Wednesday, March 29, 2023

For the past 75 years, Westchester Day School has provided a premier educational product to all families, regardless of financial need. Westchester Day School believes that all students should have access to the benefits of a best-in-class Westchester Day School education—from a learning center staffed by experts who provide educational support and enrichment, to cutting-edge classroom technology, to educational experiences outside of the classroom both on WDS’ 26-acre campus and school trips, to a daily hot lunch—regardless of a family’s financial situation. Building on the success of its existing, groundbreaking income-based tuition model, Westchester Day School has extended the program by setting reduced, all-inclusive tuition levels for families who qualify.

Four years ago, Westchester Day School developed a unique and innovative approach towards tuition. Rather than subjecting families who required financial aid to an extensive scholarship process, WDS offered families the ability to cap their tuition obligation as a percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). The goal behind this program was to better work with families to meet their financial needs and provide them predictability, without compromising on the quality of Westchester Day School’s educational product. Aaron Lauchheimer, president of the board of Westchester Day School noted that “the board believed there was a better way to make a WDS education more affordable and decided to implement this program at a time when day schools seemed stuck on relying solely on a traditional scholarship process.” The tuition caps, which range from about 16% at an AGI of $250,000 to about 20% at an AGI of $400,000, are based solely on a family’s Form 1040.

Building on the success of its existing income-based tuition model, Westchester Day School has extended the program by setting reduced, all-inclusive tuition levels for families with incomes under $250,000 per year, according to the fee schedule.

WDS decided to implement the new flat-fee structure for families earning under $250,000 to better serve families in this income range, particularly new families sending their first child to a Jewish day school. Experience showed that WDS’ existing AGI-based formula provided the needed relief for families with multiple children enrolled, but more help was needed for new families entering the day school system and adjusting to the burden of day school tuition.

Using WDS’s online tuition calculator, families can easily and quickly evaluate their expected tuition commitment for the next year, two years from now, five years from now and beyond. The calculator accounts for the addition of the new flat-fee structure, as well as for yeshiva high school tuitions and adjusts a family’s obligation to WDS accordingly. If a family expects its income to rise or fall in the future, it can adjust that variable in the online calculator, as well. There is no need to fill out a scholarship application or wait for a response from a committee to predict one’s future tuition obligation. To date, 70% of families who receive tuition reductions from WDS have switched to this simple, dignified, no-hassle program. Mathematical models developed by WDS show that, in many scenarios, a family’s average per-student tuition will remain in the $15,000 range over time—making a WDS education one of the most affordable in the tri-state area for middle-income families.

When asked about the impact this new facet of the program will have on WDS, Rabbi Dani Rockoff, WDS’ head of school, commented, “I’m very excited about our focus on making a WDS education more accessible to a larger number of families. WDS has always been committed to the principle that no child will miss out on a WDS education because of financial constraints. Our continued development of our AGI-based tuition model shows that WDS is proactively working to stand behind that promise.” Sari Linder, WDS’s director of admissions, said that “tuition is understandably a concern for many families. I’m proud that Westchester Day School is constantly innovating and thinking about ways to offer the benefits of a Westchester Day School education to even more students.”

As Westchester Day School embarks on the next chapter of its 75-year history, it is proud to be at the forefront of day school affordability. Westchester Day School looks forward to welcoming families who can benefit from the expanded AGI-based tuition program.

By Aaron Lauchheimer


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