In the current crisis, Jewish day schools have again demonstrated their resilience as they pivoted from bricks and mortar to distance learning. Within a few short days of the impact of the pandemic in Ontario, Jewish day schools had developed distance learning programs, providing educational, social and emotional support for their students and families, which were featured in multiple media reports including:
- What does school look like without the classroom? (March 20, 2020, The Globe and Mail)
- Technological solutions to keep connected amid COVID-19 crisis (March 19, 2020, Global News)
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto has launched a $25 million emergency fund to cover the extra costs the virus crisis has imposed on community institutions. The largest part of that, $9 million, will be allocated to day school subsidies.
Notwithstanding the strength of the schools’ education, the financial implications on families are significant. Looking towards next academic year, we currently anticipate a 50 percent increase in the need for financial support. This increased need will come from two types of families: families who have, in the past, received tuition assistance who will require additional support and families who, historically, have been full tuition payers but whose household income has suddenly dropped, whose already meager savings have been depleted, and who are experiencing significantly higher expenses for child care.
Given their family financial crisis, these children are liable to leave the day school system. Such attrition would not only have a long-term impact on the children themselves and on the future strength of our community, it would also have a disastrous impact on the financial strength of the day schools. If these families were to pull their children from the day school system, day schools would be thrown into a vicious cycle with lower enrollment resulting in a higher cost to educate, leading to higher tuition and lower enrolment.
We take, as an example, a family of three children in Grades 1, 3 and 5. One parent is a dentist and the other a chiropractor. Throughout their history in the school, the parents have proudly paid full tuition. For the last two months, however, both parents’ practices have been closed. They have earned no income and have struggled to keep pace with the costs of maintaining their businesses. The parents are unable to pay full tuition for the 2020/21 academic year. In due time, however, their practices will reopen and they will again be able to afford tuition.
If this family leaves the day school system now, the total lost tuition revenue over the remainder of their children’s elementary school career is nearly $300,000. If, however, we can retain those children in school next year, even at a discounted rate, the long term impact on the children, on the community, and on the school’s economics is profound.
To ensure that our system retains the greatest number of children through this crisis, UJA has launched three day school affordability programs. The suite of programs is designed to allow ease of access, with increasing levels of due diligence as scholarships increase:
The new tuition assistance package has three parts:
- interest free loans of up to $12,000 through the Jewish Free Loan Program
- UJA Emergency Scholarships of up to 50% of tuition for families that can demonstrate income reduction
- increased funding for the existing low-income tuition assistance program.
As of June 1, 2020, UJA has already raised over half of the target $85 million ($25 million emergency fund and $60 million for the 2020 annual campaign).
If this campaign is successful, it will amount to a 50 percent increase in day school tuition assistance; the $9 million will add to $10 from UJA and $9 million that the schools have been raising for a total of $28 million.
Taken together, these three affordability programs are design to ensure that no child leaves the day school system because of the financial impact of COVID-19. In the development of the programs, UJA worked closely with local day schools and communities across Canada and around North America.
For more information about these programs, see https://jewishtoronto.com/cje/tuition-assistance.
On March 25, the Ontario government announced a $200 grant per child for all families, to help with costs of learning at home. CIJA is joining in a province-wide appeal for more help for Ontario parents.