May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Yeshiva Tuition: A Community-Based Solution

The past few weeks have featured excellent articles and discussions on the topic of tuition assistance and how to solve the unmanageable burden placed on middle-income families to provide quality dual-curriculum yeshiva education to our children. I have not yet seen any practical solutions presented that can increase funding sources or lower costs while maintaining the current yeshiva day school structure and participation levels.

I’d like to highlight the very well presented piece by Saadia Kluger (“Is Tuition Assistance Tzedaka?” July 30, 2020) who successfully makes the case that our local yeshivas are the ultimate responsibility of the community, not so much the individual. They should be seen as equivalent to the local community eruv, mikvah, kashrus organization and rabbinate. Mr. Kluger quotes extensively from Shulchan Aruch HaRav demonstrating that the halacha requires a community to have a Jewish education system funded by community levy.

Taking this idea to the logical and practical conclusion, I’d like to propose a solution to the overall burden being placed on families with school-aged children, and thereby also take advantage of another opportunity:

Similar to the local school tax obligation that every resident is responsible to pay, there should be a community-wide “Yeshiva Day School Sustainability Fund” that every community member is obligated to contribute towards. This annual obligation would apply to any family or single adult so long as they are gainfully employed. Shul memberships would be contingent on this annual contribution. The Fund would make grants to the local yeshivas based on the number of local students and the contents of the fund. Of course, each school would still charge tuition in excess of these grants, according to their specific programs and budgets.

On the tuition side, any Bergen County resident with an active shul membership would qualify for an “in-county” reduced tuition rate at any of our 12 local schools.

The benefits to this proposal are twofold:

1. You would be including a new pool of supporters to the yeshiva system, including those that no longer have children in the system, or those that do not yet have school-age children. This by design can lower the tuition cost to families with school-age children by 25% or more.

2. A significant portion of school funding would come from this fund, via tax-free contributions. The value received by rerouting tuition payments to a fund as a charitable contribution can represent savings to the donor, which can encourage larger contributions.

As with many new ideas, the devil is in the details. How much should the annual contribution be to be both meaningful and manageable? Should it be a sliding scale or flat tax? Can the tax savings model pass regulatory tests? And how to make sure there is 100% compliance?

I am sure there are answers to these questions if enough of us think this through. Thank God we are blessed with a very strong, organized community with an army of respectable, reputable rabbis, lay leaders and volunteers to promote this Torah-based objective of affordable Jewish education for all.

What we do know is that the current system is unsustainable. We should be open to entertain radical system-wide changes before it’s too late.

Moshe Rosenberg
Teaneck
Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles