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Monday, May 01, 2006

Grandparents Footing The Bill?

I raised the question a few days ago of whether grandparents should be obligated to help their kids pay their own children's Yeshiva tuition obligations, even at the expense of giving them other gifts. I was interested to read, in today's New York Sun, that this phenomenon of school's hitting up grandparents for their grandkids' tuition isn't unique to the Yeshiva world. From the article:
"We have seen an upswing in the incidence of grandparents paying tuition, and also of schools reaching out to grandparents to get them involved - both volunteering in the classroom and contributing to the school's bottom line," a spokeswoman for the National Association of Independent Schools, Myra McGovern, said.
The piece does mention the issues faced in Jewish day schools:
With the price of Jewish day schools soaring as quickly as their prep school counterparts, the Orthodox Union has unveiled a "tuition initiative" that calls on well-off grandparents, Jewish federations, and private foundations to help. Some Jewish day schools have even started asking for grandparent contact information on admissions applications or financial aid forms.
"I know it's becoming a tradition now in a number of Jewish communities because tuition is only affordable when grandparents can help pay," said Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, director of the union's Young Leadership Cabinet, the group that helped draft the initiative.

55 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you notice that the tuitions for some of the private schools the newspaper mentioned were somewhere in the stratospheric region of $30,000? Makes yeshiva tuition seem more affordable.

10:49 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

the question i have, is the grandparent contribution being counted toward the income count of the household or scholarships being granted to the family? i have heard of several incidents, one of them involving a very good friend of mine, who is not getting any assistance from anyone at all (non-frum, non-involved relatives) who were turned down for tuition assistance from their son's yeshiva because their combined income plus the value of their modest home made them ineligible. meanwhile others in her circle were granted tuition assistance because their declared single income plus one spouses' student status made them eligible. the grandparents were paying the bulk of the tuition (in addition to buying their home outright as an "investment") or getting the money somehow to them without paying it as tuition, but none of this was declared. i was at the shabbos table with this family listening to the wife tell us how proud she was that they "beat the system." my friend, meanwhile looked like she was about to be sick and told me afterwards that this is a common phenomenon. i know that "back in the day" my own parents had problems obtaining tuition assistance for us also because they were honest about their income while others had certain "undeclared" income. who checks up on this?

12:48 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Sickening. I don't understand how schools can get away with this. What's next - asking if there's anyone rich in the family who can "help out"? Who's in your network of friends?

What if someone is estranged from their parents? What if they're a BT whose parents have no interest in their grandchildren getting a Jewish education? (Or is this not a concern because they'll avoid BTs in the first place.) This concept really bothers me.

2:15 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"the private schools the newspaper mentioned were somewhere in the stratospheric region of $30,000? Makes yeshiva tuition seem more affordable."

The private schools are intended to be exclusive and keep the hoi pokkoi away-thats why parents send their kids there. I would hope that Ortho Judaism believes that it has an obligation to all-to let into the system. BTW I do pay full tuition in my local Yeshiva/Day School.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

Ezzie, what is the big deal here? I don't get the sense that the OU is sending grandparents their granchildren's tuition bill. Rather, they are just including grandparents in thei fundraising efforts. Good fundraisers reach out to all potential donors, which typically include those who have some sort of connection to the school, such as alumni. How is reaching out to grandparents any different?

7:32 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Krum: Of course our schools should include grandparents in their fundraising efforts, as they should also include singles and those who have yet to have children. Supporting Jewish education should be community issue.

But, telling the parents that cannot afford full tuition (which can be sometimes 75% of the students in a school) to turn to their grandparents, does not achieve communal support for schools and places those without grandparents who are able to support in a precarious position.

Regarding mdmom's comments: disgusting! I personally do not think there should be a "student rate" or a "kollel rate" for tuition since being a student does not make one automatically unable to pay in full.

Some of my kollel neighbors complain that the schools do not have a "kollel rate" like the mikvah does. To them I say, there is a scholarship process that ALL those who are unable to afford full tuition are subjected to. Being in kollel should not exempt them from the humility the rest of the world is suffering.

Our mikvah has a student/kollel rate and, being that one is only asked to actually give what they can afford, it seems silly to ask for less from families where the other salary may be in the 6 figure range, just because the husband is learning.

(Note: I don't think anyone should have to suffer the humility and we should all be honest and Jewish education should be a community responsibility).

8:54 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

sephardilady, I agree, but based on the quotes in the post, I don't think they are asking grandparents to foot their grandkids' tuition bill. There is obviously a fine line between billing the grandparents and including them in fundraising but it does not seem to me that that line as been crossed.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous p.o.'ed mom said...

When I was in day school, my parents lived modestly (one car, day trips instead of exotic vacations, "dated" kichen and bathrooms in the house) so they could pay tuition for three kids. There were no grandparents to hit up; they died in the camps. Of course, today it's assur to live the way they did, but not to ask for a handout to "beat the system". I was recently at a neighbor who put in an incredible kitchen in her home. Yup, the kids are on scholarship at the local day school. Somehow, there was money for the contractor, but not for the school. Yup, she stays at home while I break my back at work--effectively subsidizing her lifestyle, as part of my kids' tuition money covers her kids' scholarships. And she's lauded as the "stay-at-home mom" and I'm the one who "leaves the kids with a shiksa". What a great system.

10:21 AM  
Blogger David said...

The educational system we have is broken, because it is unaffordable.

The answer is not to engage in more and more complicated shenanigans to prop it up, the answer is to come up with a wholly new approach.

How about a school system with low tuition, and nobody gets asstance?

How about creating a culture where people think about educational costs when they are deciding whether to have children (and how many)?

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did MUST retire?

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mom, don't you think you should honor your fallen comrade???

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with the previous comment. The 'beat the system' philosophy is a joke. How can you send your kids to yeshiva to learn yashrus and ethics and lie to get them there? I try to be honest on tuition assistance forms, but I have a feeling that the committees take these things with a large grain of salt because so many people are unscrupulous. My parents also pinched and saved and had a small run down house for me to go to yeshiva. But on the other hand, I know the yeshiva I went to respected what they were doing and always compromised $ just to keep another jewish kid in school learning torah. I, on the other hand, living in one of the most affluent parts of NY, have had one school administrator tell me I should not have moved to the neighborhood based on my income, and another one tell me to just take on more projects at work and get some overtime if I can't afford what he is asking. I guess I can also work flipping burgers nights and weekends, but is that what you have to do to get a Jewish ed these days? My simple idea: schools should face public accountability. Lets see the books: how much is spend on salary (obviously no names), how much on capital, etc. If those are the standards we want for the public schools, kshot atzmecha v'achar kshit acheirim, our own schools should do the same.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krum: Of course our schools should include grandparents in their fundraising efforts, as they should also include singles and those who have yet to have children. Supporting Jewish education should be community issue.

As a single, I'll be happy to help the community in education as much as the community helps singles. Since the community barely helps singles (or waits till its very 'late in the day'), thats how much I'll be happy to send.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, I know everyone makes fun of the hareidim for their unsupportable financial system, while ignoring the MO community has merely set up a more expensive unsupportable financial system.

Instead of trying to stick to old ways of doing things, people should be trying to find cheaper methods such as, perhaps learning via computer programs with teacher support in larger groups then teachers could do on their own.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous lurkermom said...

The New York Times wrote about this same phenomenon around this time last year. I see no problem with parents "helping" their children with costs. However, it does create rifts in the Jewish community, as people take for granted that everyone has parents who help their kids with down payments, tuition, summer camp, etc. That is the bigger problem as I see it.
Also, this doesn't create a sustainable situation -- rather it enables a broke system to continue unabated. What happens when the grandparents are gone and the grandkids are married with kids. Will the previous generation's parents be able to afford tuition now for their grandkids? I doubt it.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

unfortunately this problem can never be fixed, unless 3 things happen #1 a very wealthy person donates large sums to sponser the community like what happened in seatle #2 the community really takes the superfund seriously and have people include in their wills 5% or #3 the schools or community invest money in real estate or some other business like YCQ ( which has a 6k cap on all grades) and lowers the tuition.
The costs of Yeshivas are never going to go down, teachers salaries must go up and all other expenses go up. Unless a solution is found the 6% that some yehivas increased last year will happen evry year. grandparents are bandaids not the cure.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous ambivalent mom said...

A theme which often runs through these discussions is "parents should not have children they cannot afford to have." While in practice I am limiting my family size (so I can go to work and pay tuition for 5 kids; I couldn't handle working while my kids were infants and toddlers, and if I had another one I wouldn't want to work), I think there is a sanctimonious and un-Jewish tone to the prescription to limit family size. It is a tragedy that each family can not contribute the maximum number of neshamos to the Jewish people because of money. It is not a virtue or something to be praised. It is something to be mourned. And I think it is influenced by the surrounding upwardly mobile American culture, in which delaying marriage and kids until 30 is considered normal.

1:20 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Ambivalent Mom-Great points. And sometimes people forget that there are parents with only one or two children in school that are living frugally that cannot afford to pay the full tuition.

So, when comments like those are made, they are not just hurtful to those with larger families, but hurtful to those with one or two children.

And, I agree, while limiting family size is a reality for many, many families, it isn't something we should feel good about in the least.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Fox said...

In addition to the Superfund, some local baalabatim in Chicago (and probably other places, as well) have set up a "Kehilla Fund" to which *anyone* can make a monthly pledge by credit card or with auto bank deductions. The money is then divided per capita among five participating schools.

Many of my single/older/younger friends like this very much -- they say it gives them an opportunity to support education without having to make a decision about which school/s to support.

They also like the fact that they're not being hit for a large contribution; they can fully participate for $10 a month. I also feel much more comfortable asking family and friends for this kind of support rather than the "please put in an ad for $500" kind.

Although the money started out small, the fund has an obtainable goal of $1 million each year with no administrative costs. I really hope this is successful -- it's a good way to involve community members who do not currently have children in the system.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schools need money to operate plain and simple. This money comes from several sources: tuition, fundraising, investments and public funding. tuition represents the largest portion of most schools cash flow. While a larger portion of projected cash flow can be shifted to investment income this will involve large upfront costs and not solve the current tuition crunch.

Community financial support is a great idea, but it just is not occuring in many communities. Untill a greater community investment is made in jewish education schools will be forced to look for every available penny in order to meet costs. If people lie in order to avoid paying their fair share they will be judged for that in the afterlife. At the end of the day criticizing finacially strapped schools for trying to make sure they can afford ever increasing operating costs (i.e. energy bills) solves nothing. Maybe the short term answer is an outcry for greater disclosure from these schools so people can judge for themselves whether they are being managed in a financialy efficient way. It bodes well for the future that community organizations such as the OU are at least finally aware of the problem.

2:53 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I'm sure that most schools are being managed efficiently, for the most part. The problem is that the entire structure of our the frum school system (word system used lightly) where each school is on its own is inherently inefficient.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Krum - I fully agree with fundraising from grandparents; they're probably the best people to fundraise from. Sephardi Lady's answer was what I referring to. It's not right to tell people they must turn to their grandparents for help.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I think the schools that are having serious issues, both with high tuitions and with lack of funds, should turn to the schools in other places who are not having these problems to see what it is they're doing differently.

The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, where I went for elementary school, has few wealthy parents, yet is not only incredible academically but fundraises well and seems to run very efficiently without the kids losing anything. There are other schools like it around the country as well - why aren't more schools taking lessons from them?

3:39 PM  
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3:40 PM  
Blogger Jewboy said...

This is just another example of how the costs of raising a frum family are spiraling out of control. Reforms are needed or the system will eventually collapse.

4:08 PM  
Blogger LkwdGuy said...

On the tuition application for my childrens' school I was asked for contact information for my parents and in laws as well as if they, or anyone else, help us out financially and if so, how much.

I have no problem with those questions, they are trying to avoid the situation that someone mentioned above; where one person lives the good life, provided by their parents and qualifies for subsidized tuition, while another can barely get by but does not qualify because the subsities are used up by the others.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Ariella said...

Some schools assume, wrongly in many cases, that the grandparents are around to help either to pay tuition or the huge fundraising obligation placed on parents. When we were living in Passaic, the Hillel school, operating now under YBH, had not just tuition and building fund, but an additional fundraising obligation PLUS an obligation to spend $15,000 in Hillel's scrip (not accepted in most places, though you could also buy Shop Rite and other such gift certificates) or to pay another $750 to the school. As the scrip is not usable for your mortgage or many other things, it is a ridiculous amount to impose on a family. The assumption there, I was told, is that if a family can spend $5000 of it, it is up to the parents to sell to each of their parents to amount to get the total. One other thing, you could only buy this form of Monopoly money during designated hours. Otherwise, the person with it would not deign to sell it to you.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sickening. I don't understand how schools can get away with this."

When you apply for financial aid from a school, even as a graduate students, they still ask for your parents income.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"greater disclosure from these schools so people can judge for themselves whether they are being managed in a financialy efficient way. It bodes well for the future that community organizations such as the OU are at least finally aware of the problem"
OU another organization that financial disclosure would be appreciated-why with the thousands of hashkachot aren't they rolling in money. Many communities with much smaller hashkachot subsidize mikvaot-BTW why doesn't the 5 Town Vaad Hakashruth disclose its finances. Why with its density can't it support all mikvaot and subsidize Yeshiva tuition? All fine tuning and questioning of school board expenses which is legitimate-but why not even basic information disclosed by our community institutions.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, where I went for elementary school, has few wealthy parents"
Don't kmnow but did the Stones of Greeting Card Fame give money to the Academy?

8:54 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Ariella reminded us about the fundraising responsibility or parents. There is also the give-or-get program that is imposed on either all parents (unless they can pay it off) or parents on scholarship.

I'm not opposed to the give-or-get program, but I imagine that it imposes a lot of hardship on parents that both work fulltime (or more) and are still on scholarship and cannot afford to pay off the hours in money. Sometimes the number of hours can be staggering.

And, all of these extra obligations, give-or-get, scrip, etc, make it difficult for parents who have children in more than one school.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do schools, or anybody else for that matter, assume that families have grandparents who are willing to help with a smile? Sometimes family dynamics make it difficult for parents to ask grandparents to help them.
BTW not everybody lives an ostentatious lifestyle. I for one live in a modest 3 bedroom house, dress my kids in childrens place, H & M...etc and still find it difficult to keep up with tuition and camps. I think there ought to be more disclosure of schools' finacials.Especially in the black hat schools here in Brooklyn.

10:25 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Can I ask why limiting family size ISNT something we should think about? There are parents who can raise a large family well, but the research on family size (and yes it hasnt been studied in the O community per se) should be a wake up call to all of us that such parents are the exceptions not the rule.

Dag

11:18 PM  
Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Orthomom: Your posting reminded me of this

8:11 AM  
Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Whoops, the link didn't work. Here it is again

8:13 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

When you apply for financial aid from a school, even as a graduate students, they still ask for your parents income.

Yes, but if you're independent, you can leave it blank.

MyCroft: Don't kmnow but did the Stones of Greeting Card Fame give money to the Academy?

Yes, but no longer, now that Irving Stone passed away. He used to give $1 million a year; their budget is way, way more than that. They are still doing fine, even without that money. [He married my great-aunt as his second wife; my grandmother was very upset when his son switched the money to a different school - first part of it, then the rest. I'm sure he still gives some to HAC, but most goes to another school.]

12:29 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Dag-As far as I can see, outside of the Chassidic world, most families are limiting family size. Even in the Yeshiva world, it is not particularily uncommon.

Every family should consider if they are able to parent a new child and know their limits.

But, when many people talk about limiting family size, they are referring to families that are perfectly capable of parenting a third or fourth child, but feel constrainted by tuition and the fact that they want to pay up and not count of outside support.

And, I believe it is very sad when families like these stop having children after 2 or 3 kids even though they would like another and are more than capable of being a good parent to that child.

12:30 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

I'm not so certain that people in the Yeshiva Orthodox world are limting the number of children they have.......Nor am I certian that there is an attitude amongst them that it is more difficult to raise 8 kids than 4

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, but if you're independent, you can leave it blank."

and the school will give you zero financial aid.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

and the school will give you zero financial aid.

Not quite sure how I got mine, then. [In other words, if you're independent, you are not required to answer and you still get full aid.]

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read an article not long ago (I think it was in the Yated) about hiring a financial advisor to work on school budgets. The article stated that the school had financial difficulty, hired a financial advisor and now has little or no debt - and they didn't have to raise tuition prices. If schools would just be willing to open their books to a professional, maybe tuition would not be so outrageous!

3:15 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I agree that our schools should open up their books. Without a doubt this is the right thing to do, as well as the practical thing to do since few people will want to give substantail donations without some assurance that the money will not be squandered.

I read the same article that anon read (it was not printed in the Yated and as far as I can see that Yated will not touch the tuition issue with a 10 foot pole). I think that it is fantastic that a school, with the help of a professional was able to pull out of its financial troubles.

But, while I think better financial advice will help many schools, I believe most schools are fairly honest and that the structure of Jewish education is what is inherently inefficient and without changes to the structure, we are up a creek.

4:18 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Dag-Look outside of the deep Yeshiva world. Plenty of my friends are building their families in a slower manner. They may pass under the radar since they are overshawdowed by those having babies quicker. But, they are definitely out there.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous p.o.'ed mom said...

Oh come on--financial advisor--opening up the books--that's the last thing most schools would ever do. The the word would get out about the 6-figure administrators, slush funds, etc. It's funny how parents won't demand accountability from their kids' day school (perhaps because they know they would never get any--or they we be excommunicated for merely asking) but wouldn't stand for it in any other situation. Meanwhile, tuition keeps rising, unrelated to the inflation rate, and parents just keep on paying.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

p.o.'ed mom - administrators making six figures is no big secret. Slush funds, come on there is enough wrong without made up conspiracy theories.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

and not all costs are tied to inflation, energy costs being the biggest current concern.

9:55 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

PO'ed Mom-The six figure incomes are no secret. Just take a look at guidestar.com. If you are lucky, your local Yeshiva or Day School will be listed. If not, just look at another one.

I do agree with you that every single parent should ask for financial statements. If they receive a no, they should ask again and tell their friends to ask.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My graduate school tuition went up 7% last year and a similar debate ensued. This discussion is very nice but it's not unique.
The govt loan program for graduate schools take EFC into account when granting you money. EFC is expected family contribution. It even applies to married 35 year old applicants. The idea behind it is similar to what prompts the yeshivos to look at EGC - expected grandparents contribution.

1:57 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I would say that discussion is unique because Jewish Education is essential to the Jewish Community. My kids can go to Junior College and Public College while working part-time to cover the tuition. And, they can also work and save up money for grad school, or if they are lucky, their boss will pitch in for that expense.

Fortunately, college is a limited number of years and the costs vary between state-funded junior colleges, state schools, and private schools, to the point where there is flexibility in choices.

But, when it comes to paying tuition for K-12, there is little flexibility in pricing and there is no chance that 6 year old Shira can get a job to help pay for the education!

2:12 PM  
Anonymous yu grad said...

It is really amazing. The world thinks of us jews as great bisiness people, and we are great bisiness people. A few yearsa back a survey said YU grads were wealthier than harvards, but put us in charge of a jewish organization and it is a financial nightmere ( except what Rabbi Lamm did for YU, 25 Years ago)

4:51 PM  
Anonymous YU Musmach said...

To the above commentor who labels himself YU Grad:
I think you meant Lakewood 'Grad' b/c your spelling is just awful and no respectable YU person walks around with that kind of spelling - it would be a chillul Hashem.
And can you describe what the survey was talking about b/c I find it hard to believe in such a blanket statement.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Izzy said...

As a BT with seven kids (five still in school), this hits me really hard. The schools told me I should get the grandparents to pay some of the bill. Unfortunately, my wife's father is a fanatical atheist (and an accountant, so, sending our kids to Jewish day schools makes no sense to him), who yells at us whenever he hears that we are sending our kids to a religious school, and my parents are dead.

I have no frum relatives.

The school tuition committees don't want to hear this. I make a good salary (~$85K/annum), but that is never enough. I've never had a vacation. I've had to learn how to fix things in the house (I do software, and the house is a hardware problem [[grin]]). I have a shabbos hat and a kapoteh. I get my suits for work from thrift stores. I never lie on the tuition reduction forms.

It is true that all the folks who m'karev'ed us told us (and some still tell us) to have emunah and bitachon that the aibishter would provide as long as we created a vessel. The thing they didn't tell us is that we'd have to beg (tuition reduction), borrow (we've had to refinance about once every three years to avoid bankruptcy), and (almost) steal, to make ends meet.

2:39 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Izzy-Your post here and your post on BeyondBT are absolutely heart wrenching. I would welcome a guest post on your experiences for my blog. My email is available through my profile.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it considered outlandish that school administrators make six-figure salaries? The principal of a moderate-sized Modern Orthodox high school manages an organization of around 50 people and is in charge of a multi-million dollar budget. People with far less responsibility make six-figure salaries in other industries. Why should school administrators not be paid a salary commensurate with their level of responsibility? Moreover, I would like to point out that yeshiva tuitions are generally lower than the tuitions in secular private schools. My husband and I struggle to pay tuition, but I don't think it's because day schools are evil and poorly run. I think this is simply the cost of sending 5 kids to private school. My non-religious relatives who send to private school pay dramatically more per child than we do.

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