (1/tuition collection rate, which ranges from 50% - 67% in MO schools) contributes about $3000/student in tuition.

The massively excessive staffing: schools where teachers are all half day (but make 2/3s-3/4s salary) have double the staff that they need, while scheduling classes throughout the day would cut that massively. Having actually trained and qualified teachers would eliminate the need for assistant teachers, etc.

Things that SHOULD be community wide celebrations instead devolve into each school hosting a Chanukah Party, Lag B'omer celebrations, etc. Yom Ha'atzmaut, etc, these are all things that could be cheaply celebrated on a community wide basis that each school instead spends money doing stuff. Same with Shabbatons and other things that have nothing to do with imparting knowledge but rather "community" that ought to be done by the community, not the schools.

Unprofessional administration results in small schools with massive office personnel. These costs are high, not just because you have a person collating paperwork instead of just buying a higher quality printer that does it, but you end up handing out lots of tuition discounts. Administrators think it doesn't matter, because most of those families would be on scholarship otherwise, but if they are on scholarship, you at least see it for planning, the staff discounts are more hidden, and second, if they work for the school, you bleed money on taxes/benefits for them, where as if they work elsewhere, you just collect beyond that.

These things combined are between 10% and 30% of the school's budget. At many of the schools, it is closer to 30% of costs. If you cut costs by 30%, even if your tuition collection rate stayed constant, you'd be lowering tuition by 45% - 60%. If you cut tuition in half like that, many people wouldn't need scholarship.

If tuition collection rate is 50%, and cutting costs in half resulted in tuition collection rate rising to 75%, you be able to cut tuition by around 2/3s!

The escalating demands has driven costs up slowly, but the driving up of costs has made tuition rise faster and tuition assistance rising faster as well. A massive cost cut could result in more people able to pay, so a massive cut in tuition.

So the amenities are not just frills like fencing, the amenities are frills like: separate Judaic and Secular staff at the elementary school level, qualified teachers ought to be able to teach both, at most a floating language teacher/6 classes. It's having 3 principals (head of school + secular + judaic) for a school of 300-400 people.

Higher costs = higher tuition = lower payment rate = higher tuition.

Control costs, tuition drops FAST.

Anonymous said...

Shoshana: That's wonderful that home schooling works so well for you and your family. Just like people who don't home school should not criticize those who do, those who can homeschool well should not be smug or self-righteous about those for whom homeschooling is not a good option, either because of the parents' teaching abilities and/or knowledge base or the particular children's needs. I have a friend who who homeschooled two of her children, but sent the other two to school because homeschooling did not fit those children's needs. I give those parents a lot of credit for being able to recognize that each child was different and what worked for one child did not work for the other.

JS said...

In terms of this actual family, it seems their options are pretty straight forward: public school, home school, or beg the school for more scholarship. As for their making more money, sure, that's always a good idea, but I think it's simplistic to think that anyone can make more money if they just had a bit more schooling.

I think aliya is a bad idea for many reasons. First of all, does Israel really need more uneducated people over there who are reliant on state services? Secondly, what makes people think Israel is some wonder paradise where all your problems go away? I know plenty of yordim who are far happier here.

As for yeshiva in general, it's a pretty sad state of affairs when the system that is supposed to provide communal education is telling people to go take a hike. It's pretty much the opposite of how the system was originally envisioned. But, it's not terribly surprising that we've ended up in this place. The current generation sending their kids to yeshiva are most likely the products of the same yeshiva system. So, look at what the products of the yeshiva system look like: undereducated, underemployed, and unable to meet even basic expenses. And look at the yeshiva system itself: less secular education, less push to work. Across the spectrum, the products of yeshiva education are worse off than the previous generation. They not only earn less, they have less desire to really strive for a better life - they're less willing to make serious sacrifices for a better financial outcome. This ranges from taking a part-time job over full-time, working for a frum business over a secular one, not being willing to get additional education or going to school at night, or making penny-wise pound-foolish employment and financial decisions based on yeshiva tuition (scholarship goes up if I stay at home, but income long-term is lower).

This isn't some aberration. You can argue about what the exact cause is, but there is no doubt that something about yeshiva education is leading to worse economic outcomes for those who participate in the system. It's only going to get worse for the next generation. It's a systemic problem that really is not being addressed because it would mean admitting there's something wrong with the way we're educating our children and that the solution, in part, is less isolation (and I say this for all, RW, MO, Chareidi, etc.).

The second part is that yeshivas increasingly cost more and offer more services. However, these services don't translate into a better educational product. The services are more administrators, more teaching assistants, more remedial services, more frills that look impressive but don't add any actual quality (smart boards, nicer bulletin boards, nicer flyers, etc). They're all geared to the lowest common denominator and set up a culture of mediocrity. Add that to the general disdain for secular education (or, even in MO schools, the culture that religious studies come first), and you're producing kids unwilling and unable to compete in the modern economy. But, the parents are happy because when they call the school an administrator returns their call immediately and their kid brings home a nice flyer and the student to teacher ratio looks great. Without real exposure to the outside world (and the fact that they don't know any better being products of the same school system), the parents have no idea their kids are being short-changed. Or, if they know, they feel the weight of the community forcing them to shut up and quit complaining.

It's a self-reinforcing system that is just going to get worse and worse.

Anonymous said...

Homeschooling might make good financial sense in the short-term, but don't forget the long-term. If Mom has a college degree and a few years work experience before she has kids, by the time she has kids she should be able to earn $50,000 a year, perhaps more. Even in a job like public school teacher, nursing, book-keeping, programming, legal assistant, etc., by staying home even if tuition would take up most of her take-home pay, she is giving up at least 20 years of 401(k) contributions, paying into social security, etc. AND is also giving up the ability to earn $75-100K or more per year during the years after her youngest child is done with home schooling and retirement age (probably age 70 for this generation) -- i.e. at lest 15-20 years of earnings. Yes, Mom could try to enter the job market in her early 50's, but she is going to start at the bottom in a very low paying job and will either in fact be or perceived to be without up-to-date skills. So, in other words, the family is giving up substantial retirement savings (potentially making themselves a burden on their children) and the funds to help thier children with college or to address a family crisis. They also are at greater risk if Dad loses his job. If Dad's career (combined with good private disability insurance - the insurance provided by employers is lousy)is secure and provides enough to save for retirement and an emergency fund and some help for college or vocational training for the kids, then go for it. If not, think about the long-term financial implications and your own tolerance for risk.

Anonymous said...

SL: I agree with your suggestion that these parents need to develop a marketable skill set. However, I'm not sure how parents who are just scraping by with a bunch of kids to care for and feed develop marketable skills. I would love to hear some more concrete advice, with some real examples. For example, does Dad take out a student loan to go back to school at night? If so, what is the cost? what field(s)? are student loans/scholarships available? What if Dad already is working evenings? How many years will it take? What can Mom do to increase her earning power if instead Dad stays home with the kids at night and takes on more responsibility for household chores? Are OJ Dads willing to do what it might take to get one of the parents more earning power (and give up eveining minyon, shiurs, etc. if necessary)? I would love to hear from people who have done it.

JS said...

"Are OJ Dads willing to do what it might take to get one of the parents more earning power (and give up eveining minyon, shiurs, etc. if necessary)?"

This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about in my comment above. The fact that a question like this needs to be asked in all seriousness is indicative of the problem. It is indicative of the current sentiment and mentality that exists after 1-2 generations of yeshiva education.

Take a step back. It's pretty shocking that when weighing financial stability against going to minyan and shiurim it's actually a question which one a person should pursue. We need to get big, important rabbonim involved and asked, "Is it okay to go to school in the evenings to make more money to pay my bills if it means missing shiur and occasionally maariv with a minyan?"

But, the real issue is very few people would even think to ask the question in the first place, deciding for themselves it is not worth it, plus it's really hard and who wants to do something difficult anyways?

homeschooled said...

Many people on here have spoken about homeschooling as an option. I want to put my 2 cents out there as a veteran of the homeschooling system.

I grew up in a small OOT community where the only frum day school closed down. So my parents homeschooled us children. Since there were a few families still in the area, the parents all went to the sole Rabbi and said "you must do something for our kids". Thus, we had mornings at the shul and the Rav taught (where we had a one room school house situation).
For secular studies, the public school had a homeschooling option where they had a no-cost library kind of system for textbooks. Each family taught their own kids secular studies and were told by the city how many sections in each textbook to do weekly... sundays and vacations included trips to museums (many are free!)or nature hikes and I had to write up something (depending on my grade) for school. Everything became a learning experience. Many times I had questions on something in real life and it was "research that" or "here's a book on that". I ended up learning about things I was interested in. What period of history did I like? Earth science or electricity? Every class was connected- I went to a history museum, read a historical novel on that time period, wrote something on it-- it all just came alive for me!
Later on, my family ended up moving and I went to a "normal school".
Yes, socially there were difficulties when I started at the regular school. Certain skills I lacked, like text taking and picking up on certain social cues.
However, academically I was far ahead of many of my classmates. I had issues where the books for English class included some I had read 3 or 4 years earlier. Plus, I found when I went to a "real school" the teachers wasted so much time with disciplining students, projects and arts and crafts that I realized why I learned less in that first year than I did the previous few homeschooling.

It is a real option that parents should consider. if you want your children to be self-starters, inquisitive, and have a real desire to learn- homeschooling is a great option. Yes, I had great parents who were able to do this with me, but they spent a lot less on homeschooling than on private school! There were no mandatory supply lists (we bought only what we needed, as we needed it), uniforms, holiday gifts for teachers, book fees, building funds, school dinners.... There were costs for the Rabbi (but it was split amongst a few families) and any "extras" (museums)were incurred when and how my parents felt we needed it.
I was a veteran of both schooling models and can say that if you homeschool in the right way, it is an amazing experience for both parent and child. I am closer to my mother than most of my friends are- she was my teacher for so many years!

Shoshana Z. said...

Anon 10:19

I don't believe that anything I said in my comment could be construed as smug or self-righteous. I have never made it my practice to criticize the schools nor do I intend to start. What I am pointing out is that homeschooling is a very valid option and one that people know little about. And what is known is usually very skewed and based on second-hand information. I am here to share first-hand experience with anyone who is curious.

As far as cutting myself in terms of savings, retirement, etc. Yes, that is all true. However, we account for that in our monthly budget and live accordingly. In fact, bH we finally left the dead-end rental market and have purchased a small condo. Our monthly mortgage payment is $705 plus an HOA fee of $240 which includes hot water, insurance, and exterior maintenance.

The point is, we are not stupid. We take responsibility for our choices. And we could not be happier ka'h with how each of our children is developing and maturing into fine young people. And iyH our children will be financially independent well before they enter college and we will not face the burden of supporting them as adults.

Shoshana Z. said...

As I have said many times before on this blog, anyone who would like to know more about implementing a homeschool program in their family is welcome to send me an email at shozo (at) earthlink (dot) net. :)

Anonymous said...

Shoshana: Congratulations on your condo purchase. Do you mind sharing where you live - a condo big enough for a family of six including hot water, insurance and maintenance for under $1,000 a month is fantastic. Also, since I would love for my kids to also be financially independent before they enter collage, any tips on how to do that - summer and after school jobs? Serving in the IDF and going to collage in Israel?

Anonymous said...

Miami Al,
I always appreciate your keen observations about the frum community. My kids attended a day school in the Midwest that fit your description of the day school class system perfectly. We had a small group of big shots who drove up tuition costs by 40 percent with their requirement that every class have a smart board and that we hire an assistant for every division head. This had the affect, of increasing the number of families on financial assistance to go from 23 percent to 52 percent in a 5 year time period. By the way, this school ended up with a teacher to staff ratio of 5 to 1, with most of the staff being administrators. The head of school, who is buddy buddy with the board, also earns north of $250,000 for a school with 500 students.
Arnie Schwartz

Shoshana Z. said...

Anon 4:33

We live in Denver. It's a great place and I highly recommend this community for families that are looking to leave the "big city." Our condo is 1029 sq. ft. We are a family of 6. Our four kids share the master bedroom. My husband and I have the smaller second bedroom. 2 baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, deck, and detached garage. The place was done over to the max by the previous owners - marble bathrooms, top of the line kitchen, gas fireplace, etc. etc. Most places in this complex sell between $65K and $90K. We paid $111K and feel as though we hit the lottery. It's fair to say that we got rid of 75% of our former belongings in order to fit in here. After some strategic furniture purchases from IKEA we are very, very comfortable and have a nice chunk of extra money in our pockets each month. We are using it to pay down debts, increase savings, and have money for special expenses that used to go on a credit card. I will write about kids and finances in a separate comment later.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Shoshana. Denver sounds great. You forgot to mention the free views and recreational/excercise opportunities. I am stuck in the northeast due to family obligations (older parents, etc.), but it certainly sounds like something younger families should consider.

I'm not Jay Wagner said...

My wife & I made the decision to our kids in public school last SY. It was an excellent decision for us. Prior to moving them to PS we we're always in the red. Now that the move is done we are in the black. Are we happy that we had to make this move? Not really but it sure beats no retirement & endless aggravation. Here in Baltimore I've encountered a few "but-inskys" who feel that they can comment, at will when they see me in the supermarket. Here's what I tell them: Drop off a check for $1500.00 on the first of each month, then & only then do you get a say in how I raise my children, this usually shuts them up. For those of you who are like us you must not concern yourself with "What will______ think?" Who cares?, they're not going to pay my bills so the last thing you should worry about is community pressure. We are not the only family to have done this & we're not going to be the last. A private school education is a luxury that many of us simply can't afford, end of story.

Anonymous said...

NotJay raises an excellent point. While some people think that public school is bad for kids, growing up in a home with parents stressed out from the tuition obligations is also not good for kids. No matter how frugally one lives and how nonmaterialistic one is, if the money is too tight for the basics, there is going to be a lot of stress. Kids are smart, they see and feel the stress no matter how hard the parents try to hide it and not let it show. It is hard to teach kids that frumkeit is a beautiful lifestyle if there is stress in the home, particularly if the costs of frumkeit are the source of some of that stress. Also, a financial sitution that is stressful for one set of parents may not be stressful for others. Different people have different levels of tolerance for living on or near to the edge. It doesn't mean that some have more faith than others. We all just made differntly. For others, the stress of breaking from communal norms outweighs the financial stress of funding yeshiva. I'm glad notjay has learned to deal with the stress of not letting the butinskys at the grocery store get to him.

Anonymous said...

I am not some buttinsky who thinks they can comment on another's situation. I just am curious from a financial point of view how you go about making sure your children get a decent Torah education that doesn't cost more than yeshiva?
I have heard of people who have tried private tutoring since the parents did not have the knowledge base from which to teach Torah studies to their kids and they have mentioned how expensive it is. They ended up on scholarship when they went back as they were "public school kids" who couldn't afford Yeshiva. Then again, you might be able to teach and then this whole post is a non-question...

mom2 said...

Sephardi Lady
I know that the mere fact of being a blogmaster should not be seen as an open invitation for all sorts of impertinent personal questions,so please forgive the intrusion, but I would have thought an eminently practical and intelligent person like yourself would be homeschooling your little ones. Would u mind sharing your general pro and con list?

Orthonomics said...

Mom2--Good question. It is a bit "intrusive" in that I can't share all details. But, a kitzur should work.

**There have been some extenuating circumstances over the years that took us off this potential path.

**We also like the current school and it is very well suited for the school-aged kids. Add to that one kid who continues to present challenges and we appreciate having the staff we do to put our heads together with theirs.

**We aren't equally suited to do this together as a family.

**Another thing is that we are a smaller family and the brood isn't close in age and the personalities are very different, so I can't envision it in the present (As Shoshana Z pointed out, homeschooling sometimes is more natural with a larger group of children).

Orthonomics said...

P.S. I appreciate your vote of confidence Mom2

Anonymous, regarding job training and skills, I don't want to put something trite out, so I will need some time. I do think that for some, underemployment is the sign of a greater issue that needs to be addressed and that all the school in the world won't make a different. I've met underemployed PhDs in the sciences. I'd written about this in the past.

Regarding another comment, I will make a post.

JS said...

To continue my earlier points:

What are people doing to make sure their own kids don't end up in the same position you are in? What are you doing to make sure your kids are in a better financial situation than you are?

All I see is people complaining about the cost of yeshiva education or the inability to afford the frum lifestyle. But, the answer is always short-sighted. The answer for yeshiva tuition is to beg for more scholarship. Or, absent that, home school or use public schools, or a charter school, or make aliyah. The answer for other expenses is to plan meals better, not go overboard for simchas, live frugally and ignore the "cohens".

But, there's no comments or posts on the overarching issue of how we got into this mess in the first place and how we're going to get out of it.

I don't see anyone addressing the income side of the problem. Why are people today not earning enough money? Why are they uneducated or under-educated? Why are they unemployed or under-employed? Why are they not motivated to better their station in life? Why don't you see people working multiple jobs or going to night school? Why are people lazier and unwilling to do for themselves? Why are people willing to make horrible long-term financial decisions for the short-term gain of a yeshiva scholarship?

On the expense side you'll hear people talking about removing all the "extras" from the yeshivas. Do you think that will make it affordable for your own children to send their kids to yeshiva? Do you think without all those "extras" your kids will be able to compete in the global economy?

What is it about the current generation that has made things so incredibly messed up? The first generation where nearly everyone is yeshiva educated and sending their own kids to yeshiva and the system is collapsing. What went wrong. What should we be doing differently to break the cycle?

You may be able to scrape by somehow but what about your own kids? Are you setting them up for the same or worse life? Or are they going to be better off than you are?

Is the yeshiva education you're killing yourself to pay putting them on a better path?

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...


Too many people are working harder than ever to pay tuition. But when they see others sitting and not working themselves, and none the less getting the same out of it, then they feel like suckers. See 200K's blog.

What changed? Maybe the percentage of people not paying reached critical. Maybe people lost their sense of Achrayot. Maybe they feel that their money is not well spent. I don't have the answer. But I do know that if "working hard" and "hardly working" get the same results, most people will choose hardly working.

Miami Al said...


Here is the rub, even in this recession, college educated people are much less likely to be unemployed, graduate degree holders, even less so. It is true that "not everyone" can be a lawyer/doctor/hedge fund manager, but just about everyone with an advantaged background is capable of being a college graduate and/or a skilled tradesman.

Two college graduates should be capable of earning 40k/each right out of school. Even if income tops out at 65k/each, that's still 130k of income. If the median income was 130k you'd still have people struggling, but the struggling would be WAY less.

As the current low-admin MO school in Bergen County shows, you CAN do parochial education @ $9k/student. If the average family size is 3.5, that's 31.5k/family in raw educational costs.

On 130k, that's absolutely a doable luxury. If the median were 130k, wealthy donors could float a scholarship fund to handle the families that can't hit that level of income (early death of a parent, mental/physical handicaps, etc).

It's MUCH harder to move the needle of the 200k families up to 300k (the distribution curve gets steep rather quickly) than it is to get the "normal" student up to that middle class income.

But, the Frum "reality?" Whether you earn 130k or 80k, you're going to be on scholarship when tuition is $15k/student. So why be "just an accountant" earning $65k when you can be a Rebbe @ $60k with tuition benefits instead of scholarship, lots more Kavod, and you're a winner, instead of a loser.

We're incentivizing bad behavior.

Unless you can clear out to the 250k-300k range before your kids are all in school, you're going to end up in the same place, so why work hard?

JS said...


This is the way I see things:

This is the first generation of Orthodoxy that is almost completely yeshiva educated. This should be a tremendous milestone and celebrated as a success. And yet, it's also the first generation where it seems Orthodoxy is at a crossroads and the system is crumbling. I think we need to take a critical look at this situation if we're going to come out of it stronger.

I would venture that the yeshiva educated of this generation, across the spectrum of Orthodoxy, is worse off (or, at least, not as well off as they should be) and I think a major reason for that IS the yeshiva education they received.

The yeshiva educated are more insular, which means they are less willing to work in the secular world and less willing to deal with the challenges the secular world provides to an Orthodox Jew.

They are less educated in secular subjects. A dual curriculum simply doesn't provide as much time for secular subjects even in the best MO schools. The best MO schools are educating their best and brightest no better than a decent public school. They are not being educated to the level they could be at the nation's best schools. And outside of the MO world, a secular education isn't even being provided in some instances.

They are more entitled. They are told they are brilliant because they are Jews. Brilliant because they handle a dual curriculum while others get out early from their schools. Brilliant because their minds are honed by gemara. They go to summer camps till well into high school and often in college as counselors. They don't have a job (even a summer job) till college at the very earliest. They take 1-2 years to study in Israel. They grow up around tremendous gashmiut and lavish expenses.

They have a 1950's attitude toward women and especially women in the workplace. Women are relegated to a small number of career paths and their educations are not as important. Even in MO world it's not the equality and level of opportunities you would expect. A woman doesn't even have a career to give up in most discussions.

They don't have the same work ethic their parents or grandparents had. They don't want to go to school at night. They don't want to work a second job. They rationalize it by saying it will all go to the yeshiva or saying it's too stressful or will take away from their learning.

They don't value secular education like their parents or grandparents did. It's learning first and secular education second, if at all. In the MO world they prefer YU over a better ranked school with more opportunities.

I could go on.

So, I look at the situation and I see the yeshiva education which everyone is struggling to figure out how to pay for as one of the root causes for how we got into this mess in the first place. Everyone is trying to figure out how to pay for an educational system that led to this very situation. What is being done differently to ensure our kids are in a better situation when they have their own children?

Because the way I see things, I'm betting the current crop of kids in yeshiva will be in a WORSE position than their parents are. That's a crying shame.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Miami Al:

"We're incentivizing bad behavior."

I'm saying that also happens on the 200K scale. If the 200K earners are in the same bucket (and net take home pay) as the 60K Rebbe (or OT) due to tuition, why become a 200K earner?

All you gain is less time with your children and the feeling of being a sucker who pays full, but no recognition.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

JS: "What is being done differently to ensure our kids are in a better situation when they have their own children?"

Instill in your children a better set of values than what they learn in Yeshiva. Yeshiva is not meant to be the end all; Parents should not treat it like it is. That is what I see from my parents, in laws (& Uncle and Aunt!) and extended family. Take the good where you can get it, but don't take bad/poor values from anywhere.

Miami Al said...


I agree. My point is, the economics would be WAY better off if you could move the median up, but I'm not seeing ANY effort to do that. I'm seeing efforts to move to "approved" jobs for women that will pay at best, $40k, and men moving towards "frum" fields that will meander at $60k, and the women cutting back as they have children.

But move the median from $80k to $130k and your scholarship rate plummets, would would leave the $200k people doing well, and there would be a reason to reach for it.

I see lots of children of lawyers being sub-educated, same thing with the children of doctors/lawyers, so our 200k families are dropping to 130k, instead of raising our $80k families to $130k.

I see a willingness to fund 2 years in Israel, but not a push for Ivy League schooling.

Miami Al said...


Here is the problem. If you are sending your children to Yeshiva, with the expectation than your grandchildren will send to Yeshiva, then the values you are instilling in your children is to be the suckers, nobody wants that.

Working long hours and being an absentee parent to support others taking it easy is a strange set of values to instill in your kids.

JS said...


That's all well and good, but it misses the point. Why are we educating our children in a system where, absent parental "reprogramming", they're going to end up in a far worse place?

In the rest of the world, they're trying to figure out how to create schools that push students to want to succeed and make something of themselves. They're trying to find that magic formula that propels their kids into the top earners and the tops of their fields. Parents are paying thousands of dollars for elite private schools that will give their kids that extra edge and a network of successful people to collaborate with.

But, for yeshiva, the best we can do is try to unteach all the bad influences and bad messages?

That's just backwards to me.

We're not teaching the right values. We're not teaching excellence. We're teaching laziness, entitlement, and mediocrity. Those who are succeeding are succeeding DESPITE yeshiva education, not because of it.

tesyaa said...

JS - don't you know that Hashem will provide. Moshiach will pay the credit card bill. Ivy League education is traif. Those goyim are so materialistic with their plasma TVs (and isn't my new sheitel stunning?)

Nephew of Frum Actaury said...


I agree to the most part. Howver, you have to remember that the parents decide where the children go to school. In many cases, that choice is a rollback from what the parents did. In some (granted few), the school is better and gives more advantages.

The school is the hardest part of the tightrope. On one hand, you want to instill Jewish/Torah values. On the other, you also want to give them the chance to make a life for themselves. Many choose the values and lose the education. Others, the education but not the values. Very few try to teach both, and even then, there will be some Rebbaim & Morahs that try to pull the children towards their own "derech". The trick is to guide your child away from these bad influences, and teach them to think on their own.

You bring up a critical point. Our goal should NOT be the same as the "elite private schools". They show a way to make money (or be at the top of the field). The best Rabbaim/Teachers show the way how to be both at the top of your field and and Torah, honest and Rightous Jew.

And yes, I have no problem sending my son to Israel for two years, but do have problems with an Ivy League school (excepting Columbia). A College dorm will kill the "values" aspect that you are trying to teach (as a 20 year old is just not ready for that sort of influence), by the second year (or even third) in Israel will not kill the "education" aspect, as long as that is known before hand (perhaps it is a parneting crisis as well!).

AztecQueen2000 said...

Another problem is that we seem to be abdicating our responsibilities to our children. We start children in school at younger and younger ages (even stay-at-home mothers will often send two and three-year-olds to some sort of program both through the year and over the summer). We have programs through the summer, and on Shabbos afternoons and Sundays. One one Lakewood yeshiva, the (high school-age) boys are in school fifteen hours a day (with no secular subjects taught.)
So, when, pray tell, are we going to "un-teach" the values of our system? When will we tell our sons about working full-time or our daughters about the practical pitfalls of marrying a "learning boy?" When will we teach our kids that the house, car, nice clothes, cleaning lady, private school tuition and camp fees only come from hard work at a job? When will we encourage delaying marriage long enough to develop a career? Our children are never home!

tesyaa said...

Nephew, while we may have different viewpoints on the influences of college dorms, I must challenge your statement that the second or third year in Israel will not negatively impact the child's desire to get an education. I have seen too many cases, including close family members, where a child who had previously agreed to his parents' stipulation that one (or two) years in Israel was the max, went ahead and stayed in learning "forever" despite his parents' objections. Tell me you have never heard of such a case? (As I said, I've seen it in real life ... not just in Tova Mirvis' novel "The Outside World").

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...


Of course. I've seen it after one year too. But that is due to bad parenting, not the child. If the child knew that they couldn't get away with it (i.e., the parents wouldn't support them and wouldn't pay their yeshiva tuition), they wouldn't try.

tesyaa said...

Nephew, in the cases I'm mentioning, bad parenting was not part of it. The parents did not support this child, who was given a stipend to continue attending yeshiva. The child is now married, supported by his wife; the parents give the children and grandchildren normal gifts, but zero living expenses.

It's too simple to just say "bad parenting" and be done. It could happen to anyone's child.

Sure, this child (and his large family) is not a burden on his parents. But if he were capable of earning $100,000 or $200,000 in the workplace (not unreasonable for some of these Talmudic geniuses), he could be helping the community financially, rather than being a drain.

Miami Al said...

There are 2.8 BILLION people in India and China that are willing to KILL for a shot at a fraction of the quality of life available here (LITERALLY KILL, Google China infanticide). Their best and brightest are coming here for an education to learn to be the best and brightest.

Our system relies on the largess of the winners to provide for the rest. The winners are playing in a tougher market than ever.

Our policies are resulting in the "normal" going downward across generations, this requires more help from the "winners."

And the biggest threat to our way of life is a college dorm?!?!?

tesyaa said...

Nephew, I guess my point is that if we teach kids that Torah values are always paramount, they will always see secular education as secondary.

The thing is, putting food on the table is primary.

We have to teach kids that there may be times when they have to skip shiur to study for finals, or take in internship in the "goyish" world when they would really rather be helping disabled Jewish kids at Camp HASC. How do we teach them that, if we've always taught them that Torah ALWAYS comes first?

(And for some kids, the right education might mean they do have to go away and live in a dorm. Plenty of frum kids have maintained their frumkeit living in dorms. If they can't, what does that say about the first 18 years of their education? But it's OK if we disagree on this one.)

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

"The child is now married, supported by his wife; the parents give the children and grandchildren normal gifts, but zero living expenses. "


I would have no issue with that, if he is not a burden on his community (let's say in Israel). That is a choice, and perhaps even a smart one, based on the circumstances provided. Money is not the end all, and he may be willing to pay the economic cost.

Miami: Straw Man (assuming you are disagreeing with me). Who said "biggest" or "way of life"? All I said was Risk/Reward to Torah values is not a good bet (vs. Columbia or even Johns Hopkins, for those who want to go there). You may disagree.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

"We have to teach kids that there may be times when they have to skip shiur to study for finals, or take in internship in the "goyish" world when they would really rather be helping disabled Jewish kids at Camp HASC. How do we teach them that, if we've always taught them that Torah ALWAYS comes first?"

They do, but only in the right schools. Research and send your children to schools that follow your Hashkafa (even in Israel)!

tesyaa said...

Nephew, in Israel a family with several kids earning very little money is not a burden? He and his family (and thousands of others) are certainly a burden on taxpayers who DO work.

An able-bodied man who wants to live anything other than a monastic lifestyle (and raising a large family is by definition a luxury) should work. It's sad that we are part of a society that thinks the opposite.

Anonymous said...

"Our children are never home!"

Many of the Orthodox leaders do not want parents to be the primary influence on the next generation, but it should be the Rabbis. The power of the parents is being eroded with long hours at yeshivas.

Anonymous said...

The reality is once the economy starts its next downturn (which is probably coming within the next 12 months) the Orthodox financial situation will decline further. Look for more Orthodox school closings. It will be a real mess.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

"An able-bodied man who wants to live anything other than a monastic lifestyle (and raising a large family is by definition a luxury) should work."

I disagree. If the spouse is earning enough money for the family, why can't he sit and learn? (of course, that assumes she is earning enough for the family). Especially if she wants him to learn.

Anonymous said...

How much responsibility will the Orthodox Rabbinical leadership take now that many of them have embraced Daas Torah?

JS said...


It's overly simplistic and wrong-headed to simply blame the parents for not "unteaching" their kids. I'm not saying parents don't have a role to play, but it would seem the entire system, at times, is working against them. Maybe the blame belongs to them for even participating in this system, but then perhaps we've gone too far and thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

I would posit that there is no "right school". Even the coed MO schools I attended don't teach the right values and are leaving their graduates worse off than their parents. It's a source of pride when a kid decides to turn down his acceptance to an elite university and go to YU/Stern. Like you suggest only Columbia and Penn are marginally acceptable alternatives. This is lunacy when you compare the opportunities available to Columbia/Penn students as compared to YU students (often at the same educational cost, to boot).

But, enough specific examples. Look at each individual community. You can break it down however you wish. Are MO 20-30 somethings between off than their parents? Chareidim or RW or Yeshivish of the same age? Look on a town level if you wish. Are the young families in Teaneck and Bergenfield today better off? Are the young families in Lakewood?

There's something inherently wrong with a system producing these results. There's something desperately in need of fixing when the best solution is parents telling their kids "no" all the time to what they're absorbing through osmosis while in yeshiva.

And I'll add it isn't like they start chumash class with a statement like "Secular university will destroy your soul!" It's subtle. It's done over the course of years. Some of the rebbes and teachers may not even realize they're doing it. The parents may not even realize it's being done till their child suddenly calls them up from Israel and says "I'm staying another year. The yeshiva found money for me to stay. I know I promised I would come back, but this is more important than Columbia. I can reapply next year."

I don't think Al's comment is really an exaggeration. It's a changing and increasingly global economy. If our basic communal structure is dependent on very wealthy donors and a certain percentage of other "full payers" and contributors, at the VERY least we need to be sure we're producing the next generation of those people.

Is yeshiva education doing that?

tesyaa said...

Nephew, most kollel wives are not earning anywhere near enough to support a family of 5 kids, pay for childcare, pay tuition, etc. At least a family with a SAHM doesn't need childcare - a kollel family does, yet is still only earning one salary.

I realize as a citizen of the US I'm receiving many benefits, and citizens of Israel are entitled to their government benefits, but it's not good for any society to have so many men not working by choice.

Yes, the families I'm thinking about are happy and the wives are thrilled to have the zchus of supporting a man learning. But they're not making it on their own, let's not kid ourselves.

Miami Al said...


Sorry for the "straw man" argument. You're right, and risk/reward is up for consideration everywhere.

However, I am VERY concerned at how many "options" that would produce opportunities to be "high earners" are denied as "too risky" for Frum Jews. Sure, if you can get into Penn AND Harvard, there is less "Frum risk" @ Penn, and the decrease in opportunities there is pretty minor, but what about the kid that gets into Harvard, NOT Penn (it can happen), and YU, and choosing YU over Harvard, that is absolutely going to reduce opportunities that going to a top 5 school offers.

If you want to be on the Supreme Court, plenty of opportunities for Jews, but Jews that went to Harvard Law.

Each of these "downshifts" seems minor, but while prior generations knocked down doors to open up opportunities for Frum Jews, the current one is busy closing them off. Rather than giving kids the tools to be Frum @ Harvard, we're hiding them to avoid the challenges.

Teaching kids to avoid the challenge of reaching for Harvard (or Yale, Princeton, Stanford, or MIT) is also teaching them NOT to reach for the challenge of working in a not so Frum friendly field.

Tons of money (Jewish and otherwise) was made in the dot-com era.... doesn't seem to be many Frum Yidden that made it, how many more would there have been if Frum Jews were told that Stanford was a reach.

Sometimes in life, it comes down to Mazal. The best way to have good Mazal hit Frum Jews is to have Frum Jews everywhere, so when oil is struck in farmland, some of that farmland belongs to Frum Jews.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

tesyaa: If one needs to take Tzedaka to learn, then they should be working (if possible). Then again, they shouldn't get to that point in the first place.

JS: I hope that I am not placing blame. I am saying that with a strong enough Hashkafa from the home, it can be done.

Now, where I live is certainly the exception and not the rule, but those who support the community have their children working, not learning full time (the parents wouldn't take that). As far as the general populace (of my high school class, I won't speak for other schools), many (probably most) are in better positions than their parents were at this point in their lives. Then again, my parents chose the school, and I had good mentors. For Tesyaa's example, I was told by the Moshgiach that skipping seder to study for a test or finals is not a problem, just make up the time after finals. There were some who were "Learning Uber Alles", but they were the minority.

A few member of my class still have their parents supporting them (in Lakewood or EY). I don't have an issue with that, as long as they pay the grandchildren's tuition (and they can).

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Al: Even with the tools, the risk is too great (IMHO). I agree with most of what you said otherwise, but remember. We (as frum Jews) have a goal, and it is not to become the next president.

JS said...


I agree that the parents have to guide their children and instill the right values. I don't agree that it should be an uphill battle because of the schools.

The problem with your statement about "risk" is this:

It starts with someone saying "University X is a known party school and there's only coed dorms and no kosher food on campus. Better to go to YU/Stern."

Then it becomes, "University Y may have kosher food on campus, but it doesn't have a daily minyan and the dorms are all coed. Better YU/Stern."

Then, "University Z may have a daily minyan, but it doesn't have daily shiurim and it's hard for kids there to arrange a chavrusa, even though they offer single-sex dorm floors, the dorm itself is coed."

Then, "University A may have shiurim at a local shul and you don't even have to live in the dorms, but the school itself is coed and it's not a proper environment for a frum Jew."

Then, "University is no place for a frum Jew."

There's no end to this and I think you can see how we've already gone pretty far down this path - each Orthodox community in its own way and each subsequent generation taking it a step further. Where your own parents or you went to college is no longer acceptable for your children.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

JS: Slippery slope proven? All that is is an argument that Orthodoxy is moving to the right. It has nothing to do with the Ivy Vs. YU discussion.

Now, if you want to discuss why orthodoxy has moved to the right...

Anonymous said...

An Anonymous asked how a man acquires marketable skills when he has a wife and children. I've lost the post, but here's how:

A kollel husband after 6 years' kollel supported by his medical professional wife, went to community college for science subjects which he aced. Now he's in an excellent program for a MS in the medical field (can't be more specific to preserve their privacy). They have four children, 6 and under. Wife still works. Husband's degree takes two years. Grandma babysits as much as she can with a full time job. Grandma and Grandpa's goal is to get son in law through medical program anyway they can. They can't pay, so young couple will be in debt $40,000. Wife keeps working, kids in school, babysitters, and grandma watching kids. Husband plans to pay off $40,000 debt in the first year he's working. With their combined income, they should be able to live a frugal but dignified life. Luckily they are both frugal and live in Frugal Frumtown, USA.

That's how you do it. Vacations are to out of town bubby and zaidy. Grandma and Grandpa live nearby and can help with childcare.

tesyaa said...

Grandma and Grandpa live nearby and can help with childcare.

So the scenario works. What happens when Grandma & Grandpa have 6 married kids (bli ayin hara amen v'amen!) and they each want to follow this path? How can they do it?

Very specific circumstances work for very specific people. But there is no blueprint for the frum community as it actually is, with large families and decreased education until a couple belatedly realizes it's needed.

And although many grandparents may truly feel privileged to support children learning, others may only do so out of worry for shidduchim or other social circumstances. Trust fund frum families aside, grandparents have very real worries about things like long-term care and outliving their savings. And Zaydie may have had his own dream of sitting and learning a little in retirement, which is now indefinitely postponed.

Anonymous said...

Grandma and Grandpa are both relatively young and active in their jobs, Grandpa extremely busy with earning a living. All children have been raised to know they must be self-supporting. And they are, except for unmarried children who are teenagers. It is the mother who studies for the degree and works full time for 6 years until her husband starts his education. Grandma and Grandpa are not supporting these families. They set limits. You want to be in kollel? Then you better figure out a way to support yourselves.

JS said...


I'm not trying to "prove" anything. It's not a slippery slope argument. I'm not trying to tell you that your mode of thinking about college is leading anywhere necessarily. I am making an observation about the community as a whole though.

You can call it a slide to the right. I don't really care about that side of the issue.

All I'm talking about and all I'm concerned about in this conversation is that our school system is doing a disservice to the community by producing kids who are worse off than their parents are, on average.

Saying better universities that offer better opportunities (or universities in general) are treif is part and parcel of why yeshiva educated people are ending up worse off. It's not the only problem, but it's part of it.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...


Perhaps. But it doesn't really bother me if students "frum out" and move to Israel. They are "better off" than their parents as regards to the time they spend with family (as parents are working long hours to pay tuition), and the time they spend learning (granted that the society there needs work, but assume something like the American RBS). Learning Torah is a good in of itself.

If saying not going to a dorm college (and being tempted by what is there, even with the tools) is keeping us "worse off", I would rather we remain worse off.

JS said...


I'll just add this:

If the people who support our institutions generally work in the secular world, went to secular universities, and aren't the ones who "frummed out" and learn Torah all day, we're in a lot of trouble.

Remember, the guy sitting and learning Torah all day is still soliciting donations from those who are not sitting and learning all day. Someone has to pay the bills.

I'm going to completely make up numbers, but it's just meant to be illustrative. Imagine a financially stable Orthodox community with all its current institutions requires:

1) 10 percent of its population to earn in the top 2-3%;

2) 25 percent to earn in the top 4-10%;

3) 50 percent to earn in the top 11-40%; and

4) Remaining 15 percent earning in the bottom 60%.

Again, just for illustrative purposes.

If after the result of our current system, there's more in category 4 because there's fewer in category 3, probably not the end of the world. But, imagine that category 2 has now shrunk. That's a slightly bigger deal. But, if category 1 is also shrinking, we're in a lot of trouble.

Just looking at scholarship, category 4 is getting a huge scholarship and category 3 getting a bit of help. Category 2 are your full payers who are struggling. But, Category 1 are your huge donors, the ones paying all those scholarships, donating those buildings, and keeping the lights on.

To look at the question of educational quality and ensuring the next generation is doing better another way: what are we doing to make sure we have enough people to keep the lights on in the next generation?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:59 - I'm confused - how do you get an MS in a "medical field" with a two year community college associate's degree. Don't you need a four year bachelor's degree before you can go on to a master's. And, what are the "medical fields" this couple is in? I noticed you didn't say either is an m.d.. R.N. (i.e. about 60-80K)(the higher paying RN's all have master's)? physical therapy? (again usually a masters is needed) A two-year's associate's degree might get you a job as a radiology tech or an LPN, something in the 4-50K range with a few years experience.

Nephews uncle said...

I am a little late to the conversation, but a few thoughts:

On the young man who after two years in Israel decided to stay there; who paid for this? He was 20years old, had no job, was not married and had no in laws or working wife. Thus, I presume it was the parents, who thus encouraged the behavior. If that they are now years later still stuck with the bills is their fault, not the yeshiva, the RY, or RW orthodoxy.

A very centrist 70-ish couple I know asked me how to pay of their son's 300k student loan (7 years post college studies). So this 'not retitring while payign for my kids' is not just a RW issue. Though I guess they won't have to pay for the randkids.

As a (RW) parent of three teenagers, my solution is to get the kids to understand costs early on. My daughter is in Israel and while I told her I would pay for tuition and plane fare, everything else is on her. Her 'wake up' to how much things cost is awesome, and I think has reduced her willingness to marry a full time learner. Having my yeshiva-bochur son pay his own bills for anything beyond basic living expenses opened his eyes too. While he wants to learn for a while, he is attending college at night. something that was common place in the 70s and 80s in the RW world, but seems to have lost its place.

On the other hand, son received scholarship offers to numerous out-of-state colleges and it was not even a "hava a'mina". Torah Im Derech eretz is a great motto, and notice which is listed first.

I am pretty sure we can find direct corrolation between full time College dorm students and intermarriage/off the derech. Not that I am saying the rate is 50% or 25% or even 10% (I have no idea) , but it is defintiely higher than those who continue to maintain a kesher with their yeshiva/shul while attending college. (Now I duck as the verbal bombs begin)

Anonymous said...

To confused Anonymous: Perhaps I did not make myself clear. Husband took science prerequisites at community college. He already had a Bachelors of Talmudic Studies from his yeshiva, so he only needed the science coursework. He then applied to and was accepted to a master's program in a medical field at a major university, which will qualify him for the same medical license as his wife, but with additional qualifications that should make him more employable with hopefully additional income. These are not online courses or the therapies. I can be no more specific so as not to reveal their identities in Frumtown, a close knit community.

JS said...


I know people in similar situations where the rabbis and administrators found "stipends" and "scholarships" for such people. I know people who, after telling a rabbi their parents won't let them go to yeshiva in Israel were told the rabbi would find the funds and they should just "go". This is besides the point, though. I also know of parents basically blackmailed into paying for this kind of stuff. You can blame them, but their kids, at the guidance of their rabbis, basically tell their parents, "If you don't send me money, I'll starve."

To the overall point, I've tried to make it clear it's an Orthodox issue, not a RW or Chareidi or MO or Yeshivish or whatever issue. Look at any individual community and tell me if people who have gone through that community's educational system are better off than their parents. Or, stated a different way, within the community what educational options were OK a generation ago and are those same options considered OK now? What jobs and environments were acceptable a generation ago and are those environments acceptable today?

You mention "While he wants to learn for a while, he is attending college at night. something that was common place in the 70s and 80s in the RW world, but seems to have lost its place." This is EXACTLY my point. So, while your son is following this path, hopefully his personal situation will be better or the same as the previous generation. But, for all those for whom such an option has "lost its place" will they be better off on average?

Again, in the MO world, if it was acceptable to go to college out of state or those with coed dorms a generation ago and now it's not acceptable, are kids nowadays going to be better off or worse?

I hope this makes the point clearer.

Abba said...


"I don't have an issue with that, as long as they pay the grandchildren's tuition (and they can)."

And who will pay for the great-grandchildren's tuition?

Miami Al said...


Thank you, you have made the point I've been trying (and failing) to make on all these related threads.

That, in a nutshell, captures the downward mobility issue:

"And who will pay for the great-grandchildren's tuition?"

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"And who will pay for the great-grandchildren's tuition?"

The RW answer: Moshiach will come before that bill comes due. What other answer could there be?

Shoshana Z. said...

Anon - December 11, 2011 4:33 PM

Our children are not yet old enough to work or go to college. But here is what we are emphasizing now in order to "program" them for independence in the near future:

1) There is no difference between kodesh and chol. It is all kodesh, including cleaning your house, working to earn a salary, caring for children, etc.

2) We model the work ethics that we expect from them now and in the future.

3) Focusing on needs v wants and even needs v needs. Sometimes we have to say no even to things that are very valid and important.

4) Personal responsibility and self-sufficiency (coupled with)...

5) Taking care of the people around you, especially those who are younger than you

6) Creative problem solving

7) Serving the family unit first which fortifies you to be a good citizen of the world.

Mark said...

Nephew - A College dorm will kill the "values" aspect that you are trying to teach (as a 20 year old is just not ready for that sort of influence), by the second year (or even third) in Israel will not kill the "education" aspect, as long as that is known before hand (perhaps it is a parenting crisis as well!).

So a 20-year-old after 14 years of yeshiva education cannot handle a college dorm, but a 21-year-old with 15 years of yeshiva education can handle it?

Perhaps a better solution would be to live at home and attend a college nearby (as I did). That's easy in just about every frum Jewish area of the USA, most of all in the NYC area.

Commenter Abbi said...

"I would have no issue with that, if he is not a burden on his community (let's say in Israel). "

So, you're ok with him being a drain on MY tax shekalim, as long as your tax and tzedaka dollars are safe? Thanks a bunch! I'll be sure to keep that in mind when your kids are here in Israel for the year and they come knocking on my door for shabbes meals.

As the nephew of an actuary, I would think you would know economic rule #1 by heart already: There aint no such thing as a free lunch.

tesyaa said...

As an aside, I'm not opposed in principle to communal support for the very top tier of learners - my relative is supposedly an illui, which may be why he was offered a stipend when his parents did not continue financial support after his first two years in yeshiva. But I hear that about so many boys, that they're "brilliant in learning". Way more than 1% or 2% or even 3% of learning boys are walking around thinking they're yechidei segula. Another problem for the actuarial types to ponder...

tesyaa said...

BTW, any actuarial humor on my part is self-directed; hope my colleagues posting here are not taking offense.

Anonymous said...

New economic downturn coming soon. Be prepared.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Commenter Abbi:

I already told Tesyaa that almost everyone shouldn't be taking Tzedaka to learn. In Israel, this is easier, due to lower or no tuition, while in America, taking reduced tuition IS Tzedaka. Nothing to do with Shekalim, Dollars or Pounds.

If he lives in Israel, then that is his community, and he should be a giver to that community, not a taker (as Chazal point out "early and often").

Mark: No, and I agree. Maybe a married 25 or 30 year old.

Abba: Eventually, they restart the upward mobility. A different uncle (not the actuary) sits and learns, because his father supports him. His sons work (real estate & accounting).

JS: The people keeping the lights on are not those making 500K as Lawyers or Hedge fund managers. It is those making tens of millions who have real estate holdings, diamonds, nursing homes or other large family businesses. Those parents (from what I have seen first hand) let their children learn until they are needed, and then make them join the business.

Anonymous said...

Nephew: There are some lawyers who do make seven figures and help keep the lights on, and many hedge fund managers can light up a whole city. However, the excess tuition and tzedakah of lots of 200K families also help to keep the lights on. The problem is it takes more of them to equal the dontaions of one of the real estate moguls you mention. The problem is that sometimes the big donors are the ones whose voices get heard -- the ones who often want all the bells and whistles and want their names on fancy buildings, ultimately raising the costs for everyone.

Abba said...


"Eventually, they restart the upward mobility."

do you really believe this?
of course it does happen, as in the case of your relative. but imho there are high obstacles to the entire community restarting this upward mobility. and i think its ridiculous to bank on it and make communal policy based on it.

Shoshana Z. said...

I read the original post on imamother. I think the OP is talking about a nursery age child. She needs day care, not day school. Although the tuition discussion is non-the-less valid, it is sad that there is so much pressure to enroll children at that age.

Miami Al said...

Right, having pre-school aged children at home is not "homeschooling," it's "parenting."

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

"and i think its ridiculous to bank on it and make communal policy based on it."

For sure. You question was regarding specific individuals. Most parents don't pay their grandchildren's full tuition.

Miami Al said...

Regarding "restarting upward mobility,"

It's also insane. There is a BIG jump in income moving from poor -> middle class, and a BIG jump from middle class -> upper middle class.

Dropping back to poor means taking a BIG CHUNK of communal wealth out and starting over. You can't stop individuals from jumping off the ladder, but you CAN change communal decisions that encourages it.

However, looking for that leadership is going to be problematic, because our lay leadership is non-existent beyond funding priorities, and our rabbinic leadership is has a selection bias, they chose learning and therefore are biased towards others doing so. I'm not saying that they don't counsel individuals to make other choices, but a Rabbi is FAR more likely to tell you to learn than a lawyer would, it's human nature to see your own choices as correct.

tesyaa said...

Nephew - most people don't pay their grandchildren's full tuitions, but a lot of people give a lot of money towards their grandchildren's tuitions. But those grandchildren may have a lot of problem paying for their own kids, in the absence of parental help.

As I see it, the problem is self-limiting; when the money's no longer there, people will no longer sit and learn; people will have fewer children; and many kids will go to public school (seems unthinkable now, but...). Sadly, there will be major pain for the generation that needs to make money but wasn't given the educational skill set to do so. But I think they will learn from their pain and make sure their kids get the skill set they need.

Miami Al said...


From what's I've seen, kid one approaches school age, parents consider something OTHER than day school, and grandparents swoop in to pay tuition. They cover child #1 for kindergarten, and parents agree rather than fight about it.

They may even pay when child 2 enters in 2-3 years. However, eventually, that support ends (the market tanks, business slows down, approaching retirement, we've helped you enough already, etc., etc.) and the parents are left with a child that is sheltered in day school, behind the public school academically, socially unable to branch out, and stuck. Also, socially "acceptable" alternatives like charters and the like don't have as many spots for 3rd grade transfers as they do for kindergarteners, and now trapped.

Trapped by short sighted decision making, but trapped nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Those who receive a yeshiva education are less able and less willing to do what is necessary to pay for their own children's yeshiva education. It's ironic and tragic.

Anonymous said...

Tessya: I'm not sure that the problem is so self-limiting. It depends on how far to the right the community goes. Look at Kiryas Joel. It has the highest poverty rates in the country, but there is no move to have fewer kids, increase secular education or get people into the workforce. Now what they will do when public benefits (Section 8, WIC, foodstamps, Medicaid, etc.) starts getting strings attached (i.e. all able bodied recipients must work on public works programs) or are cut back in a big way, remains to be seen.

Shoshana Z. said...

@Miami Al-

Right, having pre-school aged children at home is not "homeschooling," it's "parenting.


Miami Al said...

Anon 12:46,

Oh, a subgroup can absolutely enter a death spiral. Since the government safety net provides increasing benefits to those willing to hang out in the underclass, situations like Kiryas Joel are very possible.

The bigger threat there is NOT a cut back in benefits, but rather an aggressive IRS looking into "off the books" freelance/jobs, lifestyle auditing, etc.

Also, many of thing Jewish fringe groups require outside resources to sustain themselves. As the unaffiliated Jewish population declines, and the affiliated portion becomes increasingly distant from Orthodoxy, the subsidies for those groups will decline. They won't necessarily fix the problems, it'll be like multi-generational poverty in inner cities, some people will work hard and get out, while others will stay mired in bad conditions.

We've seen how this plays out, it isn't pretty.

AztecQueen2000 said...

It isn't only the schools though. How can an entire segment of the population demand an upper-middle-class lifestyle (property ownership in the most expensive areas of the country, private schools, camps, expensive simchas at every milestone of life) and large families with no one working or pursuing advanced study? the system is bound to collapse.

Anonymous said...

@ Shoshana Z, 12/12 11:17

#1: exactly! I'm among those who hold that sheshit yamim ta'avodu is a positive commandment. There are of course challenges, but I couldn't look at myself in the mirror if I intentionally set out to rely on communal charity to survive.

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