The decline in enrolment can be reversed

The Jewish News Syndicate recently published an article by award-winning reporter and children’s book author Faygie Holt “If you lower it, will they come? The high costs of Jewish day school.”

The article is a mini-tour-of-the-horizon of efforts in diverse, non-Orthodox day schools in the United States to increase enrolment by drastically reducing tuitions and then ensuring the long-term sustainability of those schools with the new tuitions and enrolments.

One of the initiatives that Holt features is “Open Door,” at the San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA). Open Door lowers the cost of tuition for students entering kindergarten and ninth grade at the K-12 pluralistic schoolboy half. The reduced tuition continues for the next four years. The school also offer a discounted tuition rate for Jewish communal employees who might otherwise not be able to afford to send their kids there.

“We studied this forever and did a lot of research with different groups, and we learned that the biggest factor that prevented people from even touring a Jewish school in the Carmel Valley was the [tuition] sticker shock,” said head of school Chaim Heller. “Our data showed that if we could lower our sticker price point to between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on the grade, we would have more than 1,100 local families who would give our school a look.” And once they looked, Heller said, they might be more inclined to give the school a try. Heller told Holt that the enrolment at (SDJA) enjoyed “a significant increase over last year.”

The link between tuition levels and enrolment price has been empirically proven by the successful experiment two years ago in the GTA by the drastic reduction in tuition by Tanenbaum CHAT. Indeed Holt points to CHAT’s positive experience in her article.

We commend the article to readers for its broad examination and summary of the enrolment situations of non-Orthodox day schools in the United States. Not all of Holt’s observations apply to our situation in the GTA. But the information in the article is worthy as a base of comparison to the current efforts underway in our community to bring down tuitions and ensure the permanent futures of the schools. The article also contains some important nuggets about the importance of day schools in securing a permanent Jewish future in our respective communities.

Holt quotes Jack Wertheimer, the Joseph and Martha Mendelson Professor of American Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary who asks: “Is there a communal will to identify Jewish day schools as a major asset of the community, especially given the data showing that Jewish-day school alumni are among the most active participants in Jewish communal life, serving not just as followers but leaders in the community?”

And for parents, Wertheimer says, ask them to come to the school and check out the vibe. “See the faces of our children and their relationships with their teachers and their classmates,” he says. “Then decide if this is the wholesome environment you’d like your child to be placed in.”

Wertheimer believes that with thoughtfully directed initiatives by the schools and their respective communities, the decline in enrolment can be reversed.

GAJE agrees with Prof. Wertheimer. Let us all prove him to be right.

The Holt article is available at:

https://www.jns.org/if-you-lower-it-will-they-come-the-high-costs-of-jewish-day-school/

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Shabbat Shalom

GAJE, October 11, 2019

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