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Tuition Tension

Yisroel Besser

September means heartburn for Jewish parents writing out their annual tuition checks. But school administrators say the process needn’t be painful. Yes, tuition is a heavy burden, but schools are ready to help. And is there anything more important than a child’s education?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The languorous heat and ready availability of parking spaces along the Boro Park street mark the dog days of summer. Strange, then, that the men gathered around the large table pass on the offer of cold drinks. Instead, they opt for black coffee, brew of the weary. If elsewhere people are winding down and sipping tall drinks poolside, the men seated at the conference table are weighed down; even as the schools they run are silent, classrooms darkened, chairs turned upside down, blackboards spotless, they aren’t free. Summertime means making payroll when there is no tuition income, preparing the building for the coming school year without the benefit of cash flow. The roundtable discussion we are hosting at Mishpacha’s offices is meant to revolve around the sometimes tenuous, sometimes tense relationship between the school’s parent body and those tasked with its administration. It’s the time of year when the letters start coming from the school: tuition costs, bolded reminders about old commitments, and the ubiquitous add-ons — whether dinner, building, or transportation fees. Along with a flood of golden sunlight, the season brings forth resentment from both sides; struggling parents faced with daunting living expenses, and administrators and tuition committees, who see parents investing significant sums into simchahs or family vacations, but beg off when it comes to making tuition payments. The men take their places and share war stories, each man with his summertime challenge, but none is so focused on his own struggles that he doesn’t see the view from the other side of the table. How could they not? A simple math equation displays the problem. A couple with five children attending yeshivah at $10,000 to $15,000 per year would need to be a “one percenter,” in the top income bracket, to make ends meet. And that’s without any fancy vacations, elaborate simchahs, extensive home renovations, or new cars.

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