Opinion: Expensive Tuition

By Avi Gutfreund. The majority of us who aren’t millionaires (and even some who are) have to prioritize where our money will be spent. At the very top of the priorities totem pole is our desire to have our children receive a top-class education, one which will enable them to become the very best people they can be. To achieve this end, we will happily forego vacations, work multiple jobs, scrape together nickels, anything really, to assure our children’s future. Although everyone reading this can attest to this truth, an oft-cited question remains: are our schools too expensive? Must it be that the majority of families struggle to pay their children’s schools tuition?

In a recent poll on TLS, a majority of respondents said that tuitions are not too expensive. Community residents are of the understanding that schools are difficult and expensive to run, and therefore must charge hefty tuitions. A woman commenting on the poll said that although she can barely afford her kids tuition, she does not think it costs too much because of the expense of managing a school. I believe this attitude is common and pervasive in the community, and is quite commendable. My only issue with it is that a large percentage of our schools, although being nonprofits, are run as businesses, with someone at the top bringing home a 6-figure check. While there is nothing inherently improper with that, if schools would be run as a community endeavor, rather than an individual or individuals creating a school in which children can grow along with their bank account balances, I think we could lighten the financial load on parents.

Another point regarding tuition costs is that Lakewood schools are substantially cheaper than schools in other areas, such as Brooklyn and the 5 Towns. While there is no disputing that, I wonder if our school’s budgets can be streamlined to be more efficient with our money. Besides for my suggestion that schools should be handled as a community venture, I think another way schools can be made cheaper is by eliminating the need for a fancy building. It seems to me that everywhere you turn, another school is raising a multimillion dollar edifice. Although the cost of the structure is usually footed by a donor, the fact is that the upkeep of expensive building are far more than that of a more “regular” school building. The upkeep costs are a significant strain on a schools budget, money which could otherwise be kept in parents pockets, or at the very least be allocated to the salaries of our rebbeim and teachers.

My third and final suggestion (for now) is to make community-wide lobbying effort for our politicians, both in New Jersey and on the national level, to fund vouchers for private schools. As it stands now, parents of children sent to public school don’t need to worry about paying tuition – it’s covered by the state. It is only logical that parents of private school students, who decrease the state’s education obligations and budgets, should receive some amount of financial incentive. One obvious reason why vouchers don’t exist yet is because the politicians know that they are unnecessary. A frum Jew isn’t going to start sending his or her kids to a public school, depriving them of a proper Jewish education, because the state won’t assist with paying tuition. I think we need to change that perception. Politicians are aware that we vote in blocs, and to gain our support for their candidacies they must support and push for legislation which would provide funding for parents sending their children to private schools. This wouldn’t be a simple task, and is an extraordinarily complex task, but as a unified community, we can affect these crucial and necessary changes.

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  1. Why don’t everyone, I mean everyone enroll the kids in public school… Yes the state or federal government should fund education regardless of race, religion it’s absurd

  2. Unfortunately while the writer might have good intentions, he’s way off base. The first point is silly. We’ve had so many mosdos run into the ground due to the lack of proper fiscal management. I work for a Mosad and do NOT make that much however, I see the benefits of the very dedicated Yidden who do. Incidentally, bringing home a 6 figure check is far from making someone wealthy. These people pay all taxes and get no government benefits. Implying that buildings that have enough space and aren’t decaying is likewise silly.

  3. I agree with only the last comment. And I think our askonim do not do enough on that. Why are we ever endorsing politicians who are against vouchers? W

    Like the author points out himself, buildings are not really paid for out of tuition. While maintenance may be a bit higher for a fancy building (I’m not sure if that’s even true), it wold be only negligibly higher, if at all.

    Finally, yes, usually there is one person in a school making 6 figures but it’s usually only one person and the skills necessary for those roles qualify for that salary.

  4. I feel that there are too many assumptions here. Can we prove that the people at the top are bringing home 6 figure salaries? And TBH, even if they are… Isn’t the agmas nefesh and heroic effort that they go through to provide schools for our children worth something?

  5. As someone who struggles to pay tuition, I used to think that vouchers were a great solution until I heard that in some places that have obtained vouchers, the schools went ahead and raised tuition prices. So, vouchers will only help if there is something set up so that tuition rates don’t go up, thereby lining the pockets of those at the top without alleviating the tuition burden from parents.

    • A lesson learned from public schools is that more state money only leads to more spending and more local taxes as well. While more state money may slow the growth in local taxes, local taxes continue to increase annually even when increases in state money used to significantly exceed the inflation rate (although I acknowledge state monies have been stagnant for a decade). The state has never seen an average annual decrease in local taxes for public schools. Ask any superintendent or head of a Yeshiva, there are always unfunded needs.

  6. To clarify what I said before: Who will be the people spearheading this effort of making schools a community project as you suggest? Would you volunteer to do so without being paid?
    Running a school involves a lot of effort, and these people “on the top” deserve to bring home their 6 figures.

  7. I agree with the first comment. All frum communities should send all kids to public school. There is no way the public school would be able to handle the influx hence it would crash. So am I crazy to say the government should give bigger tax breaks and school vouchers?

  8. First, I’m glad to hear that you know the account balance of these individuals.
    2nd I agree with the crazy expensive buildings however I rather send my kid to a nice new building then to an old fashtinkener building.
    3rd comment was TOTALLY WRONG AND STUPID! Do you want the government to start telling us what to teach the children (like it’s happening now in England)??? Keep them out!
    I believe most schools give discounted tuition to those who can’t afford it!

  9. For a family of 8 children in school what is the necessary income to sustain adequate cost of living in Lakewood? How is everyone earning that amount?

  10. Assuming the heads of the Mosdos ARE bringing home 6 figure salaries (which I doubt they are..). WHY DO YOU HOLD IT AGAINST THEM?! They work harder than most guys today! If they don’t do the job who will? Are YOU willing to work for free? Do you really think anyone is? You need someone tops at the top to make things run.. Usually money is saved when a place is properly ran anyhow.. so stop worrying abbot that salary.

  11. I am glad to see our community members have common sense.

    The person making “six figures” deserves it; he’s running the business.

    Begrudging a person a salary he deserves for his hard work and time seems small minded to me.

  12. as the daughter of parents who could not pay full tuition but paid with blood, sweat and tears for their children’s education, i want to ask some questions: 1) how is it saving money by having ramshackle school buildings that always need repairs? 2)how does anyone dare to say that he cant pay more tuition because he just put in a new kitchen, bought a new car?. etc) 3) why doesnt tuition come off the top like phone bills, gas and electric bills? 4) why do some of us think that the moros and rebeiim owe us a living? unlike any other job, a teacher generally puts the rest of his/her life on hold–even his spouse and children–to attend to the needs of the students? for many of us, tuition may be too high for our wallets but we have no right to expect our schools and moros/rebeiim to subsidize our costs

  13. I think a more realistic change would be getting the govt at least to recognize tuition as a tax credit. vouchers are “dangerous” because as think twice said, they will then dictate what we can teach, and also, every minority group will create their own schools. not that I have anything against minority groups, but the radical ones can do real damage if they run their own schools. tuition as a tax credit would make a biiig difference (for me at least)

  14. I would never want my kids school to be run by the community. I want it run like a business who has what to lose of the product isn’t good and if the clients aren’t happy!! So please leave our schools alone!

  15. I wish parents would send their kids to public school for nursery and kindergarten. Even one years tuition is a big savings. And I’m sure it’s a savings for the mosdos as well. Let our tax dollars pay for it. Our kids can catch up on aleph-bais in a few weeks in the summer. If families would do that, 90% of the public school kindergarten would be jewish, so I wouldn’t be worried about my kids friends.

  16. My kids new building was about 13 million. And I don’t even like it. And no sure there’s anyone really really running the school.
    More transparency isn’t a bad thing

  17. Who said tuition is expensive in Lakewood it’s a discount $5000-$6000 a child it should be a lot more to run a school we all know the school need to raise millions to cover costs and when parents don’t pay the schools have to borrow money to cover costs we all know tuition should be 10k-15k we should be thankful that we get a discount in Lakewood

  18. @Shlomi Bagelbroit “90%of the public school kindergarten would be Jewish ,so I wouldn’t be worried about my kids friends” Really! What is that supposed to mean? Worried that what , a non Jewish kindergartener would be a bad influence on your kindergartener? How so? Might color outside the lines and influence your child to do the same. Such an ignorant and bias statement. Stop judging and start loving.

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