Volume 55 Number 30
                    Produced: Fri Aug  3  5:28:41 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Finances and Judaisim
Finances and Judaism
         [Mark Polster]
Yeshiva tuition
         [Bernard Raab]


From: Anonymous
Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2007 12:42:20
Subject: Finances and Judaisim

Thank you Rabbi Teitz for your post. I'd like to augment his perspective
from the school's perspective, and provide some advice to those who are
having trouble placing children in schools because of tuition.

I am a volunteer member of a tuition committee in a large school.  I do
not really like my job, as it's very difficult to open up a folder and
read about everyone's problems, financial situations,etc. every year. We
have to balance that against the school's need to pay their bills
too. That being said:

1) Our particular school will NOT turn you away if you cannot afford
tuition. That means you have extensive documentation and proof that you
simply cannot make ends meet (lost job, divorce, extenuating
circumstances such as medical issues, etc). Usually a call to a Rov
confirms the situation, and we can then work with the parent on an
acceptable payment determination and schedule. Every situation is
different. I urge those who have demonstratable needs to approach their
institution (I tell this to people in my community as well) and try to
work something out. At least in our school, we do value Yiddeshe
neshomas and we will do what we can to keep the child in the school.

2) The vast majority of applicants are "regular" folks who have b"h a
few children and full tuition is our of their reach. We use various
criteria to come up with a reduced figure. There is an appeals process
as well.  We've also had a few cases (wish there were more) where
parents contacted us regarding a change in their status and (some
gleefully!) "upgraded" to full tuition.

3) We spend quite a bit of time verifying certain situations. I hate to
say that we have uncovered quite a few fraudulent applications, and we
have told the parents that unless they pay FULL tuition, their kids will
not be admitted. Many states now have online public records, and we have
used them in the past to confront people who are **less** than honest
about their situations. We also have a couple of CPA's that graciously
volunteer their time, and they can usually sniff out from tax returns
and other records any possible issues for discussion. I urge those who
are involved in the finance areas of the school to carefully review
their application process! I will not disclose any stories in this
public forum, but suffice it to say some are quite comical, others are
vein-poppingly frustrating.

4)We can never understand how some parents cry (or live in) poverty yet
somehow come up with 10-15K (credit cards, etc.) to send a kid to
Israel.  Some people quote that as a qualification of need (along with
"We have 2 kids in kollel". Yeah, right! And we are chopped liver I
guess). I echo Rabbi Teitz and the recent JO article that the
institutions that SHAPE YOUR child(ren) are on the bottom of the
priorities list in our circles (as opposed to the Hassidim who place
education at the top of the list).  Rabbi Teitz also provided an
interesting sidelight about the lower cost of living factor in Israel
and why that does not translate into a lower price for seminaries.

In conjunction with the other day schools in the area, last year we
added a clause on the application forms that parents who receive tuition
assistance agree to devote a significant part of their charity dollars
to their educational institution.

5) To help with financial management, our school uses a third party
company for payment collection, similar to what many people use where a
company automatically drafts payment from your account on the due date.
Parents are REQUIRED to use this service if they do not plan on paying
their balance in full before the start of the school year. This has
significantly improved the school's cash flow overall, and eliminates
the "head check" problems.

6) Many parents simply do not know how to budget or manage their
finances, which explains why they are filing for a reduction. One common
issue is the large tax refund - why let the govn't keep you $$ interest
free? The reason you can't manage during the year is because you are
having $7-8000 being withheld! Contact your accountant and go over your
finances. Establish a budget. Use financial management software such as
Microsoft Money etc to manage your checkbook. You'll be surprised and
hopefully this will ease financial pressure overall, not just tuition.

Kol Tuv,
Tuition Committee Member 


From: <mp@...> (Mark Polster)
Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2007 12:09:25 -0400
Subject: Finances and Judaism

As the father of four children currently in day school with an annual
tuition bill of nearly $50,000 (which, BTW, I cannot afford), and as a
member of the Board of that same school for more than a decade, the
worsening issue of tuition unaffordability is one with which I am, to
say the least, intimately familiar.  A few comments, for what they are

1) The observation by several posters that the root cause of the problem
is that we are all double-paying due to taxes and the way education in
the US is funded is 100% true.  It is also 100% irrelevant.  If Rabbi
Teitz' timetable for better community funding of Jewish education is
"Mashiach's times" then the timetable for any fundamental change to the
US tax situation as it pertains to education is "sometime after that".
It makes no sense to spend our time blaming the situation on something
for which there is no reasonable expectation of change.  Accept is as
reality and move on.

2) Rabbi Teitz is also quite correct that day schools offer
substantially more today than a generation ago.  WADR, this is also
largely irrelevant.  I have spent a decade listening to administrators
and others try to convince me of what a "great deal" I'm getting.  I
have no doubt that this is true.  I also have no doubt that the
features, quality and overall value for the money of a Lexus or Mercedes
is better than what I drive - but I cannot afford one, much as I would
like to.  Please stop trying to convince us that we're getting good
value for our money. If we had the money, most parents would willingly
and gladly pay it.  But I (and increasingly more parents) simply don't
have it and all the salesmanship about what a good deal we're getting
and how much more schools offer today compared with thirty years ago
doesn't change that.  We must provide an educational solution that is

So, what is the answer?  It seems to me that the first thing that has to
happen is that all those involved in this industry, and yes it has
become an industry, need to stop focusing on things that cannot be
realistically changed and instead deal with the reality that exists.
The taxes are what they are.  It is also true and not likely to change
that many, if not most, parents will not be able to continue to afford
tuition at current and projected levels.  Wishing don't make it so!  If
nothing changes, increasing numbers of parents will have no choice but
to find solutions other than day schools - which will be tragic.

Several suggestions (and reasons why I am not optimistic that any of
them will be seriously pursued):

1) We have too many schools.  If the previous generation was
characterized by one major day school per reasonable sized community,
now we seem to have a different school starting up for each 1/2-inch
difference in skirt length or type and size of kippah.  All of them are
struggling.  Economies of scale are real and if administrative and other
overhead can be spread over 600 kids instead of 300 it makes a real
difference.  Unfortunately, in today's Jewish world, the notion of
sending our kids to a school where everybody is not perfectly aligned
hashkafically seems to be unacceptable so I am not holding my breath.

2) The edifice complex is alive and well.  Too many major donors would
rather see their names on a new building than on an endowment fund.  It
could be argued that sufficient money is being injected into the day
school industry, just in the wrong place.  If half the money our
community has spent on new school buildings in recent years had been put
into endowments to support operations, it would have made a real
difference.  Sure I'd like my kids to go to school in a new,
state-of-the-art facility, but it's all about priorities and choices.
Unfortunately, many of those giving the money would rather give money to
what they wantrather than to what is truly needed.

3) Given that we are all paying for the public schools anyway, work in
conjunction with them (in communities with strong public schools) to
supply the general studies and then focus on funding the limudei kodesh
only.  I'm not talking about one day a week, 'talmud torah' afternoon
school.  I'm talking about a real, yeshiva day school style limudei
kodesh program, with students attending local public schools for general
studies.  Is this a major departure from the current day school model? -
sure.  Does it have its own problems in terms of the public school
environment? - sure.  But my guess is that as more and more parents
cannot afford day school tuition, it will start to happen on an
individual family basis anyway, so why not see if there's a model here
that can work.  Of course, this would take real initiative and
creativity on the part of both adminstrators and lay leaders who would
rather spend time defending the current situation and convincing us that
we're really getting a good deal.

Some years ago, Michael Freund wrote an article in The Jerusalem Post in
which, IIRC, he argued that the cost of day school tuition in the US was
becoming an existential threat to the Jewish people and the State of
Israel.  The notion was that kids being educated in day schools were
precisely those that are most likely to serve as the best pool of
productive olim to Eretz Yisrael, not to mention productive contributors
to the Jewish people.  Unfortunately the families of those kids are
being forced to moderate their birth rates in order to afford to educate
their children, thus significantly reducing the size of that pool.  That
Freund's assessment was correct is indisputable.  That day school
administrators and lay leaders would rather spend time defending the
current situation than rolling up their sleeves and really trying to do
something meaningful to change it is indefensible.

Mark Polster


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 03:42:53 -0400
Subject: Yeshiva tuition

This is a truly vexing subject. As someone who has been through this
particular ringer many years ago, and emerged intact, baruch haShem, out
the other end, I can empathize with those facing these crushing burdens
today. On the one hand, the education was priceless, and I hesitate to
think where the Jewish community would be today without those K-12
yeshivos. But precisely because of the success of these schools, we now
have in some communities, again baruch heShem, a large enough orthodox
population to support several elementary-level schools, and even two or
more high schools. In suburban communities we frequently find that this
very success leads to school-related friction with the local secular
community, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Where is this leading? Stay with

Some time ago, my wife and I found ourselves in the neighborhood we
lived in when our children were in elementary school some 35 years
ago(!) At that time this was a lovely suburban community of about 80
orthodox families, a single shul, and a local day school (k-8). It has
now grown into a still-lovely suburban community but with some 300+
orthodox families. We decided to drive by our former home and were
compelled to stop to take in the various changes that were made to the
house over the years. The current owner came out to see who we were and
we engaged him in conversation. He was the third owner since we moved
away, and he told us that they loved the community but would be moving
soon since their daughter was approaching high school age, and, you
know, "this is a big orthodox community and the orthodox don't support
the schools". He might actually have said: "ruin the schools". We judged
that he was not Jewish and obviously did not think that we would be
orthodox, having lived there so long ago.

This is an all-too-common complaint and a source of considerable
friction in many suburban communities with large orthodox populations,
at least in the greater New York area. There is a wealthy community in
northern New Jersey which fought the construction of an eruv by their
first fledgling shul, because they did not want to encourage the
orthodox. Their fear was not that they would be overun by black hats
with beards and payos. Their fear, never openly expressed, was really
more rational: they feared the destruction of their school system.

So here we have the proverbial horns of a dilemma: the public schools
are suffering, both from a shortage of bright students from good homes
and from a lack of financial support from their families, while a
parallel religious + secular school system is built with great financial
burdens on the still-minority orthodox community. Of course, this is a
uniquely American problem, with our traditions of strict separation of
church and state, which incidentally, has served us so well.

But I wonder if it is not time to try another approach, not as a
substitute fior yeshivos, but as an added program: These suburban school
districts which are suffering from large non-contributing orthodox
populations might be persuaded to slightly modify their schedules so
that the state mandated courses are all taught before say, 1 PM, at
which point students may elect to depart for a local yeshiva (or church
school). The yeshiva will, in turn, provide lunch and an afternoon
program of limudei kodesh for these students, which, incidentally would
result in a full-days work for some of the religious faculty.

The yeshivos will undoubtedly oppose such an alternative program as a
threat to their survival. That would be a serious mistake. They will
raise many objections and try to frighten parents with stories of their
children being seduced away by atheist teachers and immoral classmates.
There will be some validity to these arguments but not very much. The
major influence on a child's behavior and attitude toward religion is in
the home. Children who might be tempted by such an environment will be
from marginal homes, and will be at risk in a yeshiva as well.

I believe that if the yeshivos work to make such a progarm succeed they
will benefit hugely. They will expand their student base in several
ways, by reducing the financial committment required, but also from
families which would like their children to have a stronger religious
education but not at the expense of a diminished secular education,
which they regard the yeshivos as suffering from, rightly or wrongly. On
the other hand, by making the yeshivos the vehicle for providing the
religious component, the weaknesses of the after-school cheder system
might be avoided.

This could be the proverbial win-win situation. The public schools will
benefit and so will the yeshivos. Is there an educational foundation out
there willing to provide the leadership and the seed money to give it a
fair trial?

==Bernie Raab, with acknowlegement to Mr. Arthur Aaron for the original


End of Volume 55 Issue 30