As parents struggle with the rising costs of a full-time Jewish education, one Manhattan school has announced a pilot program to help address that need.
Beit Rabban Day School is offering a substantial discount to parents who enroll multiple children for the 2014-15 school year through its Tuition Affordability Initiative.
The Upper West Side school, which serves preschoolers through fifth graders and is planning for a middle school, will allow families to cap their tuition at 15 percent of the household’s adjusted gross income, regardless of how many children are enrolled.
Unlike the school’s scholarship program, this initiative is aimed at middle-income families — those making between about $150,000 and $400,000 a year — and sets a minimum of 55 percent of the full cost of a family’s tuition.
“We had a number of families in the school who came in at different points to talk about how difficult it was to make Jewish choices in New York City,” said Rabbi Andrew Davids, who heads the school. “They could afford it [tuition] with one, but couldn’t afford it with two. … Or it was precluding them from sending their kids to Jewish summer camp, or from joining a congregation. This was a way for us to make it just a little bit easier for them.”
Tuition at Beit Rabban ranges from $20,903 for half-day preschoolers to $31,127 for fourth and fifth graders. This is on par with most New York City day schools, where tuition ranges between $20,000 for kindergarten to $40,000 at some high schools.
In Beit Rabban’s program, families will be able to calculate their tuition based on their income — and they will know that the cost won’t change anytime soon.
“What we’re offering is different than financial aid, we’re offering predictability,” Rabbi Davids said.
For example, a family making $325,000 with a child in preschool, another in kindergarten and a third in second grade would normally pay $84,173 per year. But through the program they’ll pay 15 percent of their income, equaling $48,750.
The program is sponsored in part by the AVI CHAI Foundation, which is also funding a program at Robbins Hebrew Academy in Toronto. The foundation modeled the initiative, dubbed iCAP, after a similar effort started by Solomon Schechter of Greater Boston.
“They introduced the program two years ago and seem to have been getting pretty good results … it’s really created this favorable buzz,” said Daniel Perla, AVI CHAI’s program officer for day school finance.
Over the past two years, at least a dozen schools in the U.S. and Canada have instituted tuition assistance programs for middle-income families. In New York, Riverdale’s SAR High School gave eligible middle-income high school students a $2,000 tuition credit last year through the help of an anonymous donor.
AVI CHAI’s iCAP program reimburses participating schools for one-third of the discount they’re giving the families. It has a budget of $500,000, enough to fund it in five schools for three years. Interested institutions are encouraged to apply, Perla said.
The foundation set the pilot program at three years with the expectation that it will take some time before it becomes profitable.
“Year one, we’re not looking for anything more than a modest increase. It takes a couple of years to have an impact,” he said. After that, “there shouldn’t be any cost to these programs, because the hope is they will be bringing in new families.”