Monday, June 12, 2006

Yeshiva Tuition

Mrs. Zlata Press, in Prospect Park Yeshiva Alumnae News 2006, p. 5 in response to a complaint about tuitions and how hard it is to make ends meet:

[QUESTION:] ...My second question is, "WHERE IS THE INCOME IN THE YESHIVA GOING TO?" Even in a class of 30 where there is $6,000 in tuition, no teacher that I know of makes anywhere near the $180,000 that supposedly is coming in. How is the money being apportioned? I would very much like to see the expense accounts of Yeshivas. Where is the money being spent/wasted? Is the money going into the hands of a few? Why do all Yeshivas have a closed-book policy? Why does not ONE Yeshiva open up its books for the public to look at? Are they hiding something?

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[ANSWER:] ...So where is all the money going to? First of all, 30 students are not each paying $6,000. When three siblings attend one school, parents are not charged full price for each child. A few children in the class are paying minimal tuition. Unemployment, illness, single-parenthood, real cash-flow problems afflict many in our community. Families owe tens of thousands of dollard. Some of that money will never be collected. The school writes off lareg unpaid tuition bills not infrequently. Yes, the school is collecting aggressively. High school students are sometimes not given programs and books before a significant payment is made. (How do you feel about that?) School administrators need chochmas Shlomo and a heart of gold and of stone at the same time to collect tuition.

A few people dishonestly avoid paying when they can afford to but no one in the financial end of chinuch thinks that that is the norm. (Dr. Marvin Schick, president of R.J.J. and an osek b'tzarchei tzibur par excellence, wrote a moving study of the financial hardship felt by Jewish schools across the country.) I asked Rabbi Leib Kelman your question. He told me that this past year tuition coming in and salaries going out (teachers, administrators, guidance personnel, maintenance staff) just about equaled out. (Salaries constitute about 80% of expense.) On top of salaries, the school has significant expenses for utilities, supplies, insurance and building maintenance.

I asked Rabbi Kelman your question about "closed books." He said that board members review a detailed financial report of income and expenses every year. If Prospect Park is hiding anything as you asked, it is probably hiding the identitiesof your lovely, upstanding middle-class neighbors who are sorely in arrears in tuition payments!
I think it's great that Mrs. Press allowed the question to be published and wrote a lengthy, caring and honest response. I just still wonder why at least summary financial statements are not made available. Then again, unaudited statements are... unaudited. And paying for an accountant to audit the school's finances is no small expense.

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