Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sabah & Savta's Role

Some people think that once parents put their kids through school there obligation is done and their grandchildren's education is their parent's responsibility.  I am not of that opinion.  The grandparents didn't have nearly the kind of burden that today's parents have (even when adjusted for inflation).  If they want to ensure continuity of our Mesorah they need to help out even after their kids are grown.  We are facing a crisis & we need everyone to pitch in.  And the financial situation of the grandparents should absolutely be a factor in scholarship applications.  If the grandparents aren't going to help subsidize their own grandchildren's education why should the rest of the community?  If someone wants to claim that their parents refuse to help them and that they shouldn't be penalized on their scholarship application because of their parents' wealth then they should produce bank statements that don't show any money transferred from their parents' account.  And none of the checks made out to the school should be from the grandparents' account.  And there shouldn't be any Pesach vacations paid for by the grandparents.

Thoughts?



51 comments:

  1. In the past, while we were a bit younger, my wife and I struggled to pay full tuition yet never asked for scholarships. Instead we asked to pay on a lag. This was OUR obligation and not our parents and we are glad we never had to ask for their assistance. We actually switched our kids to schools that had lower tuition in order to relieve some of the burden.

    Since the economy turned sour, our parents seem to be at greater financial risk than we are as their employment future is not so bright. My wife and I are glad we didn't "bleed them dry" in order to support our tuition needs.

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  2. Ok Anonymous comments are back but I would appreciate it if you could choose a screen name so we can follow the discussions easier. But you don't need to log in or enter an email address anymore.

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  3. I know that my parents don't have the money to pay the tuition for my kids - they're still paying off from me and my siblings! I wouldn't even ask them or my in-laws to help. I've spoken to the guy in charge of tuition and said look, I don't want to apply for a scholarship. I can work extra in the evenings. I've tutored before, so do you know if there are any students who might need some help that I can work with? All that money will go straight towards tuition.

    As you said, tuition is my problem, not my parents' problem. As for Pesach, if my parents had the money to treat us to a hotel (which they don't), I'd ask them to instead help me with tuition. As it is, I still go to my parents for Yom Tov. The amount of money it saves me (not buying matzah or any other food) is considerable. I've offered to pay for some of the matzah, and my father got insulted by the offer. Oh well, I tried.

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  4. If they don't have the money to help you out then it's not an issue. My point was that if they DO have the money they should feel obligated to help.

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  5. In general, this is not a good solution. If the average family has 4 kids, then the average grandparents have 16 grandkids. And there is no way they can even make a dent in the tuition of 16 grandkids. Are you going to also ask that great-grandparents deplete their assets on yeshiva tuition?

    That said, any gifts from grandparents to the parents ought to be accounted for as [net] income when calculating the tuition assistance for a family. So, if the grandparents take the family to a hotel for Pesach, then the school would add ("impute" sort of) $12-15k to the net income being used for the calculation of tuition assistance. But even this won't work very well because help from parents comes in many forms that are very difficult to impossible to track - home downpayment, car purchases, car insurance payments, grocery shopping, etc. Some of the grandparents even give their kids (and they aren't quite adults if they are still dependent on their parents) credit cards to use for everyday expenses.

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  6. This is really not well thought out. I understand your frustration at "tuition cheats". However, as a grandfather, I may choose to help with my grandkids (which I do) or I may not. I do not feel obligated after paying a bloody fortune in tuiton payments for all my kids. Plus, where does this stop? Are you going to hit up wealthy aunts and uncles? Make parents dispose of their retirement accounts?

    The system is a mess, but whats needed is an overall solution where it becomes a communal issue. Will any community leader stand up and start the ball rolling?

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  7. Mark,

    if we averaged 4 kids then our numbers would be doubling every generation. I think a more realistic average would be 3 kids, meaning 9 grandchildren, but each of them having 2 sets of grandparents so it would be 4.5 kids/grandparent couple. Since not all grandkids are in school at the same time I think they could help a lot by taking care of one kids tuition per year, if possible. For many grandparents they are at the top of their careers and making more money than their children and they have less expenses since the kids are out of the house. So for many 1 tuition is very doable & makes a big difference in making the model sustainable.

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  8. Grandpa Moses,

    You may have paid a bloody fortune but your kids are paying double that, even when adjusted for inflation. You worked hard to continue our way of life are you prepared to let it all fall apart in the next generation because the cost is becoming overbearing?

    If there are wealthy aunts & uncles who don't have their own kids or grandkids to take care of then yes, they should help out! It would me be much more helpful to the survival of our way of life than donations some of our wealthy give to museums, Colleges & JCCs.

    As far as our leaders stepping up & making this a communal responsibility, I believe that is what NNJKIDS is. Every pulpit Rabbi in BC pushed for it but donations to it are still very small compared to the overall costs of the YDS's.

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    1. So what if today's parents are paying double what the previous generation paid in tuition - irrelevant. When MO couples choose a community and begin a family they are aware of tuition cost and if NOT, they probably shouldn't be having children. I know of at least a handful of married couples who've just had children that have not a clue as to the cost of infant day care or babysitters or tuition. But they feel certain that they'll figure it out when the time comes for them to pay tuition. Ridiculous! I think there should be a course, similar to the Chatan and Kalah classes couples are encouraged to attend prior to marriage - that addresses finding a community and the costs/expenses and relevant considerations aside from "this is where all my friends live" and where I wanna be. JDS seem to produce followers and not independent thinkers - oh, just move to eretz yisroel and be done with it. At least over there most people live in minus and there is greater variation in standard of living among Modern Orthodox Jews. L'hitraos.

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  9. Yeshiva Dad: The problem with NNJKIDS is that there is no incentive for schools to cut costs. They're going to get money whether they cut costs or not.

    In communities where there is one central shul (like in Elizabeth/Hillside, with the JEC) you can change things. Instead of having separate member ship for shul, then tuition costs, just have one large community membership fee. This will cover all community items such as shul membership and tuition. Will it be unpopular? Of course it will, with many people not paying tuition. It's something that would have to be introduced slowly. For people from out of the area who send their kids to the JEC, charge tuition. They currently do more to help people from within their area anyway.

    In areas like Teaneck/Bergenfield, where there's no central structure, this would never work.

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  10. For those who are just starting out a family or just have younger kids the tuition crises has largely been solved.

    http://www.yeshivatheatid.org/index.html

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    1. You really think so? He'atid helps, true, but it's not the solution. If you have 4 kids, in a few years you're still looking at between $40k and $50k per year (assuming tuition goes up each year). I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of money to spare.

      In a few years, when He'atid needs a bigger building, more teachers, and donations thin out, their prices won't be much better than the other schools.

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    2. The Frozen TruthMarch 1, 2012 at 5:47 AM

      I think it is 50/50 Heatid will close soon. They are desperate for teachers, and their model is based on the Madoff accounting model. You heard it here first!

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  11. Proud,

    The incentive is that if they don't cut costs they will lose students & eventually the school will fall apart. With He'atid not only is there now a low-cost alternative, but now there are more spots than there are students so there is real competition between the schools with traditional models. Beforehand, there were waiting lists so schools didn't have to worry about attracting enough students.

    Schools will get money from NNJKIDS no matter what but its a set amount per student so they still need to control costs to keep tuition low.

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    1. Give it a few years. He'atid will raise prices, and we'll see how well this "solution" worked out.

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  12. YD - You may have paid a bloody fortune but your kids are paying double that, even when adjusted for inflation. You worked hard to continue our way of life are you prepared to let it all fall apart in the next generation because the cost is becoming overbearing?

    Maybe the answer has to be "yes". Any system that is unstable (cost growing faster than income) is going to eventually fail, and bankrupting 2 generations just to keep it going a few more years may not be worth it. If someone can show a clear path to preserving this system for longer than a few years then perhaps people would listen and allocate their resources appropriately. But right now, nobody has clearly shown any path to eventual stability.

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  13. And what happens if the grandparents pay for you and your kids to travel to see them? Meaning, if you live in Teaneck and your parents live in LA or Miami and want you to come visit. Should they instead give that money to the yeshiva and not see their children and grandchildren?

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    Replies
    1. Yes. If your own parents won't pay for your kids tuition then your neighbors shouldn't have to either which is what happens when you apply for scholarship.

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  14. Joel,

    Whatever they are paying for their kids vacation they should be able to pay the same amount for their grandkids education if the parents can't afford it.

    In the example you gave it might be cheaper for the grandparents to fly to NJ than to fly a whole family from NJ to LA.

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  15. Well, this is a really interesting and viable question. I know many families which have grandparents that cover downpayments, furnishings, orthodonture, vacations, summer camp, you name it....

    With the exception of some unusual wealthy families with equally successful children who are able to support themselves, this model of "nursing" adult children and grandchildren isn't viable long term. It seems to lead to large families with unsustainable expenses who are surprised to find that the "true cost" of maintaining their lifestyle is completely out of reach. It is infantalizing. However, I often wish we could have some help from time to time just to ease the incredible burden and the stress that it creates.

    We opted to switch course and send our four children to public school - the long term cost of Jewish Day School in BC would mean that we'd have no money for college. For those who cry "fear of intermarriage" or other threats to our childrens' well being, I respond with how impressive we have found the public schools and that our children own their Judaism and make choices that bring tears of joy and pride to our eyes. Their practice of Judaism is not brought to them on a silver platter but is something that they place at the top of their list and which they practice with purposefulness and dedication.

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  16. In the 1980s, the Christian community (l'havdil) faced a similar tuition crisis. The result was widespread homeschooling.
    Every parent has three choices when it comes to their child's education. Public school, private school, or homeschool. Because yeshivas are not obligated to accept all comers (many turn students away for minor hashkafic differences), they are actually not community institutions. Rather than finding communal pots to fund yeshivas (which are private schools in every sense), why not just try to find the solution that works best for your family?

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    1. In response to your question about why people don't just do what works best for them... is because the MO community, in this case, the BC community is not comfortable with the idea of public education or home schooling. And because the Rabbis and the entire MO administrative infrastructure would be unable to maintain itself if members just begged off and didn't feel pressured into having to tow the community line. The financial debacle in which the MO BC community now finds itself was a timebomb 20 years ago. Unfortunately, few of the community members have had any experience with making independent decisions - they've attended JDS, Jewish summer camps, Jewish programs, etc... they've never had to live Jewishly without the "infrastructure" and as such, are frightened of who or what they are when going solo Jewishly.

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    2. How right you are - We're living proof. We gave the JDS more money than we could afford and now cannot afford a college education for our kids. HOpe the next generation doesn't make the same mistake.

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  17. So now we are asking granparents to further subsidize their kids way of living?

    Part of the problem is that kids get married these days with one or two years left in COLLEGE?!?! They obviously cannot support themselves at this stage so they FULLY depend on their parents for a few years.

    That is not real life. You can't support yourself, don't get married. I understand in circumstances partial support is necessary, like medical school, when if there was no partial support kids might not get married until they are 26 or 27. But for kids to get married at age 20 or 21 without having any means of self support just starts them out on the wrong foot and teaches them that it's ok to do what you want to do without thinking about cost and how YOU can pay for it.

    (and spare me the shomer negiah argument as a reason to get married young. Either deal with it or don't. But don't burden your parents and then society because of your problems).

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  18. You are dead wrong if you think the current grandparents had it easy in the 70's and 80's. Life was far more spartan for Teaneck families than it seems today. Also, with twelve or sixteen gandchildren people cannot be expected to do much for their children's tuition. Most have still not finished paying ancient tuition debts.
    The real problem is the lack of leadership by the rabbis, shuls, lay leaders at the OU and other organizations. Why are the schools independent from each other? Why are the buildings so fancy?

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  19. I didn't say it was ever easy, just that tuition was much less then. & I don't think many grandparents have 12-16 kids in Yeshiva Day School at the same time. You may not be able to, but if you can pay one grandchilds tuition per year it would healp tremendously. Hopefully your machatanim can chip in too.

    Yes there should be more consolidation & more "austerity" with buildings & other things. We've discussed those suggestions in previous posts (go through the archives on the left side). This is a serious problem and requires multiple solutions, both on the cost side and the revenue side.

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  20. He who remembersMarch 1, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Do you understand that tuition was lower but wages were even more limited? People kept cars that were bought second hand for many years. Parents commonly sent kids to township summer programs, not camps. What makes you think people who had four kids don't have 12 to 16 grandkids? Your vision of the past assumes a higher standard of living in the seventies than as real. New York City was bankrupt in the md seventies and the consequences radiated out into Teaneck.

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    1. ... and people didn't buy houses (with a huge mortgage) in their 20's shortly after getting married. Instead they scrimped and saved for the first 5-10 years of marriage and then bought houses. Much more modest ones too.

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    2. He Who RemembersMarch 2, 2012 at 8:32 AM

      Wrong Mark. In 1974, you could count the members over thirty at Bnai Yeshurun on your fingers. People bought hoses they could not afford with large mortgages back then too. You make assumptions that are flat out wrong about Teaneck history.

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    3. Assumptions are wrong about today too. You can't simply get a "huge mortgage" in your 20's unless you have a really huge down payment.

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    4. YD, you are mostly correct about today, but until 4 years ago, you could get insanely high mortgages without the income to back it up. And even today, there are people that are still getting high mortgages relative to income. In any case, the ease of getting a mortgage wasn't the point, the point is that some people are choosing to have larger mortgages even if it lowers their tuition payments and causes them to accept tuition aid.

      HeWho, you are wrong. First of all, back then there were no fancy mortgages. Basically you put at least 20% down, took a 30-year loan, and the payment had to be less than 30-35% of your net income. In effect, if the bank gave you a mortgage, you could afford the home. Furthermore, from the mid-70's through the early 80's inflation heated up and your fixed mortgage payment became, in effect, less and less consequential when compared to your income which was rising with inflation. Today is VERY different.

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  21. I think the entitlement may stem from the fact that parents in the 70s who lived modestly in order to provide opportunities for their children - are watching these same children, now as adults with families of their own, and are disappointed/confused that the current reality requires similar financial austerity. The assumption was that today's parents would be in far better financial circumstances but this is not the case community wide. My inlaws simply can't understand how we don't have "fancy" this and that (be it cars, clothes, furnishings, smachot, etc....) when their son earns so much more than his father ever did. There is a serious disconnect between what money actually buys today and the costs involved in day to day life. Mortgages, insurance, gas, health care - and tuition - is just more than most people can hope to earn AND put some savings in the bank at the end of the day. I think a solution must be found to the tuition crisis - but its a crisis of entitlement and a crisis of values. We could all move to Elizabeth, NJ and send our children to the JEC and live among those with less glitz and greater modesty, which by the way is far more in keeping with true Torah values and would put many to shame in BC. But then again, I can't move to Elizabeth, NJ - I'd rather move to Israel.

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  22. Very well said, Anonymous. Jewish education is the obligation of the parents but our community has shown since its beginning (shevet Levi) to arrange for communal learning institutions. It behooves all (including grandparents) to give their Trumah and ma'aser to schools. But in today's culture of entitlement and material goods and must-live-in.. we have lost our way. We need a prophet to save us from profit. We blog-lurkers are ill-equipped to solve the ills of our kehillah, but maybe we can all at least start to rethink.

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  23. Why not have a "smachot" funded community tuition "pot" from which the JDS would have the opportunity to dip into for both scholarship and other funding. I know that many people in our BC community will balk at my suggestion because it flies squarely in the face of how we as a MO Jewish Community have come to function.

    This fund would be culled from smachot ranging from girl baby naming and brisses, bar mitzvahs and aufruf's, etc.... community members would be encouraged to forgo (YES, you've read correctly) the lavish kiddishes and the floral centerpieces and the over the top entertainment, etc... and instead to choose one of three community kiddishes - kiddish A, B, or C. Each celebration is accompanied by specific parameters and in order to reserve a shabbat kiddish, one would first have to make a contribution in honor of the event towards the "communal education fund".

    That way, any family who'd want to share a simcha with their kehilla would not feel intitmidated because of the standards/cost as the community sanctioned options would be MODEST (again, you read that correctly). And as such, this set up would provide families of more modest means to make contributions to the community and place a limit on the smachot standards. And, by the way, smachot would be celebrated in a manner that is again, more in keeping with true Torah values and might even be more focused on the simcha as opposed to the distractions of the "over the top groaning kiddish tables laden with unnecessary food".

    Any interest?

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  24. Even the JEC isn't all that cheap. Yes, it's definitely cheaper than anything in Bergen County, but it's still expensive.

    Nursery starts at over $8,000. High school is significantly cheaper than BC - it's in the 17k-18k range. That's still a lot of money!

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  25. why don't we talk about the federation and how they do not support our schools. they send 40% of funds to Israel. The day schools get like $35 per student and this year - they are making the schools jump through hoops to get that money by having to write all sorts of proposals for how they will spend the money. It probably costs more money in man hours to prepare these proposals than the schools are actually getting. Shame on you federation!

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    1. We could also talk about how the Orthodox community doesn't support the Federation.

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  26. Anon @ 6:36,

    Who are you to tell the federation, or anyone else, how to spend their money. Unless you donate to them, you have no say in what they do with it. Why don't you cut out Starbucks coffee for a year and donate that amount to your school. All of you are talking about how other people should support your kids. They are your kids - you support them!! A smaller house, smaller kiddush, etc are all great ideas. So you do that for yourself and then pay your own way. I am not against Tzedaka for those really in need, but all of those that claim to be "chumps" are people making good money that spend on stuff that prohibits them from spending on schools. If you want the schools to cost less, that is one thing, but don't demand the same school and then ask others to pay your tab.

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  27. anon: i do live modestly , give tzedaka to my kids school, and pay full tuition.
    In most other jewish communities, the federation supports the schools. All I am saying is that ours does not support us. Tzedaka starts at home and if our federation would push for the community to support our schools and community before they push for israel, i think our community will be better off as a whole.

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  28. This proposal sounds kind of ridiculous. Many grandparents that have money don't support their adult kids and grandkids, not because they don't have the money, but because they don't think that's the way it should work.

    My parents have the money to help out (especially now that there are no more tuitions) but choose not to just as a parent would tell their young child that they can't have this new toy. Living within your means is a really important lesson and needs to be taught from early on.

    I understand helping out a bit for someone in med school as they are investing in their child's future (although living tough for a few years is a good life lesson). But if you're just supporting your adult kids in perpetuity, the money is eventually going to run out. Whether that's now or a generation later, it will happen. And in the meantime, you've haven't taught your kids how to live independantly.

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  29. The one trend I see in every "solution" proposed is:

    1. Someone else should pay more so I can pay less
    2. Someone else should sacrifice so I don't have to

    There is a REAL problem where nobody is willing to build FOR the Jewish community, just takers. The builders are all older, without a new generation coming up the pike. Somehow, the entitlement mentality has hit everyone hard...

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  30. I didn't think of this as a "solution." It's already very common for the grandparents to help out. Already a large portion of the tuition checks that the JDS's get have grandparents names on them. I was just talking about whether they should feel obligated or not. I think they should if they can.

    But your right that we all agree on who should sacrifice to mitigate the tuition problem. Whether you ask a teacher, administrator, full-paying parent, scholarship parent or grandparent, we all say the same thing: Someone else!

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  31. My parents support my married younger siblings. They pay partial rent, partial car, still cover them under their cell phone plans and health insurance, buy fancy clothing for their kids, and encourage them to have household help. BUT they say they refuse to pay yeshiva tuition when it kicks in in the next few years years. I think this is the mentality of many grandparents. I don't understand it and I don't understand how my siblings just sit there and take everything. They don't understand what it means to work hard and have to skimp on things. They sure as heck won't be able to figure out how to pay tuition. I wouldn't blame the my siblings. I blame my parents for not kicking them in the butt and teaching them how to live.

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  32. If your parents are frum I would think they would sooner help them with tuition than with "fancy clothing" or domestic help. Even with a butt-kicking not everyone is going to be able to pay $16k per child. I don't think other middle-class parents should be subsidizing your brother's kids if his parents won't help out.

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    1. It's a simple equation. The grandparents know that no matter what happens, their grandchildren will receive a yeshiva day school education. If the parents don't have enough, they will get a scholarship. This is guaranteed. So why should they shell out money?

      OTOH, fancy clothing and domestic help are things that their grandchildren will definitely not receive if the parents don't have enough money. So those who want their grandchildren to have these things are happy to pay for them.

      There really is nothing else like this. The closest comparison is medical insurance - if you don't have enough money, you can get medicaid. But that is an inferior product. In fact, I know of people who live on programs but get "parental help" for medical purposes because their parents don't want them using medicaid. But with yeshiva, the product is identical whether you pay or not!

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  33. If you want to institute long-term communal funding of schools, there is a simple way. No more tuition reductions, a.k.a. scholarship--except in instances of illness, orphans, etc. Rather, any amounts discounted off of yearly tuition should merely be deferred. I understand that $8k (kindergarten) - $25k (high school) thousand is simply no available to everyone while their children are in school. But, we send our children to yeshiva for a lifetime committment to Yiddishkeit, why can't we accept a lifetime commitment to pay for it. Have all tuition reductions be documented yearly with a note and confession of judgement. Payment terms (even at no interest) can be worked out on a andividual basis. I understand that there will be administrative headaches, and ulitmately some collection issues, but the upside of long term funding by folks who no longer have kids in school will surely pay off. Get the community Rabbis on board for such a model and you have a long term solution. Then, you are more sympathetic to the large donors who will have to carry you over the short term until deferral collections kick in.

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  34. Anon 10:57 - I understand that there will be administrative headaches, and ulitmately some collection issues,

    Understatement of the year!

    but the upside of long term funding by folks who no longer have kids in school will surely pay off.

    "Surely?" What makes you think that most of the people that cannot afford it now will be able to afford it in the future? Sure this might work for doctors and lawyers (and people in a few other assorted careers) who send their kids to school while their career is in its nascency and expect to have rapidly rising incomes. But for everyone else (and even many lawyers and doctors) it just doesn't work that way.

    In fact, for those who cannot afford it now, it is perhaps LESS likely that they will be able to afford it in the future. That's because now they are spending all they have on tuition, and will only be able to save for retirement after their tuition payments cease.

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  35. You must be a young dad otherwise I have no explanation for your gross statement that grandparents are obligated to fund their grandchildrens' tuition. By the time you are my age, your parents will be living on a fixed income with no money to spare, in $40K condo in Florida, with one trip north per year paid for with your own frequent flyer miles. Alternatively, one of your parents might be alive but the other may have passed away after a long and expensive illness that left the surviving parent bereft of savings, like my spouse's parents.

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  36. With that happy thought a freilicha Purim to all!

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  37. I think the bottom line is that yeshiva day school education is no longer a "given" over the long term for the majority of families of "middle class" wage earners. Therefore, we as a community have some difficult choices to make. Either we pool resources - and there were some interesting and potentially viable suggestions posted above - or we as a community become more accepting of other educational choices or options that until recently may never have been "on the table" - such as homeschooling or public school. It would be in our best interests to come up with a number of plans that are deemed acceptable by the community as it is unlikely that there is a one size fits all plan.

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  38. Tired of all this talk about saving money on yeshiva tuition? Come check out a new school where you'll never have to hear about cost cutting again!

    http://www.winthropyeshiva.org/

    The Winthrop Yeshiva - Committed to being a LEGACY for our children!

    Purim Sameach!

    ReplyDelete

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