The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, May 22, 2006

School Stuff I: Tuition

After months of not having anything significant to say (or even the interest in posting on anything more important than my next bike ride) I will be addressing some school related issues in my next few posts. I may still not have anything important to say but at least I will be trying.

I have been awakened by recent important posts by Still Wonderin', Orthomom and the Bear.

Topic I, Tuition.

Orthomom wrote a post about how a local yeshiva bumped up its tuition by 12% while at the same time offering discounts to selected parents (subjectively chosen). This apparently engendered much bad will and outrage.

(Tuition is a topic I think I know a little bit about. In a previous gilgul, I was a lay leader of a large MO school so I got to see the numbers and understand how things work. Also, MHW and I have paid almost 50 years worth of yeshiva tuition (with only another 5 years to go (not including college). Although, BH, we have been zoche to never have taken a cent in scholarship money, we have struggled mightily over the years to meet our obligations.)

Let me make a few points.

1. It makes sense for a school to raise the amount of tuition it charges to the level of 'the market'. This way, it does not leave any money on the table from people who can afford it. The problem is that even though the school is prepared to offer discounts and scholarships, the rest of the parent body will not be indifferent if this causes them to go from full-tuition-payer to discounted payer or scholarship receiver.

2. The school obviously did a poor job of rolling out the increase and had a tin ear with respect to the idea of subjectively and unilaterally offering discounts.

3. The problem with yeshiva tuition has nothing to do with too many administrators. That is a red herring. The problem with yeshiva tuition is that teachers need to be paid and good teachers need to be paid relatively well (and I mean relatively). If you take a normal yeshiva with a budget of say, $15 million, and assume the administartors are making, say, $1.5MM in aggregate, and assume further ( a big assumption) that you can fire half the administrators, saving $750K, you will have reduced tuition by 5%. Big deal. That will reduce your high school tuition from $15,000 to $14,250. While that is nothing to sneeze at, does that really fix the problem?

4. Thus, there is no tuition-based solution. Firing administrators or running things more efficiently will only attack the problem at the margins. Tuition will continue to go up as teachers' salaries continue to go up unless other, outside sources of money are found. So, whining about tuition is useless.

5. There is a fantastic amount of wealth within the affiliated Jewish community. We are simply not tapping into those sources adequately, particularly in the Ashkenazi community.

6. I don't know how this system is sustainable in the long term. If you were looking for easy solutions here, you've come to the wrong place.

NEXT: How Can the Very People in Charge of Jewish Education be SOOOO Off?



  • At 2:36 PM, Blogger Just Passing Through said…

    Good points. However, you don't address the lack of tranparency in the Yeshiva system and how that fosters a lack of trust when it comes to money.

    On a side note: You give an example of a yeshiva with a $15 million budget. Let me ask you: if you had a 15 million dollar business, would you hire a person with a finance backround and experience to manage the numbers or hire a balabatish young man from the community?


Post a Comment

<< Home