Bnei Akiva Schools will be offering middle-income parents an “unconditional subsidy” next year, bringing tuition close to the discounted price being offered at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto.
Parents at Yeshivat Or Chaim boys school and Ulpanat Orot girls school will have the option of receiving a subsidy if they pay at least $20,000, said head of school Rabbi Seth Grauer. Tuition for September 2017 for the modern Orthodox high school is $24,700. The program will not require parents to prove that they are unable to pay the full tuition, he said.
Tuition for the current year is $24,200.
“We think there is a percentage of our community who are really struggling, and this is meant to help and support them,” Rabbi Grauer said in an interview.
The shortfall in tuition will be made up by private fundraising that the school has already undertaken, Rabbi Grauer said.
In a letter to parents earlier this month, Bnei Akiva Schools president Howard Wasserman wrote that the school has been working for two years to establish an endowment campaign.
“After carefully considering our financial situation, the board and executive committee have determined that these generous donations will allow us to responsibly provide the unconditional subsidy without sacrificing the quality of our program. We are confident that this move will be enough to eliminate cost as a deciding factor for families who believe in our mission.”
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The discount is a short-term program, intended to help families who find it difficult to pay the full cost of tuition but who do not qualify for a regular subsidy. About 55 per cent of Bnei Akiva Schools parents receive financial aid, Rabbi Grauer said.
The school does not know how many families will take advantage of the subsidy.
“We hope families will make decisions for themselves about their needs and that many families who can afford to pay full tuition will continue to pay the full cost of educating their children.”
Last month, TanenbaumCHAT announced that $14 million in donations would allow it to cut tuition by one-third to $18,500 for September 2017 and freeze it at $19,000 for the following four years. Tuition was $27,300 this year at the community high school.
While Bnei Akiva Schools will not be offering similar “across-the-board” tuition cuts, “this is definitely us recognizing that the community of Toronto is focused on making Jewish education more affordable and we want to be a part of that,” Rabbi Grauer said.
The soaring cost of Jewish education, has not hindered the growth of the Bnei Akiva Schools, where enrolment has steadily increased. Next year, 260 students are enrolled in both schools, up from 191 students five years ago, he said.
Last month, TanenbaumCHAT announced it is closing its northern branch in Vaughan and merging it with its campus in Downsview for the next academic year because of declining enrolment.
Projected at the merged campus is 850 students.
The unconditional subsidy at Bnei Akiva Schools is only one part of solving the problem of affordability and day school sustainability in Toronto. In a separate letter to parents earlier this month, Rabbi Grauer called for a “collective collaboration among all schools, all rabbis and all community leaders” to help families afford day school.
He outlined several ideas, including having a city-wide fundraising day for Jewish education; creating a challenge among philanthropists to raise $100 million, either for a specific school or a general fund; and asking families to allocate one per cent of their estates to Jewish education and starting an online list of those who agree to participate.