Earlier this month, Gabe Aaronson wrote an article about the high cost of day school tuitions in Kol HaBirah: Voice of the Capital, a bi-weekly print and online publication serving the Maryland, DC, and northern Virginia Jewish community.
Although restricting himself to local data and local examples, Aaronson’s essay could apply to the GTA as well, as his introductory paragraph illustrates.
“Education has been a cornerstone of Jewish life for millennia, and American Jewry’s increasing focus on affordable day school tuition reflects that priority. On the one hand, there is huge emphasis on the importance of a day school education for the future of the Jewish community. School leaders stress to parents that the value of a good dual-curriculum is well worth the expense. On the other hand, many parents told Kol HaBirah that the price tag can create a financial burden that disrupts family life, impacts family-planning decisions, or makes it harder to donate to synagogues and other communal institutions.”
In exploring the issue of the increasing unaffordability of day school, Aaronson makes the following key points:
• Even families with comfortable incomes can struggle with tuition.
• The heads of Jewish institutions generally agree that tuition is very high, but most believe that increasing enrollment is more important than lowering tuition and that there’s a tenuous link between the two.
• While the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington continues to look for ways to offset the cost of day school tuition, the Federation and the day schools are exploring ways to market the value of a Jewish day school education to parents. According to the Federation, this approach is better supported by the research.
• Jewish schools could use more economies of scale. The average operating cost (not including scholarships) for Jewish schools the Greater Washington area was significantly higher than what the public schools spent, including all construction costs, in both Maryland and Virginia.
• Many parents disagree with the notion that the high cost of tuition is only a problem for individual families but not for the community as a whole.
• Multiple parents told Kol HaBirah that community members are choosing to have fewer children to better afford the price of Jewish day school.
• The takeaway for parents is that unless something big happens, tuition will keep rising. • School administrators, meanwhile, don’t necessarily see this as an unsustainable reality. “Good education is costly,” one administrator said, particularly in Jewish schools “that are providing a rich dual curriculum to [their] students.”
The issues that GAJE has been discussing publicly for some two years are being discussed in various communities throughout North America. The affordability crisis diminishes all communities. It is imperative that we resolve it – urgently. In truth, it is the highest priority for all communities.